How can we empower entrepreneurs to create the sustainable, equitable cities of the future?
That’s the question we’re asking – and answering – every day at the Urban Entrepreneurship Initiative. We empower entrepreneurs to create sustainable, scalable businesses that address the needs of urban communities.
The world is now mostly urban…
More than half the people in the world – 55% as of 2019 – live in an urban community. That proportion is projected to grow to 70% by the year 2050. In the U.S. 80% of the population are urban dwellers. People are drawn to urban communities because they can be vibrant, exciting, and highly productive places that perform well with respect to quality-of-life categories such as:
- Prosperity and Income
- Public Services
- Retail Services and Amenities
…but urban communities are far from perfect.
Despite the benefits of urban communities, difficulties and disruption can occur in any of the above categories in different places and at different times. As a result, the needs of many urban residents are often unmet, and the potential for problems is on the rise due to three principal causes:
- rapidly advancing technology
- cultural, ethnic and class conflict
- environmental and health crises
A prime example of technology-driven disruption is the automation of manufacturing tasks that has resulted in worker displacement and income inequality worldwide. Examples of cultural and ethnic conflict include the Brexit movement in the U.K. and the “white flight” that followed civil-rights-era legal desegregation of U.S. cities. Prime examples of environmental and health related disruption include the drinking water crisis in Flint, Michigan, massive air pollution in major Chinese cities, and the Covid-19 pandemic. Urban communities face challenges all the time. Successful communities adapt, heal and move forward. Unsuccessful communities spiral downward. The community dynamism created by urban-focused entrepreneurs can be the difference.
“Urban-focused” entrepreneurs can bring needed solutions…
Urban-focused entrepreneurs create businesses that aim to improve the quality-of-life in cities, towns, and metropolitan areas. Such entrepreneurs can provide a powerful counterweight to the challenges facing urban communities. They respond to new challenges with sustainable business solutions, new technology, and creative energy. They employ community residents and drive economic growth. They inspire entrepreneurial thinking and drive entrepreneurial culture in all segments of a community.
…but they often experience tremendous difficulty or failure.
Designing entrepreneurial solutions to address the needs of urban communities requires special expertise. It requires talent in community organizing, human centered design, business modeling and customer development methods, and traditional business administration. As a result, entrepreneurs often face great difficulty forging effective, sustainable solutions, because:
- Entrepreneurs often lack sufficient awareness of community needs, and lack the community relationships needed to determine and confirm the needs.
- Many entrepreneurs lack the special tools and techniques needed to create or adapt successful urban-focused business models.
- Urban-focused entrepreneurs often lack access to funding, expertise, technology and other resources.
- Entrepreneurs frequently have trouble breaking into an urban economic environment dominated by government and non-government agencies, not for-profit businesses, and large corporations.
Failure is not an option. We envision success!
- A cadre of strong urban-focused businesses, large and small, armed with the techniques and resources to identify and solve problems and create the cities of the future!
- Well prepared urban-focused entrepreneurs who solve problems, add dynamism to the community, and foster an entrepreneurial civic culture.
- Technological innovation that is harnessed to benefit, rather than disadvantage, people in urban communities.
- Urban community constituencies that benefit equitably from entrepreneurial problem-solving activities.
- An investor network that is ready, willing, and able to fund urban-focused businesses.
How do we achieve this vision? By empowering entrepreneurs and the organizations that support them.
Our mission at Urban Entrepreneurship Initiative is to empower entrepreneurs to provide sustainable, scalable solutions that address the needs of urban communities. We work directly with actual and aspiring entrepreneurs, but also with education institutions, incubators and accelerators, community organizations, government entities, and financial institutions. We engage in several key activity areas in order to execute our mission. These include:
- Connect urban-focused ventures with advice, funding, and other resources.
- Develop and share case studies and business models of urban-focused ventures.
- Research, identify, document and share urban-focused entrepreneurship methods and best practices.
- Identify and share innovative and potentially disruptive technologies that can be applied to address urban community needs.
- Research and share important needs and issues identified in cities worldwide.
- Convene communities to discuss and share information and best practices.
- Assess specific urban communities with respect to needs, current entrepreneurial solutions, and culture.
The Urban Entrepreneurship Initiative provides unique, tangible benefits to entrepreneurs, communities, incubators, accelerators, and education institutions.
Entrepreneurs who wish to create an urban-focused venture will experience much greater chances for success and will gain a supportive network that will further support their efforts. The communities they serve will experience products and services that address key community needs, more employment opportunities, increased overall economic vitality, and enhanced ability to respond to future challenges. Incubators and accelerators will get specific programs for generating urban-focused ventures, and will achieve greater success creating such ventures. Education institutions will get urban-focused entrepreneurship course content, research and technology transfer opportunities, and better prepared graduates.