by Scott Roen

New York has historically been known as the center for industries like finance, publishing, and fashion, and has always been a powerhouse of innovation when it comes to these sectors. However, in the last decade, NYC-based tech startups have ushered in a new wave of innovation.

There are many factors that led to this entrepreneurship renaissance. The economic downturn certainly served as a motivating factor, but strong support from the Bloomberg administration acted as the perfect enabler.

The best part? Several of the hottest startups in New York share some key traits. The most notable among them is that each has a distinct relationship with the small business sector. Below, are four companies that have not only flourished, but are also bolstering, even reshaping, small businesses everywhere.

1. Kickstarter

By directly serving as the birthplace for new, small businesses, Kickstarter has not only changed the way entrepreneurs spread the word about their projects, but how they fund them as well. Sure, everyone has heard about the huge success of the Pebble Smart Watch, but there are more than 60,000 other funded projects for small businesses that may have otherwise not seen the light of day.

For example, partners Dave Petrillo and David Jackson launched a video about Coffee Joulies on Kickstarter, asking for $9,500 to fund their business idea of stone-shaped objects that control the temperature of coffee. The project ultimately raised more than $300,000 and the two have since re-opened a unused factory and are working to fill the thousands of orders that come into their site. Many of the funded projects on Kickstarter hire freelancers or skilled workers, thereby directly employing thousands of people and bolstering the SMB economy.

2. Etsy

Etsy, the online marketplace for handmade and vintage goods has allowed passionate creators to make a living off of their crafts. For example, Shelli Worley (of Worley’s Lighting) was able to quit an unsatisfying day job as a data manager after taking the plunge and going full-time with her online Etsy shop.

Etsy provides tools for casual sellers to be successful via their Seller’s Handbook and their Quit Your Day Job blog. These tools along with the ease of the platform make it relatively easy for creatives to test their venture on the site before launching their own small business, which can help to minimize risk. By democratizing the buy-sell experience, consumers are also finding some amazing goods. Most importantly, 96.5% of the money earned through sales goes directly to the small businesses using the platform.

3. Skillshare

Skillshare is changing the way you teach and learn, whether you want to figure out how to bake cupcakes, or teach your co-workers the best way to plan for an investment round. Their peer-to-peer model capitalizes on the expertise small business owners are able to develop when building and running a company, and allows visionaries to share their experiences in a productive, teaching-driven way.

You can also charge a small fee per head for your classes, allowing an entrepreneur to make some funds while using Skillshare’s large and eager user base as a built-in marketing engine. The beauty of Skillshare in a city like New York is that you can appeal to anyone and everyone from wanna be chefs to marathon beginners. Considering one of their primary focuses is providing classes specifically on tech startups, they are proving to be a valuable asset to entrepreneurs looking for guidance when starting their own ventures.

4. Signpost

Signpost is a fourth, lesser known example. The site, backed by Google Ventures and Spark Capital, works directly with small business owners to help them develop affordable, comprehensive online advertising campaigns. The businesses using Signpost offer all kinds of services. For example, New York City acupuncturist Humberto Toledo, of Premier Integrative Medicine, has seen a nice influx in new patients and returning patients since he started using Signpost last year.

Helping existing small businesses attract more sales and garner more attention is an extremely important service, especially in light of the recent recession. Signpost is helping these businesses thrive at a time when survival is not a guarantee.

Of course, not all startup ventures are successful, but that doesn’t mean they don’t create value. According to a Kauffman report, companies that are one year old create an average of three million jobs per year versus 10-year-old companies that create 300,000 jobs per year.

The ways startups are revolutionizing how small businesses develop, grow, and succeed is a big shift. It’s definitely one that more companies can, and probably should, embrace.



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