Urban Impact Entrepreneurs Are Out There (Trust Us)
Urban innovation isn’t just coming from government or large companies. There’s a real movement of entrepreneurs looking to solve problems in their own communities. These urban impact entrepreneurs are creative and nimble – and have the ability to scale their innovations across cities.
Tumml, the urban ventures accelerator, issued an open call for applications from entrepreneurs across the country in April. We were overwhelmed by the response – both in terms of quantity and quality – and we’re proud to announce the five companies we’ve selected for our first cohort.
Tumml’s 2013 summer cohort
The Tumml cohort is comprised of early stage companies leading the charge in urban innovation. Please say hello to Tumml’s new class of urban impact entrepreneurs:
Corral makes your urban commute easier and faster.
Earth Starter makes all-in-one garden systems that help city dwellers grow food and flowers in small spaces by removing the guesswork.
KidAdmit provides an easy, efficient way to apply to multiple preschools online and manage the preschool admission process – which can be so daunting in cities.
WorkHands is a blue collar online identity service that makes it easier to find work in the trades.
These five companies will spend the next three-and-a-half months working in Tumml’s office space in downtown San Francisco, receiving mentorship from a group of accomplished urbanites (like the Director of Public Policy at Airbnb and the Chief Innovation Officer of San Francisco) and $20,000 in seed funding.
While Tumml is only hosting a small cohort of companies, we are excited by the energy and diversity of all the urban innovators who applied to our program. They are working on a wide variety of topics, but three themes really stand out to us:
- Small business services: Entrepreneurs developing some product or service that specifically targets and supports urban small businesses;
- Mobility: Entrepreneurs developing some product or service that makes getting around cities simpler and safer; and
- Local food: Entrepreneurs developing some product or services that makes it easier to grow or access local food.
To some extent, we attribute the strong representation in these three areas to the fact that there are already some success stories in these sectors (think: Fundrise, Uber, Revolution Foods, etc). This makes it easier for some entrepreneurs to envision starting companies of their own in a relatively new industry.
In addition to the variety of sectors represented, we also see some interesting demographic trends:
- 48 percent of the applicants have a female founder or co-founder. We can only speculate about why this number is so high (according to the Kauffman Foundation, only 35 percent of US startup business owners are women). But, at least anecdotally, our impression is that many women entrepreneurs are particularly excited about solving problems they have experienced personally – and what problems can a person know better than the ones in his or her own city?
- 40 percent of applicants are working on products or services specifically targeted at underserved communities within our cities. This is incredibly exciting for us. We often hear concerns that the sharing economy and other urban innovations are leaving behind the people who could benefit most from their use (ridesharing, short-term housing, etc). We are heartened to see this next wave of urban innovators embracing the responsibility (and the market opportunity) of targeting some of our cities’ overlooked residents.
Intrigued by these statistics? With so many pressing problems in cities, there’s a real role for enterprising entrepreneurs to tackle these issues. So join the movement and build your own urban impact startup!
Leave your comment below, or reply to others.
Please note that this comment section is for thoughtful, on-topic discussions. Admin approval is required for all comments. Your comment may be edited if it contains grammatical errors. Low effort, self-promotional, or impolite comments will be deleted.
Read more from MeetingoftheMinds.org
Spotlighting innovations in urban sustainability and connected technology
Accenture analysts recently released a report calling for cities to take the lead in creating coordinated, “orchestrated” mobility ecosystems. Limiting shared services to routes that connect people with mass transit would be one way to deploy human-driven services now and to prepare for driverless service in the future. Services and schedules can be linked at the backend, and operators can, for example, automatically send more shared vehicles to a train station when the train has more passengers than usual, or tell the shared vehicles to wait for a train that is running late.
Managing urban congestion and mobility comes down to the matter of managing space. Cities are characterized by defined and restricted residential, commercial, and transportation spaces. Private autos are the most inefficient use of transportation space, and mass transit represents the most efficient use of transportation space. Getting more people out of private cars, and into shared feeder routes to and from mass transit modes is the most promising way to reduce auto traffic. Computer models show that it can be done, and we don’t need autonomous vehicles to realize the benefits of shared mobility.
The role of government, and the planning community, is perhaps to facilitate these kinds of partnerships and make it easier for serendipity to occur. While many cities mandate a portion of the development budget toward art, this will not necessarily result in an ongoing benefit to the arts community as in most cases the budget is used for public art projects versus creating opportunities for cultural programming.
Rather than relying solely on this mandate, planners might want to consider educating developers with examples and case studies about the myriad ways that artists can participate in the development process. Likewise, outreach and education for the arts community about what role they can play in projects may stimulate a dialogue that can yield great results. In this sense, the planning community can be an invaluable translator in helping all parties to discover a richer, more inspiring, common language.
While the outlook for the environment may often seem bleak, there are many proven methods already available for cities to make their energy systems and other infrastructure not only more sustainable, but cheaper and more resilient at the same time. This confluence of benefits will drive investments in clean, efficient energy, transportation, and water infrastructure that will enable cities to realize their sustainability goals.
Given that many of the policy mechanisms that impact cities’ ability to boost sustainability are implemented at the state or federal level, municipalities should look to their own operations to implement change. Cities can lead as a major market player, for example, by converting their own fleets to zero emission electric vehicles, investing in more robust and efficient water facilities, procuring clean power, and requiring municipal buildings to be LEED certified.