A wave of entrepreneurs are reversing the traditional morning commute, building their businesses in Brooklyn instead of Manhattan.
Beyond its emerging status as New York’s creative epicenter, the borough is also flowing with venture capital money. Per CB Insights research, Brooklyn-based companies have attracted some $1 billion in funding since 2010.
“Brooklyn’s place as a great place to build a business has closely followed its reemergence as a fantastic place to live,” he said. “More and more companies are making the same decision that I did when I started Brooklyn Bridge Ventures—that if I lived in Brooklyn, it just made all the sense in the world to work here as well.”
We all know about Vice’s new digs in South Williamsburg. Newly-exited Etsy has hit its stride in Dumbo. MakerBot has a 17,000 square-foot factory in Sunset Park. Livestream relocated to Bushwick earlier this fall.
So, who’s next? We spoke with several founders to learn why they’re setting up shop East of the East River—and why you should have them on the radar.
Company HQ: DUMBO
Number of employees: 10
Elevator pitch: Agrilyst is a software company that aggregates data from sensors and human work to help indoor farmers increase yields, plan production, and optimize their use of resources. The company was named to Fast Company’s Most Innovative Companies list in 2016 and won TechCrunch Disrupt in 2015.
Why Brooklyn: “Brooklyn is an exciting place to be right now, especially for agriculture startups,” says Allison Kopf, the company’s Founder & CEO. “Entrepreneurs are opening farms, building the technologies powering those farms, and training the next generation of urban farmers. It’s fun to be a part of the innovation happening here.”
Favorite spot for a quick caffeine kick: “I don’t drink coffee, so I’ll typically grab a tea at Bread & Spread (147 Front St.) every morning,” says Kopf. “For coffee meetings you can’t beat Brooklyn Roasting Company (25 Jay St.).”
Favorite haunt for post-work libations: Threes Brewing (333 Douglass St.)
Company HQ: Williamsburg
Number of employees: 7
Elevator pitch: Hater is a dating app that matches people based on the things they mutually hate.
Why Brooklyn: “In Brooklyn, hating on stuff is part of our DNA. It brings us together – probably because actual bigotry is not tolerated here,” says Founder & CEO Brendan Alper. “Brooklyn is so diverse, but we manage to get along by focusing our hateful predispositions toward the G Train, slow-walking tourists and the fact that Manhattan is spilling over the river.”
Favorite spot for a quick caffeine kick: Devoción (69 Grand St.) or Toby’s Estate (125 N. 6th Street).
Favorite haunt for post-work libations: George & Jack’s (103 Berry St.) during the week, Rocka Rolla (486 Metropolitan Ave.) on weekends.
Company HQ: Greenpoint
Number of employees: 5-10
Elevator pitch: Butterfly is a self-learning virtual coach designed to meet the needs of Millennial managers. By using AI technology and a mobile app for collecting iterative and instant team feedback, Butterfly is democratizing executive leadership training for all managers.
Why Brooklyn: “Brooklyn is in our DNA: We live here and we work here,” says David Mendlewicz, who co-founded the company with Simon Rakosi and Marcus Perezi-Tormos. “We chose Brooklyn because we wanted to immerse ourselves among young creative talent as we build out our business. Butterfly is a tool that’s designed for Millennial managers who are innovating their respective organizations, so it makes sense for us to be in a young, entrepreneurial neighborhood.”
Favorite spot for a quick caffeine kick: The Lot Radio (17 Nassau Ave.)
Favorite haunt for post-work libations: Lucky Dog (303 Bedford Ave.) for after work, and House of Yes (2 Wyckoff Ave.) for “much” later in the night, says Mendlewicz.
Company HQ: Red Hook (but moving to Sunset Park soon)
Number of employees: 5
Elevator pitch: A network of urban recycling facilities, Industrial/Organic implements strategies to rapidly process organic waste with low odor and emissions and meet the growing demand for sustainable and efficient organic waste handling.
Why Brooklyn: “Aside from my co-founder and I having both lived in Brooklyn for ten years, we’re in the highest waste generating city in the U.S. – I actually grew up near the Fresh Kills Landfill in Staten Island, which was the largest in the world at the time,” says Amanda Weeks, the startup’s Co-Founder & CEO. “We also have the benefit of the commercial organic waste mandate, a law that passed under Mayor Bloomberg which will require businesses to recycle their organic waste. We’re very excited about partnering with the restaurants and local food producers in Brooklyn.”
Favorite spot for a quick caffeine kick: The Black Flamingo (281 Van Brunt St.)
Favorite haunt for post-work libations: “As we were leaving a meeting a few weeks ago, we stumbled upon The Gatehouses (299 Sands St.), which was opened by Kings Country Distillery in what was once the primary entrance point to the Navy Yard,” says Weeks. “It has all the charm and aesthetic of your average Brooklyn cocktail bar, except it’s ‘real-old’ and not ‘fake-old.’”
Company HQ: DUMBO
Number of employees: 10-20
Elevator pitch: Quip is simplifying perfect oral health through elegantly designed electric toothbrushes and online services.
Why Brooklyn: “As a young, fast-growing startup, Brooklyn offers the best balance of space needs (large, flexible, affordable buildings that can accommodate for growth), transport needs (most of our employees live – and love living – in Brooklyn) and vibe,” says CEO Simon Enever. “We found Dumbo, in particular, to have a great balance. It’s still close to the city, with beautiful old buildings and an awesome waterfront area.”
Favorite spot for a quick caffeine kick: Brooklyn Roasting Co. (25 Jay St.)
Favorite haunt for post-work libations: “The only letdown in Dumbo is a lack of bars, so we usually end up at Superfine (126 Front St.) – if we aren’t eating at Shake Shack (1 Old Fulton St.),” says Enever.
Company HQ: Williamsburg
Number of employees: 8
Elevator pitch: DEED’s mission is simple: To surface local volunteering opportunities to young people and create a community of active volunteers united by their passion for doing good. A mobile app makes it easy for partner organizations to list opportunities and connect with people looking to give back.
Why Brooklyn: “Brooklyn is where it’s at! While we all love the city we feel like Brooklyn is the perfect place for the DEED headquarters because of its strong sense of community,” says Deevee Kashi, DEED’s CEO & Founder.
Favorite spot for a quick caffeine kick: Sweatshop (232 Metropolitan Ave.)
Favorite haunt for post-work libations: Black Flamingo (168 Borinquen Pl.)
Company HQ: Bushwick
Number of employees: 6
Elevator pitch: Oliver uses artificial intelligence to take the pain out of applying for a visa to the United States. How does it work? Oliver collects all of your information, verifies it, and submits it to the government – in one fell swoop and for one low cost.
Why Brooklyn: “I don’t understand this question – why would you want an office in Manhattan?” asks Jonathan Moyal, a co-founder.
Favorite spot for a quick caffeine kick: City of Saints Coffee Roasters (297 Meserole St.)
Favorite haunt for post-work libations: Lantern Hall (52 Harrison Place)– “Because they have big screen Mario Kart,” Moyal says.
Company HQ: DUMBO
Number of employees: 20, plus hundreds of coaches around the world.
Elevator pitch: Lingo Live improves engagement at tech companies by providing employees with one-on-one English communication and foreign language coaching online. Clients include Google, Twitter and Eventbrite.
Why Brooklyn: “Brooklyn’s culture is the perfect mix of ambition and progressives. We are able to recruit the hard-working talent of New York without the risk of developing a stuffy corporate suit and tie feel,” says Jenny Tannenbaum of Lingo Live’s marketing team.
Favorite spot for a quick caffeine kick: “We love Archway (57 Pearl St.) for lunch meetings,” says Tannenbaum.
Favorite haunt for post-work libations: 68 Jay Street Bar (68 Jay St.)
Company HQ: Gowanus
Number of employees: 5-10
Elevator pitch: Brooklyn Gin is a locally-crafted gin company, which set up shop six years ago in a Gowanus warehouse. Since that time, the company has been the toast of the town and was recently ranked on GQ’s list of the Best American-Made Gins. Famous fans include Jimmy Fallon.
Why Brooklyn: “When my wife and I were thinking about places to settle down and raise our family, we both knew we wanted to be in Brooklyn,” says Emil Jattne, a co-founder. “It has been a great place to live, as well as work. Along with my co-founder Joe and the rest of the Brooklyn Gin team, we love being a part of Brooklyn’s vibrant startup community and tradition of industriousness.”
Favorite spot for a quick caffeine kick: Four and Twenty Blackbirds (439 3rd Ave., Brooklyn), The Morbid Anatomy Museum (424-A 3rd Ave.), Runner & Stone (283 3rd Ave.) and Milk & Roses (1110 Manhattan Ave.)
Favorite haunt for post-work libations: Grand Army (336 State St.), Fresh Kills (161 Grand St.), Prime Meats (465 Court St.).
Company HQ: Park Slope
Number of employees: 3
Elevator pitch: Candy that is actually good for your teeth? It might seem impossible, but Brooklyn-based Cracked Candy has cracked the code. This Park Slope-based startup uses xylitol, a natural sweetener found in plants and trees, to flavor its uniquely-shaped candies, which can be found at Whole Foods, Eataly, Wegmans, Muji and other stores.
Why Brooklyn: “There’s this wonderful, innovative food movement happening in Brooklyn right now – and I love being a part of that,” says Flora Pringle, the company’s Founder.
Favorite spot for a quick caffeine kick: 61 Local (61 Bergen St.) or Cocoa Bar (228 7th Ave., Brooklyn)
Favorite haunt for post-work libations: Dirty Precious (317 3rd Ave., Brooklyn)
Know of other Brooklyn-based companies to watch? Drop us a comment and tell us all about them.