Skip to main content

New Jersey is the ‘next home of AI’? Cool story, bro

Urban scene with blurred foreground figures, palm trees, a building backdrop, and a billboard promoting New Jersey as "The Next Home of AI."
People walk past a billboard reading “New Jersey is the next home of AI” in the Union Square shopping district of San Francisco on Wednesday. | Source: Estefany Gonzalez/The Standard

Hanging high over San Francisco’s Union Square shopping district, a large, blue billboard boasts New Jersey is “the next home” of AI. Excuse me?

Well, according to the nonprofit Choose New Jersey, the Garden State has the “largest concentration of engineers and scientists per square mile and the third-highest share of STEM degrees awarded in the United States.” Jokes aside, housing is a lot more affordable than it is here in the Bay Area.

Installed recently, the billboard is part of a multi-city campaign that the privately funded Newark-based nonprofit says will run over the upcoming months to make the case that it has advantages over the city Mayor London Breed has called the “world capital of AI.” 

A billboard promoting New Jersey as "THE NEXT HOME OF AI" next to a classic building, with a web address for more info.
A billboard proclaiming "New Jersey: The next home of Ai" that's affixed to the top of a Union Square building had local AI professionals shaking their heads. | Source: Estefany Gonzalez/The Standard

“New Jersey is proud to be leading the way when it comes to artificial intelligence,” Choose New Jersey CEO and President Wesley Mathews told The Standard. “Our investments in talent and technology, paired with our collaborative ecosystem and infrastructure strength, position us as the premier East Coast hub for reimagining the future of this emerging technology, complementing the technological advances on the West Coast.” 

Mathews touted the state’s “unmatched talent pool, world-class institutions and significant financial incentives,” saying there is a lot of upside to moving to Jersey.

The nonprofit isn’t the only one trying to ship AI and the Garden State. According to ROI New Jersey, New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy is planning to visit California next week to pitch AI companies in Silicon Valley and elsewhere that Jersey is the place to be.

But San Francisco’s AI community seems less than enthused about the idea.

“Anyone in the field knows that SF is not just #1 in the U.S. for AI. It’s, to a first approximation, the *only* place in the US,” said Flo Crivello, the founder and CEO of AI workflow assistant Lindy. “In terms of AI market cap, it’s four times bigger than the rest of the U.S. combined.” 

City street with buildings, vehicles, pedestrians, and billboards under a blue sky.
The Choose New Jersey campaign claims the Garden State has the "largest concentration of engineers and scientists per square mile and the third-highest share of STEM degrees awarded in the United States." | Source: Estefany Gonzalez/The Standard

He pointed to his September 2023 post on X, commenting on Elad Gil and Shreyan Jain’s essay analyzing “unicorn” market cap growth by region.

“New York (not New Jersey :)) is 92% smaller. New Jersey isn’t on the map,” Crivello said in a text message. “To paraphrase Tennessee Williams—there’s only one city for AI: San Francisco. Everywhere else is Cleveland.”

Jeremiah Owyang, a venture capital investor at Blitzscaling Venture, was similarly candid about the Garden State’s attitude. “AI founders head to where the AI foundational models and venture capitalists with deep pockets hang out - that’s SF, not NJ,” Owyang said in an email.

“Until iconic Bruce Springsteen trades his guitar for a hoodie and heads to the bay, Jersey’s shot at being an AI capital seems pretty slim,” he added.

Meanwhile at City Hall, Breed doesn’t seem too worried about AI companies ditching San Francisco for the East Coast. Parisa Safarzadeh, a spokesperson for the Mayor’s Office, said the billboard is really a testament to Breed’s statement about the city being the AI capital of the world.

“When other states have to create an advertising strategy to put billboards up in our City, it means we are truly leading when it comes to AI,” Safarzadeh said in an emailed statement. “Billboards are costly and they are welcome to continue their efforts, but no amount of advertising can match San Francisco's unparalleled talent and innovative spirit.”

George Kelly can be reached at