New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg says he spends more time eyeing London than he does Silicon Valley in the battle to be the champion city for the tech industry.
"Our competition is only going to be in other cities that have similar kinds of characteristics. And the city that comes to mind is London," Bloomberg said at a seminar held at the law firm Proskauer's New York City office on Friday.
Bloomberg, whose term ends in 81 days, said U.S. immigration laws are "mashugana" – a Yiddish word for "crazy" – and are driving tech talent to international cities. London has the advantage of being a family-friendly city that speaks "the business language of the world," he said.
Bloomberg has been outspoken about his support of immigration reform. Last year, he joined several other prominent business leaders in pushing for reform in an online March on Washington. While the Obama administration has outlined broad plans for reform, including a provision to offer startup visas, the legislation is languishing in Congress. In the meantime, entrepreneurs and top tech talent are being forced to leave the U.S. because of issues with their visas.
As for cities within U.S. borders, Bloomberg argues San Francisco and the surrounding area is too much of a "vacuum" to be competitive.
"If you play golf, it's ok. If you ride a bicycle, it's great. If you live in front of a mirror, I guess that's where you do it," he said. "If you are going to build product, and you are going to sell stuff around the world... you don't want those kinds of people. And you don't want people who don't have other interests. You want well-rounded people."
Meanwhile, Silicon Valley proponents have argued that California is a better location to start up because the Big Apple offers entrepreneurs too many distractions.
Bloomberg also rejected the notion that Boston is the technology center of the world. "I pointed out to them that New York City has more students in college than Boston has people, so that ended that."
It comes as no surprise that the fearless leader of the Big Apple would be its strongest advocate. Bloomberg also took a round-about opportunity to compliment his own work. "This city has an enormously strong hand to play," he said. "This city, if it doesn't screw it up, has enormous potential to keep going."
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