Dear all city leaders, please copy the World to NYC’s Smart and Sustainable Cities program. Yes, it’s goal is to convince fast growing companies to locate in NYC, but it is doing something else that matters to all cities.

Why This Gathering Matters

Ideally cities would be aware of all possible to solutions to the problems they are trying to solve. As our friends at Citymart remind us, fewer than 5% of cities have reliable new market knowledge and about 10% of them trust working with new businesses.

The impact of this is not just that we (wherever we live) don’t get the best solutions. But if you are a startup who has a great solution to sell to a city, you risk two early deaths. First, it takes a long time to get sales done. Second, investors know this and they’d prefer to avoid the risk, so your funding options shrink. The result – we’re deprived of some really promising #citytech.

W2NYC Smart & Sustainable Cities Program

The World to NYC team did two great things. First, the attendee and partner line-up included the many stakeholders that can help startups in both public and private sectors: large project and technology players (ARUP, IBM and Siemens); government agencies and utilities (Department of Transport, conEdison); Academia (NYU, CUNY) as well as investors, startups and international trade organizations. Second, the W2NYC team showcased opportunities.

Bringing all of these people together makes it easier for founders to and city stakeholders to discover opportunities. As a bonus for cities, opportunities mean founders are much more likely to consider locating at least some of their team in that city. It also provides an opportunity for investors to get more comfortable with citytech ecosystem. Many city problems are in areas where investors have little or no prior investing experience. As they begin to understand the ecosystem and problems, they will more likely move past the FOG (Fear of Government) and begin to make investments.

Second, for the founders, the World to NYC team set up opportunities like breakfast with the Department of Transportation who has already demonstrated their capacity to try new innovations and can offer real opportunities. And they gave founders multiple opportunities to pitch different groups from investors to city agencies. And finally, founders had an opportunity to meet other founders from NYC, who can help them to navigate the startup ecosystem in NYC.

Final Thoughts

In future events, it might be interesting to include more startups that don’t sell directly to local government agencies. Many firms we see are solving city problems by selling directly to citizens and businesses. As local governments learn about them, I think they will discover new possible roles that don’t involve procurement, but still have lots of impact.

We hope to see more versions of this in other cities and we’ll be following up with the World to NYC team to see how we might help to make this happen.

Congratulations to the World to NYC team on a great event. These were some of our favorite startups.

Energy, Smart Grid & Intelligent Infrastructure

  • NorthQ (Denmark): Electric and gas meter retrofits that quickly and cheaply move their data online. Driving down the cost of acquiring data will always be sexy.
  • PowerPlug (Israel): Enabling offices to reduce energy use by managing PC power consumption in real time. Managing devices to reduce demand is another big trend.
  • Bismart (Spain):creates real time city dashboards from existing data sets based on indicators such as those proposed by City Protocol Society’s guidelines. “That which is measured improves. That which is measured and reported improves exponentially.”

Mobility and Transportation

  • HopOn (Israel): A mobile payment and ticketing platform for public transport making the check-in experience smoother and faster. No, it doesn’t depend on iBeacons and therein lies the genius.
  • Metropia (Arizona, USA): An intelligent traffic management system that incentivizes commuters, businesses and governmental agencies to work together to ease congestion on city roadways. Finding ways to change our behaviors at scale is always interesting.
  • MetroTech (Georgia, USA): Develops technologies that turn video feeds from traffic and security cameras into data that can be used to better synchronize traffic lights. Reusing existing sensors to harvest new data and insights is just smart.
  • Skybus (UK and Spain): A software platform for Cities and Transit Operators to enable pop-up mass transit resulting in more efficiency. Like Lyft or Uber for buses, this system is more responsive to shifting needs.

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