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!
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Instead of looking around and thinking to one’s self about what could be done to make a certain place better, our program urges folks to share their ideas and begin building support from the ground-up. That’s how a group of neighbors and volunteers in Brightmoor, Michigan, succeeded in transforming their neighborhood’s food desert back in 2015.
We are firm believers in putting nudge theory to work within organizations. Luum is a data-driven commute benefits software solution that runs end-to-end employer commute programs and gives them deep insight into how their employees commute. We’ve seen the ripple effect that even the slightest positive behavior changes around the commute can have for an entire organization and, subsequently, its city. Over the past five years, our hometown of Seattle has seen its transit ridership grow (one of two cities in the country!) and boasts a downtown drive-alone rate that hovers around 25 percent.
You may not hear much about electric trucks and buses, but they’re here and growing. We have to put the policies and actions in place now so that we can leverage the clean air and economic benefits of this technology to fight environmental injustice and give an economic boost to people most in need.