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Should Cities and Startups be connected 'Tinder' Style?

As featured at the DLD innovation festival 'Meetup' event - Startups meet cities facilitated by: Guy Pross, Founder of 31ºNorth.

Tel Aviv's annual DLD innovation festival has become the Mecca of smart city events - with city executives, investors and startups from around the world gathering to discuss city innovation, culture and technology. The festival has been well known to feature a confrontation of the world's hottest talent in the tech space with world leading city innovators.

At yesterday's Rothschild based event - Startups meet Cities, more than 150 innovators tightly packed into a chic Tel Aviv bar (JimmyWho, Rothschild Blvd 24) to participate in a unique meetup around startups and cities. Our expert panel came from the Israeli Government (Eco-motion), City of Tel Aviv, City Of Warsaw, City of Taipei, Czech Republic Region of Central Bohemia with Israeli Startup founders and executives to discuss the challenges of connecting Startups with Cities.

While today it is clear that innovation can only happen through an advanced eco-system of tech startups creating and testing new ideas, the concept of connecting these startups with cities has proven to be difficult as Cities and Startups often act as complete opposites differentiated by size, budget, bureaucracy level, approach to risk and planning cycles.

We confronted our expert panelists about these challenges, here are their key insights:

Liora Shechter, CIO of Tel Aviv Municipality, shared stories from their work with the Tel Aviv Startup community but also emphasized that the sustainability of startups was a major hurdle to creating long term relationships. Liora also referred to the “Open Data” dilemma where one side the city opens up its data to the developer community and on the other hand, the city is responsible for protecting personal and sensitive data from cyber attacks.

Katarzyna Woldeck-Makos, Director of Economic Development from the City of Warsaw spoke about the acceleration programs managed by Warsaw municipality and about the fact that startups incubated in these programmes will most likely not work with the municipality. Better cooperation with startups could be the key for improving the chances of working together better.

Ruth Bizkova, a Former Environment Minister and the Current Director of the Central Bohemian innovation Center suggest the need to focus more innovation on young and aging population - such innovation is desperately needed in order to help deal with key challenges for both these important community groups. Also there is a need to develop a strategy that is suitable specifically for the challenges of regions - these have their own unique DNA that needs to be understood.

Hunter Lin, CTO at the Department of Economic Development at the Taipei City Government described the challenges for small organizations while trying to work with governments that needed to be resolved.

Orlie Dhahn, EcoMotion Executive Director, spoke about the bureaucracy and sizing challenges - suggesting that sometimes with so many city departments it is hard to get to the right person to sign off on a deal and that therefore, implementation was a major challenge to be overcome.

Eyal Feder, Founder of Israeli Startup ZenCity, spoke about the need to work together from the startup earliest days to verify the developed solution is answering a real municipal need. ZenCity provides an A.I solution for cities to better understand city insights (see zencity.io/).

In response to the panel expert comments we invited startups from the audience to pitch their suggestions for improving the connection of cities and startups (after a brief plug on their own solutions), here are the top 5 suggestions for connecting startups and cities from the 20 startups that gave their pitches:

  1. Take “Baby steps” in the relationship. Start with a single street, single bus stop etc’.

  2. Flexibility is key - Both sides should be more flexible and make an effort to collaborate. Cities should take more risk and startups should better adapt to the municipal needs.

  3. Redesign existing tendering mechanisms which are currently aims towards larger organizations and are less relevant for startups.

  4. Secure government funding dedicated to enable longer runway for startups testing programs.

  5. Use an online "Tinder Style" platform to connect startups to cities to create better matching.

According to Forbes, ‘cities are the perfect platform for innovation’ as they stimulate a rise in a new creative class. However, city innovation is a process that must be conducted as a symbiotic relationship between cities and startups - the better our cities can work with startups, the more innovation and creativity will embrace our urban lives and improve quality of life in our cities.

To submit your suggestion on how to better connect cities to startups - please leave us a comment below.

#UrbanInnovation #meetup #MunicipalPlatform #Municipality #Startups

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