Lessons from the Unicorns of New York City

unicorn with an arrow and icons

By Dâna Barakat, Vice President, Marketing and Communications at New York Interconnect

Behind every innovative business is a great story — especially when that business has its roots in New York City. At Advertising Week New York, during the panel “Unicorns of New York City,” Pat Kiernan, award-winning anchor at Spectrum News NY1 led a discussion with business leaders from two of the most innovative businesses, built right there in New York, to tell their stories.

At New York Interconnect, we understand the power of New York as the nation’s largest, most diverse, and most affluent market. At Advertising Week, this power was evident — and on full display in this session. The discussion was enlightening, covering the experiences that led these leaders to the Big Apple, what it took to operate their businesses through the pandemic successfully, and the trends and developments they are most excited for next.

As Kiernan observed, companies with New York roots understand that their New York DNA is a defining element of who they are. “As New Yorkers, there’s this sense that you’re going to work hard, and there are going to be obstacles put in front of you, by virtue of this city or something else. But at the end of it, you’re working with the best people in the world, and you will have the opportunity to thrive because of New York,” Kiernan said.

This sentiment was echoed by Andrew Sneyd, SVP of Brand Marketing at FanDuel. “The culture of FanDuel feeds off of the fuel of being in New York City,” he said. “We have some key principles that define our culture — stay humble, stay hungry. There’s this ability to be authentic and driven at the same time.”

Founded in 2009, FanDuel Group is an innovative sports-tech entertainment company that is changing the way consumers engage with their favorite sports, teams and leagues. The premier gaming destination in the U.S., FanDuel Group consists of a portfolio of leading brands across gaming, sports betting, daily fantasy sports, advance-deposit wagering, and TV and media, including FanDuel, Betfair US, and TVG.

Sneyd noted that FanDuel’s culture also revolves around the idea that anything is possible — another concept that echoes the essence of New York and bolsters the talent advantage that comes with the city. “If there’s a city in the world where drive and ambition can genuinely lead to a differentiated level of impact, it feels like that’s the city of New York,” he said.

Jackie Kahn, CCO at Oscar Health, noted that, as a company that has doubled in size and moved to a hybrid work model in the pandemic, Oscar Health’s NYC roots are not only core to its culture, but also reflected in its values.

“One of our values is ‘no genius without grit,’ and for me, that’s quintessentially New York,” she said. “Oscar attracts people who are really mission-driven and want to work for a company that’s built around a clear purpose, which is helping primarily low-income Americans find affordable health insurance. So we get really smart people, but they also work really…hard, and that’s awesome. It’s that combination of smarts and grit that is quintessentially New York.”

The Oscar Health team is focused on using technology, design and data to humanize healthcare. The company is driven by a group of technology and healthcare professionals who looked at the current state of the U.S. healthcare system, got frustrated by the horrible consumer experience, and decided to do something big about it. Backed by a renowned set of investors and advisors, Oscar Health has set out to revolutionize healthcare.

The company’s impressive growth, despite the challenges of the pandemic, are testament to the NYC-inspired grit and smarts that fuel the city’s most innovative startups, and it was inspiring to see these stories live on stage at Advertising Week.

I’d like to thank the leaders who took the stage in this NYI-sponsored panel at Advertising Week: Pat Kiernan, Spectrum News NY1 Anchor, Andrew Sneyd, SVP Brand Marketing at FanDuel, and Jackie Kahn, CCO at Oscar Health. What a great conversation!