For a Southern California kid like Ryan Block, New York City's darkly mysterious charms were the dream escape. "It's natural for any self-respecting punk to want to move out of that kind of environment," says Block of Orange County's sunny splendor that is "now famous for being republican yuppie". Relocating to New York in 2001, "I was broke, I had no job—I just needed to get out," he says. "I had like $400 in the bank account and just figured I'd try to make a go of it."
He did more than that. That little leap of faith landed him firmly in the middle of the enormously successful tech site Engadget, the legendary blog that breaks so called "gadget porn" on the hottest tech news for millions of eager readers—and now worth a whopping estimated $30-50 million. Not too shabby for someone who started out splitting a gritty Jersey City share with such undesirable roommates including a girl who kept her heaps of designer clothes in trashbags, an ex-prisoner, and a dog with a tumor and a considerable bathroom problem.
Luck came when an old friend left competing tech site Gizmodo to launch his own vision, Engadget. "I sent Pete [Peter Rojas] a tip on some news item, and he wrote me back and asked me if I wanted to try my hand at writing about technology. Which, looking back on it, is so completely obvious—I love technology, I love writing, why did I never think to write about technology? I've gotta hand it to Pete for giving me some pretty obvious direction there," says Block, now the site's editor-in-chief and Pete's successor. "And when it all clicks into place, it's just, it's so beautiful."
Now with over 30 contributors worldwide to help with the Spanish, Japanese and Chinese Engadget sites, "it's just one of those things where I feel unbelievably lucky and blessed to have fallen into it," says a modest Block, who considers the city itself an almost silent partner in all their techie triumphs. "I think Engadget's success, and my own personal success at Engadget, has had everything to do with New York. The things that Pete and I were able to do in the early days, and the opportunities that we had, had so much to do with where we were, that we were so accessible to a lot of these companies who had presences in New York." Now in San Francisco for the past year, Block still visits the city he perceives as intertwined with his own personality at least five to six times a year. "New York's not a city that caters to you. But there's no place that could ever replace it, that could endear me to it, like New York did," says Block. "I think that's how most New York ex-pats feel. Like they never get over living here." Yeah, it's safe to say we know the feeling well.
Read an exclusive interview with Ryan Block on the official ontheinside.info blog here.
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