Urban Impact Entrepreneurs Are Out There (Trust Us)

By Clara Brenner and Julie Lein

Julie Lein and Clara Brenner are the Co-Founders of Tumml, an urban ventures accelerator with the mission of empowering entrepreneurs to solve urban problems.  A nonprofit, Tumml's goal is to identify and support the next generation of Zipcars and Revolution Foods. Through a customized, four month program, Tumml invites early stage companies into its office space to receive hands-on support, seed funding, and services to help grow their businesses and make significant impact on their communities.

Jun 10, 2013 | Smart Cities | 0 comments

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:

CorralCorral makes your urban commute easier and faster.

EarthStarter-LogoEarth Starter makes all-in-one garden systems that help city dwellers grow food and flowers in small spaces by removing the guesswork.

HandUp-LogoHandUp is a mobile donation platform for the homeless and other neighbors in need.

kidadmit-LogoKidAdmit 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-LogoWorkHands 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.

Takeaways

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!

 

Discussion

Leave your comment below, or reply to others.

0 Comments

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Read more from the Meeting of the Minds Blog

Spotlighting innovations in urban sustainability and connected technology

The Humanability of Smart Cities

Lighting infrastructure is a perfect example of futureproofing. As cities are swapping out traditional high-pressure sodium street lights with energy-efficient LEDs and smart nodes that can remotely monitor and control the lights, don’t just be thinking about a smart lighting solution. Think about the position those streetlights are in to support so much more, like intersection safety analytics, parking optimization, and gunshot detection.

3 Key Strategies for Successful Civic Engagement Using Technology

The idea of multi-channel civic engagement and the role of the grassroots community marketer is being implemented by forward-thinking smart city leaders who understand the  importance—and economic benefits—of giving their constituents a voice. More investments are being made into digital systems that reach and engage the public.

Cities Need Forecasted Data to Make Impactful Emissions Reductions

From an energy type standpoint, a city’s electric utility can make a big difference regarding which actions cities should undertake. For instance, a city in the service territory of an electric utility with ambitious plans to decarbonize its generation mix may want to focus greater attention on future emissions scenarios versus current emissions when making decisions on priorities. This would mean focusing actions on transportation, space heating, and industrial processes, since those would likely be greater contributors to emissions (vs. electricity) in such a future scenario.