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Better Cities
 Public Benefits
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All great startups make something people love, but we believe the best startups also do something else: They create public benefits. We’re always interested in understanding how urbantech startups might generate these benefits, and we think they are well-positioned to do so because so many problems in cities are a consequence of old technologies.

Old technologies helped cities scale to deliver the opportunities we see today, but many are no longer up to the task of delivering what we need. We need more benefits without all of the negative consequences, like electricity without global warming or rapid, comfortable mobility without risk of injury.

Can your startup help reduce greenhouse gas emissions? Cities are already responsible for 70 percent of emissions, and that number is expected to grow as city populations continue to grow around the globe. As this very detailed chart on energy use in the U.S. shows, a lot of energy-intensive activities relate to city life.

Density is what draws people to cities. It creates opportunity, but it also comes with downsides such as traffic, crime, and poor air quality. Startups are positioned to help provide public benefits in these areas.

Investors often ask if it’s possible to provide great investor returns while also creating public benefits. Some believe if the public is benefiting for “free” then the business is not using the right business model or charging correctly for its product. This is not what we’ve found.

Public benefits can help in recruiting the best talent and customers while helping to win over regulators to your cause. For example, the most talented engineers know they will be paid well no matter where they work, but there are fewer opportunities for them to work on something that also has a positive public impact. Later, we’ll discuss other stakeholders, such as advisors and regulators, and explain why public benefits matter to these people, too.

Most importantly, when you create public benefits, you make your team stronger. Most startups will face existential challenges, and we’ve found that a focus on public benefits can keep teams motivated in ways that money alone does not do.


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