11 days ago •
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There are different ways to measure a bad economy. For instance, there are formal measures, such as GDP, and under that measure, the economy formally shrunk in the USA in Q1. Which is bad, but not catastrophic.
There are some informal measures that are also interesting. There is the feeling you get on any particular street, the vibe of a place, whether it seems fun or dead or boring or even dangerous.
Last week I had lunch with a friend who I had not seen since 2019 (I've been doing a lot of post-pandemic catch-up recently.)
I'm in New York City, up on 98th, UWS. I like my neighborhood but I've often thought of moving to one of the really cool neighborhoods. My friend lived down on 72nd, much closer to everything cool. I asked him if he still liked 72nd.
"Oh, I've moved back down to Chelsea," he said. "Where I lived 6 years ago."
Wow! Very cool! And how is that, I asked, full of envy.
"There are so many homeless people. The streets feel dangerous now. When I get off the subway I have to think about how to walk home, otherwise I get very aggressively asked for money."
That was a shock.
On a related note: two months ago I needed to get some writing done. I've some long-term guests at my apartment, so I can't think straight there. I decided I'd rent a hotel room, go relax, shut out the world, and focus on writing. I got a room at the Marriot down in Tribeca. This is 2 blocks away from all of the events that I described in my book "How To Destroy A Tech Startup In Three Easy Steps."
I remember this area as somewhat industrial, but also popping with startups and co-working spaces and some very cool hotels, like the Ace. And some great restaurants, kept alive in part by the startup workers and entrepreneurs. Some of that vibe probably comes through in the book.
Now it was dead. Very dead. Almost all of the restaurants were closed. The streets were shockingly empty.
Several things occurred to me:
I no longer know which neighborhoods in NYC are "cool". I no longer know where the best restaurants are, where the coolest people hang out, where the best bars are, where the most interesting people want to hang out. The whole city is alien to me.
That long decline in crime, from 1993 to 2020, is over. That automatic feeling, which lasted (in NYC) 27 years, that each year would safer than the last year, is gone. The certainty that even a rough neighborhood will be safe in a few years is gone. Just the opposite now. Some of the coolest neighborhoods are getting rough.
All of the above combines in ways that make it more difficult to network, to get a job, or to recruit people for a team, or to talk to investors, or to talk to someone who knows investors, etc. The whole chain of meetings and friendships and networking has been disrupted. It will take some time to put all of that back together. Or to put that differently, it's not just the supply chain with China or India or Mexico that is disrupted, for millions of us, it is our personal supply chain that is disrupted.