By Charlotte Waldmeir (@cwaldmeir), Content Strategy for sente.link, @sente_link
If you’re involved in the startup world, chances are you’ve used the “e” word (“ecosystem”) at least once this morning.
In the first few minutes of the podcast Masters Of Scale episode titled “And The Next Silicon Valley Is….” host and LinkedIn Founder, Reid Hoffman, breaks down the many interconnected components that make up the great barrier reef of innovation. “You need entrepreneurs, with ideas, yes. But you also need people who are skilled at every discipline needed at every company at every stage.” According to Hoffman, a cocktail of engineers, product managers, lawyers, marketers, recruiters, operational geniuses, media outlets, institutions, universities and VCs is what earned Silicon Valley its name.
While cities around the world are attempting to become the “next Silicon Valley,” Hoffman proposes a different approach - ditch this pipe dream entirely. Instead let thousands of entrepreneurial hubs bloom around the world, like Endeavor’s Linda Rottenberg set out to do first in Latin America and now around the world. Promote high-impact entrepreneurship and innovation in each hub and do so by focusing attention on that city’s strengths...and its weaknesses.
The reality for a re-emerging ecosystem like Detroit? It will never be a Silicon Valley. But in the same respect, for a booming techtopia like Silicon Valley, it will never be a gritty, home-grown Detroit. More so, no matter how hard Silicon Valley tries, it will never have the tenure or muscle mass Detroit packs in the sector of automobility, which makes the emerging mobility industry a low hanging fruit for the Motor City.
A recent report created by Navigant Research shows how the 18 biggest companies in the race to develop self-driving cars rank based on a number of criteria like tech, go-to market strategy, production prowess, staying power, and sales, marketing and distribution. While Google’s Waymo, Uber and Tesla rank high in the technology sector of autonomous cars, Detroit’s Ford and General Motors (GM) lead the way overall. Why? They know a thing or two about mass production.
“The technology is great, but unless you can build tens of thousands of cars and get people in those cars, it’s not really all that useful,” says Navigant’s Sam Abuelsamid. Ford and GM already have the bedrock of producing and selling cars so all they need is to invest in the right technologies. Companies like Tesla, on the other hand, have the technology but are being banned in States around the US (like Michigan) because they would rather adopt a direct-to-consumer car sales model (think Apple stores) which, according to legislation, would have a direct impact on car-dealership sales.
Here, we see history repeat itself.
The car was on the road years before Henry Ford invented the Model T. What put Detroit on the map was Ford’s implementation of the moving assembly line in car manufacturing that could produce an already existing technology to the masses. From that point on, cars were no longer an exclusive purchase like Elon’s Tesla is for many today. People could finally get their hands on the wheel. The same narrative holds true for Detroit today. Only this time around, the hands are coming off the wheel.
While things might be looking up for the city, Detroit needs to understand things could change fast. For example - the minute their competition joins forces with any other large-scale car manufacturer, Ford and GM’s autonomous efforts could become irrelevant. Now, more than ever, Detroit needs to pack a punch if it wants to keep itself in the ring.
Planet M, Willow Run and the University of Michigan’s MCity are just a few of many testing sites and research facilities around the Detroit Metro Area and Ann Arbor that are solely focusing on connected vehicle technologies. Michigan’s state government is making a huge push to shift the state’s brand to be a “smart” motor city. "Michigan's signature industry is changing before our very eyes," says Sandy Baruah, CEO of the Detroit Regional Chamber.
"We're proud to be the center of the auto industry," said Michigan Governor Rick Snyder. "... But we need a plan for the future."
Detroit must anticipate that as technology continues to advance, industry and law is subject to change with it. Apple is a great example of how a new technology disrupted the PC market and Telecom companies and challenged the law. In the same respect, Detroit cannot hide behind a law that protects itself from being outnumbered by Tesla. But whether the law changes in favor of Tesla or not, there are many other competitors world-wide that could, and according to Hoffman, have already risen to the top. China being a leading contender.
To remain relevant, the city of Detroit needs to do what Hoffman proposed in the first place - ditch the pipe dream of becoming “the next Silicon Valley” and continue to bloom as a well-rounded entrepreneurial hub that is unique to Detroit.
Without a doubt, a lot has already changed for the city in the last 5 years. According to the 2017 Michigan Venture Capital Association Research Report, there was a 50% increase in the number of active venture-backed startups in Michigan. Additionally, the number of venture capital investment professionals living, working and investing in Michigan has increased by 41%. Out-of-state mobility startups like Spatial, HAAS Alert and Cargo are moving to Detroit and partnering with Ford to build out autonomous and connected car technologies.
“The possibilities are endless when you combine the experience and influence of a storied company like Ford with the energy and innovation of these inspiring startups,” said Bill Coughlin, president and CEO of Ford Global Technologies.
There has also been a 9.2% increase in Detroit’s population of millennials. Now, more than ever before, 20-29-year olds who graduated from college in Michigan are choosing to stay put to see the city grow and define automotive technology.
On January 14, 2018 the biggests players in connected and autonomous vehicle research and technology will come to Detroit to take part in NAIAS’ Automobili-D. The week-long event will host more than 89,000 engineers along with the world’s top researchers, designers, industry leaders, suppliers, automakers, emerging mobility startups, and international media, including sente.link’s New Mobility Cohort. The city of Detroit will serve as the epicenter of the future of mobility innovations - a title it's used to.
By the Sente.Link Team, @Sente_Link
Following up on our Business Wire Press Release regarding sente.link’s international accelerator program for IoT startups, we are excited to announce that we have chosen 5 winners out of the 11 startups that participated in the first phase of the IoT program in Istanbul. For the next 4 weeks, they will enter into Phase 2 of the IoT Accelerator Program where they will scale up in the US, via Chicago.
The US portion of the program is an intense business development experience where these companies will test their commercial hypothesis in Sente’s “soft landing” spot in Chicago to get the market traction they need to take their business to the next level.
Congratulations to the 5 winners below:
“We chose Chicago as the base for US entry because we understand that the startups need to get market traction with real customers before they can raise funding,” says sente.link COO, Gerod Carfantan. "Chicago is well suited to do that, since it has such a diverse industry base, is centrally located and has a friendly business environment.”
For the next 4 weeks, until their demo day August 21, the 5 startups will set up shop in the largest innovative hub in North America, 1871 Chicago, as well as the Chicago Connectory - Bosch’s IoT incubator dedicated to IoT ventures.
According to global IT Innovation lead at Bosch, Dennis Boecker, “We see IoT as the next big step that every company needs to take.” One of their initiatives - attracting even more IoT talent to the city.
These 5 startups will be the first first wave of talent coming to the Connectory from overseas through the sente.link accelerator program. You can stay up to date on their experience by following sente.link on Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook.
By the Sente.Link Team, @Sente_Link
What do Paris, Las Vegas and Detroit have in common? The future of mobility.
Now imagine being an international startup in the sector of new mobility innovations and choosing a US market-entry accelerator program that does not include Silicon Valley. Would you role the dice? Below we map out Paris, Las Vegas and Detroit's impact on the new mobility world and why we (sente.link & New Mobility Lab) waged our bets to focus our up-and-coming accelerator program around these 3 cities.
To get a full breakdown of the program, click here.
Paris (Week 6) - Autonomy
To kick off the New Mobility Program, a selected cohort of global startups will attend the first ever international summit on urban mobility, Autonomy. Founder, Ross Douglas, says he moved his family to Paris to start Autonomy because "Mayor Anne Hidalgo’s strong political will to transform mobility, and Paris is the world’s transport capital, with more transport-related companies than any other city."
Fact: Paris is the most visited country in the world and more than 48,000 people die from air pollution a year in France. This raises a huge red flag not just in Paris, but all growing metropolises. Paris’ first female Mayor, Anne Hidalgo, has already pledged to take more cars off the road and put more feet on the ground. And the French government, counting President Macron, sees a shift in sustainability as both holistically and economically beneficial to all. (Can someone please tweet this out to President Trump).
Paris is the old yet secret door that shows young startups in this hot sector that new mobility is sustainable mobility. And according to Douglas, ‘Sustainable mobility’ must rank as the biggest revenue opportunity within sustainable cities.”
Las Vegas (Week 7) - CES
And nothing says ‘sustainable mobility’ like…Sin City? That’s right – after Paris, a a selected group will be chosen to participate in the US phase of the program to attend the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, January 9-12.
CES is the largest global gathering of innovation around the connected future of technology with over 170K attendees. It will host industry leaders and networking giants like Cisco. Recently, Cisco partnered up with the city of Las Vegas to create smart city solutions. By using smart city technologies or "sensor tech," Cisco will improve the city's environment, traffic, water, crown control, transit, lighting, waste management, security and parking. Learn more about the plan here.
Cisco SVP of IoT and Applications Rowan Trollope also announced that the IT and networking giant will be pumping in funding for startups to run out of Vegas.
As you might have already heard, Zappos CEO, Tony Hsieh, also invested funds ($350 million to be exact) into reinventing downtown Las Vegas, putting the deserted town on the map as more than a destination for the obvious (alien hunting). With the help of Hsieh, Vegas now stands out as one of two US cities that rose from the ashes because of the help of one private stakeholder. (The other US city - Detroit).
Last, but not least - did you know the state of Nevada is a pioneer specifically in the field of autonomous technologies? In 2015, Gov. Brian Sandoval allowed the first operated self-driving trucks to navigate a public road in the US. While a driver still needs to be behind the wheel, the state of Nevada proves autonomy on the road can (and will) be done.
Detroit (Week 8) - AutoMobili-D
No surprise that Detroit's secret sauce (other than Coney Island chili) is auto-mobility.
After Vegas, the cohort will head to Detroit, where they will attend AutoMobili-D, the North American International Auto Show's (NAIAS). During the four day event, tech startups disrupting the transportation industry from around the world will cover 5 key mobility areas: autonomous driving, connected car technologies, e-mobility, mobility services and urban mobility.
(Sounds familiar...VCs Take Note: Here Are The 5 Core Themes in New Mobility).
Plain and simple, Detroit knows cars. So it’s no wonder GM has already built the most self-driving cars than any other automaker in the industry. And they’re just revving up. the real work is taking place in and around Detroit, with special testing facilities like MCity (Ann Arbor), OU INC (Oakland Country), AND Tech Town (Downtown Detroit).
“I heard there was a skyscraper sale going on in downtown Detroit. So I bought nine.”
Famous words from Quicken Loans Founder, Daniel (Dan) Gilberts, Detroit’s leading investor with a net worth of six billion. Thanks to donors like Gilberts, the city is back on the map, making Detroit America's newest tech hub and the last stop in our New Mobility tour before heading to sente.link's HQ in Chicago to wrap up the 12 week program.
Interested in learning more about the New Mobility Program? Click here or send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
A few weeks ago, we introduced you to the Renz Brothers - “New Mobility” enthusiasts who have both IT and cars in their DNA. This week, we are taking a deeper dive into the sector of “New Mobility.” By doing so, we hope to illuminate the vast opportunity in this domain as well as why sente.link and New Mobility Lab have invested their time and capital to create an accelerator program for startups in the New Mobility space.
Not too long ago, investments in the mobility sector were considered, well, “not interesting.” A lack of scalable business models, a highly regulated industry and limited interest from traditional OEMs and suppliers in open innovation and corporate venturing were among the laundry list of reasons why VCs focused their attention on other technologies. But the Renz Brothers always felt that they were part of something bigger.
“Mobility and transportation is critical to our daily lives. Access to mobility means access to education, access to jobs and access to our social lives. At the same time we need to make mobility more sustainable. We believe technology can help change mobility and transportation for the better of humanity and the planet.”
Several major technologies that have empowered the transformation of the New Mobility sector include machine learning, artificial intelligence, Internet of Things (IoT), cloud computing and blockchains (or distributed ledger technologies). To help give you a better idea into the scope of New Mobility, The Renz Brothers have broken this ecosystem into 5 core themes.
The Connected Vehicle shifts the focus away from optimizing the inner functions of the car and towards providing new services that enhance the brand experience. Examples include next generation user experiences around infotainment, but also services that make owning or using a car less of a hassle. Capabilities such as Over the Air updates introduced by Tesla enable remote maintenance, but also create new monetization models across the entire lifecycle beyond the initial purchase. On the other hand, connected vehicles also introduce significant cyber and data security risks.
Connectivity will also transform how we access the vehicle and how we experience the interior. Next generation surfaces, displays and wireless sensors coupled with biometrical sensors and natural user interfaces (i.e. voice recognition, gesture control, etc) will open up new avenues to sense, anticipate and personalize driver and passenger needs. When will connected vehicles become a true digital assistant? Who will control and secure the data of the vehicle? And who will own the data in the first place?
2. Autonomous Vehicles
The race towards autonomous driving is on. Both technology players as well as automotive OEMs, Tier 1’s and emerging players are investing heavily to make driverless vehicles a reality. As much as we have made significant progress towards automated driving and eventual driverless cars, a broad range of challenges still need to be resolved. How will driverless cars handle adverse weather conditions such as heavy rain, snow and light conditions? How can HAD (Highly Automated Driving) maps be updated in real-time at scale to reflect changes in road conditions, traffic lights etc.? How will driverless cars interact with humans, all the way from accessing robotic cars to the day-to-day user experience?
And while autonomous vehicles will also be able to gather massive amounts of data about their environment and themselves, turning the data generated by robotic systems into sustainable business models remains a challenge. But no question - connected and autonomous vehicles will have a transformative impact on how we experience and consume mobility.
3. Mobility Services
Chances are the phone you bring with you everywhere (even the bathroom) also has some sort of ride sharing app on it somewhere. Mobility Services such as ride hailing and car sharing challenge traditional ownership models and introduce the notion of ‘On Demand’ access to shared mobility.
Delivering mobility services will introduce new requirements related to fleet management, pricing and related services that need to be delivered at scale across different cities and geographies. There is still plenty of opportunity to increase the utilization of largely underutilized assets. But is there an opportunity to create a true sharing economy without the need for intermediaries such as Uber and Lyft?
4. Electric Mobility
It appears that Tesla (and the Dieselgate scandal) have helped to create a breakthrough for electric mobility. Major OEMs including Volvo, Daimler and others are redirecting R&D investments away from combustion engines and have made electric mobility a strategic priority. However, challenges remain to address current cost and range, but also manufacturability, serviceability and charging infrastructure issues. We also believe there is significant opportunity for step change around new battery technologies beyond lithium-ion battery systems.
5. Urban Mobility
Many of the mobility and transportation issues we face are related to Urban Mobility. With the ongoing trends towards urbanization there is an increasing need to make smart use of existing infrastructure through smart traffic management and seamless multi-modal mobility, but also new vehicle concepts such as 2-wheelers, e-bikes etc. An increasing amount of traffic is related to the endless search for parking and delivery services resulting from the growth in eCommerce and food delivery services. Smart solutions including robotic systems – like airborne drones - are required to address these challenges. The US market, with its large metropolitan areas, provides a perfect environment to test, validate and scale such offerings.
The opportunities to reinvent mobility are vast. Together, sente.link and new mobility lab, have the mission to help startups, corporations and investors take advantage of the opportunities that the transformation of the industry towards the New Mobility ecosystem presents.
To learn more about the New Mobility program, click here.
sente.link and New Mobility Lab have teamed up on an international accelerator program that is designed to take early-stage Mobility startups (primarily in Europe) to scale-up via a hands-on structured accelerator. This series of posts focuses on New Mobility innovations leading up to the program starting October 2017.
The digital transformation of mobility and transportation is not only reshaping industries but creating opportunities for entrepreneurs, investors and corporations alike. But the origin of this transformation doesn’t start with a “Silicon” and end in a “Valley.” In fact, the future of mobility has its roots in the first place the car took its first spin - Europe.
If you know cars (or at least a little), then you know the Old Continent is known for its automotive brands - Porsche, Mercedes, BMW, VW, Audi - the list goes on. But did you also know Europe is home to the some of the world’s largest transportation and logistic companies? Many of Europe’s cities boast a world class infrastructure and excellent public transportation. And through Europe’s world class universities, some of the most profound research on the topic of mobility and transportation is being produced. The education system of Europe produces great engineering talent and there are a range of interesting startups emerging especially around mobility and transportation. However, if compared to Silicon Valley or Israel, Europe still lacks the VC funding and a network of mentors who have successfully scaled startups. .
Because of this, sente.link decided to focus its 8th accelerator program on the domain of mobility. To help guide the future cohort of international startups through a robust set of trainings, tools and mentorship, we’ve teamed up with the New Mobility Lab, founded by the Renz brothers, Alexander and Jochen ‘Joe’ Renz.
As native Germans but US residents, Joe and Alex have an international perspective and a global network across the US, Europe and Israel. What sets them apart, however, is more than stamps in their passport and names in a “contacts” list. Their vision is holistic.
The Renz brothers understand the car as an important building block in the future of multi-modal mobility. However, they believe that much of disruptive innovation happens in the form of solutions around the car and in the broader mobility ecosystem.
“We really think of the future of mobility as a System of Systems - a new ecosystem emerges that will transform mobility and transportation. New Mobility goes far beyond automotive, but touches retail, smart cities, telecommunications, banking and insurance.”
Back in 2015, Alex and Jochen were part of the genesis that coined the term “New Mobility.” However, “back in those days” they had a lot of explaining to do. In a world where people are used to carrying their mobile phones wherever they go (even in the bathroom), the term “mobility” was associated with “mobile communications”. Today, “New Mobility” is one of the hottest areas of technology innovation and venture investment.
When we met the Renz Brothers, their enthusiasm for the New Mobility was overwhelmingly refreshing. As we got to know them better, we learned why.
Born and raised in Stuttgart, Germany - where the car was born in 1886 - Joe and Alex grew up expecting to work for Daimler, Porsche or Bosch. However, attracted by the opportunities in the software sector they ended up working for global software companies including SAP, Microsoft, CA and Infor.
As Marc Andreessen likes to say, “Software eats the World” and it seems that the automotive sector is for lunch. In the software industry the Renz brothers have experienced several transformational shifts including the web, social and mobile, as well as the shift to cloud computing. Alex was part of the early days of the “Internet of Things” (IoT) and initiated SAP’s sponsorship of the MIT Auto-ID Center in 2001. It was this work that triggered his interest in autonomous systems.
“Connected and autonomous vehicles are the ultimate IoT device,” says Joe Renz. “ And before long, vehicles will become their own economic agents and engage in the Machine-to-Machine economy. Our mission is to help startups, corporations and investors take advantage of the emerging opportunities.”
Plain and simple. The Renz brothers have both IT and cars in their DNA. Their passion and experience become highly relevant as software transforms mobility and transportation.
From the Ashes: The Story of Chicago Tech, 1871, and How an Open Data Company Is Creating Smart City Solutions in Chicago and Beyond
More and more of the international startups that go through Sente.Link’s accelerator programs are in the “smart cities” domain - essentially, domains where technologies and solutions connect citizens, their local government, urban infrastructure and industry.
In a series of posts throughout the next few months, we will explore Smart City and IoT innovations around the world, with specific emphasis on Sente’s main hubs in Chicago, Helsinki and Istanbul.
As uncovered in the last two posts on the Sente.Link blog, in order for a city to become “smart” it needs to enable two things - its platforms and its stakeholders. To wrap up our series on Smart City and IoT innovations around the world, we turn to the Chicago-based civic tech company, DataMade - a breathing example of “smart city solutions.“
To understand the vision behind DataMade, we need to rewind back a few thousand years, when storytelling predated data. Pretty much since humans started talking, they’ve been telling stories.The art of storytelling is embedded in the way we learn and is what lies at the center of DataMade’s mission.
Since 2012, DataMade has been taking data and transforming it into compelling digital-prose so stakeholders like journalists, researchers, government and advocate organizations can develop solutions for their communities.
The company’s advent came during a pivotal (and some would say, perfect) time in Chicago’s tech history. Let’s set the stage:
It’s February, 2011 in Chicago. Barack Obama’s former White House Chief of Staff, Rahm Emanuel, has taken the 44th seat as Mayor of Chicago after a 5 ½ term legacy of having Richard M. Daley in office. Emanuel announces his vision to make Chicago the “digital mecca” of the midwest and sets out with different stakeholders and organizations to attract more tech companies to the city.
In 2012, there’s a tech boom in the city and the Chicagoland Entrepreneurial Center (CEC) opens its largest project yet, 1871 - a digital phoenix for the city, named after the great Chicago fire of 1871 that left the city in ashes.
Entrepreneurs catch wind of the space and a city of builders is re-born. During this time, the civic tech organization, Smart Chicago, invites Derek Eder (DataMade’s soon-to-be Founder) to work on a government project after his side-project Open City caught their attention. Derek sets up shop at 1871 as one of the first members, alongside the great minds behind companies like Package Zen, Purple Binder and Food Genius that now have name in the Chicago startup game.
The explosion of interest in tech and open data in Chicago led to the creation of Derek’s digital love child, Chi Hack Night - a weekly evening event where citizens of Chicago come and build, share and learn about civic tech. After dedicating most of his time to his data-driven side-project, Derek made the leap every entrepreneur has to make. He quit his job and started DataMade as an LLC.
DataMade got to work in 2012 as one of the first platforms in Chicago to take raw data and build solutions. In fact, open data was such a hot topic at the time that when Tom Tolva, former CTO for the city of Chicago, showcased DataMade in his presentations as the example of open data solutions.
“Strength came from independence to explore.” says Derek. “We would have been derailed if the climate wasn't the way it was at the time and I got to learn what worked and what didn't work.”
It went without saying that the tech side was solid for DataMade. Their learning curve was on the political side. But in 2014, Derek and his team developed a partnership with various Chicago stakeholders that would give rise to a project that married technology with policy - The Large Lots Project.
If you haven’t heard of it, here’s how it works: for one dollar, residents can use The Large Lots website created by DataMade to buy vacant land in their neighborhood and gain back greater control over their neighborhoods. Best part? The project relied on the input of the stakeholders who had actual “stake” in the community - the residents. During the 2014 Code for America Summit, Derek called this take-away, the “with, not for” model, a phrase popularized by civic tech expert, Laurenellen McCann.
“We listened to what people were really wanting to have us solve and we built this application with them, not for them.”
Teamwork Englewood Founder, Demond Drummer, continued the conversation from the same stage, “Innovation comes from the bottom up. --- The story of Large Lots is the story of a policy solution and a technology solution that is by the people and for the people.”
But you know what they say - it takes a village to build an open data solution. And thanks to Teamwork Englewood, Green Healthy Neighborhoods, DataMade and the support of LISC Chicago, Boeing Corporation and the Knight Foundation, a stronger Chicago was born.
The Large Lots Project proves that when technology is enabled, policy can thrive. But the only way for technology to thrive is when the stakeholders that run the policy (i.e. the city government) are on board. So, what will it take to implement open data projects like DataMade into cities around the world?
Derek says an openness to transparency. “I wouldn’t be here if open platforms didn’t exist.”
Derek’s right. Technology and an open-mindset to share it is what allowed Chicago’s policy to scale. And without Chicago’s surge of interest in tech back in 2011, there’s a strong chance projects like Large Lots would have never existed and we’d still be telling stories, just without data. But as history shows, the city of Chicago improved once all its stakeholders leaned in and listened closer to what data was telling them.
At this very moment, DataMade is developing products such as Chicago Councilmatic and Dedupe.io that will allow these solutions to be implemented around the world. However, regardless of how good the technology can be, the fact still remains - if your city wants to evolve, it needs to enable those who have stake in its future and be open to open data.
A special thanks to Derek Eders and the DataMade Team for letting us tell your story. Follow DataMade here @DataMadeCo and the exclusive 1871 international accelerator, Sente.Link here @sente_link
How Cities Like Helsinki And Chicago Are Using Open Platforms To Make Their Cities More Dynamic and Livable
More and more of the international startups that go through Sente.Link’s accelerator program are in the “smart cities” domain - essentially, domains where technologies and solutions connect citizens, their local government, urban infrastructure and industry.
In the first post of this series titled "How Smart Cities Like Barcelona, Prague and Chicago are Enabling their Ecosystems," we unfolded that in order for a city to be “smart” it needs to connect its stakeholders. Furthermore, the city stakeholders should begin to nurture and adopt corporate partnerships, startup accelerators, and smart city technologies as the enablers to create stronger “cities of the future.” The next piece to the “smart city solutions” puzzle - platforms that can enable the limitless possibilities for solving problems in modern cities.
Platforms, in this case, are underlying technologies or capabilities with open interfaces and open standards upon which solutions can be built by startups, corporations, government agencies and even the citizens themselves. The idea is to take infrastructure or capabilities that already exist in a city, and make them “smarter” and more usable in the digital world.
Take, for example, the vital city service - street lights. SCOOT (Split Cycle Offset Optimization Technique) is the world’s leading traffic control system. By using sensors to collect data, this system helps cities work more efficiently to not only manage traffic control but collects information to create more reusable solutions. The digital gift that keeps on giving.
Until, well, your privacy is in question.
Historically, governments have been bad at building open and reusable solutions. And let’s be frank. The idea of putting sensors and cameras up on all street corners is great to help traffic flow. But if this data is not available to the public, then we mine as well sit back, watch Oliver Stone’s Snowden and hope for the best.
But there’s good news: In an increasingly urbanized world, regardless of the national dynamics, cities can choose to be more nimble and responsive, for a more dynamic economy and a choice of destination for people to live and work. How? By pioneering the adoption of new technologies in an open manner.
The Helsinki Region Infoshare (HRI) service is an open data project that makes government information available for free to everyone in Helsinki. The data collected is presented in a way that helps the city’s stakeholders, including universities and large corporations, have a “comprehensive and diverse outlook on different urban phenomena, such as living conditions, economics and well-being, employment and transport.” This open data has been available to the city of Helsinki since 2010 and since that time, has created real solutions, like MOOSE, a student-made mobile application that uses the data collected by HRI to help exchange students easily find housing, events on campus and more.
“I think that MaaS carries the potential of changing the paradigm from car ownership to usership and beyond that to experiences” says Hietanen. “But that can only happen if you can provide people with freedom of mobility, meaning insuring that they can go anywhere at anytime. We built MaaS as an open platform that can be used to connect all sorts of transportation systems and make our cities more livable.”
By putting the data in the hands of stakeholders, and entrepreneurs like Sampo in this case, Helsinki has enabled both its citizens and the city to keep progressing forward as a dynamic, sustainable city - an impact that the city’s future residents will be grateful for years from now.
Chicago is becoming a responsive city as well, but with a unique addition. It plans to use its open platforms to create solutions not only in the 606 but also to enable solutions for cities around the world.
If you call Chicago home, you’ve probably gobbled an Au Cheval burger (if not, highly encouraged). This burger haven is located right on the corner of Randolph and Halsted where one of Chicago’s Array of Things (AoT) sensors is attached on a street light. Small but mighty, this beacon along with over 60 scattered around the city, serves as an urban "fitbit" that tracks the city’s heartbeat. It basically collects data on everything from temperature, light vibration, sound intensity, pedestrian/vehicle traffic, flooding, wind.
We say basically because that is exactly what the city is trying to provide - a basic pool of data so that those who aren’t too keen on pie charts and excel docs (you know who you are) can easily access ready to read data provided to city officials, software developers and researchers.
During a Tech In Motion Chicago event earlier this year, CIO at Chicago’s Department of Innovation and Technology, Brenna Berman, brought up an important point neither the city of Chicago or cities around the world can avoid - change.
Change in aging infrastructure, the city’s environmental resources - e.g. Lake Michigan, and most of all, in population demographics.
“This one is sort of funny,” Brenna puts it. “We have an aging population as we live longer. Yet actually our population is getting younger and younger as more immigrants are coming here. It is more critical than ever to be an efficient city where space is more limited and the population continues to grow.”
[Watch the entire clip here].
What sets AoT apart from other open data platforms like HRI is its global reach. Using the AoT software and hardware design created in Chicago, similar sensors will also be installed in NYC, Seattle, Portland, Atlanta, Mexico City, Newcastle, Glasgow, Bristol, Amsterdam and New Delhi, India.
Building a “Smart City” from a green field is one thing, but many of the cities adopting these new urban technologies and platforms have been around centuries before Chicago and the Au Cheval burger were even a thought. And chances are if you’re a stakeholder that lives in an ecosystem like Amsterdam that took its first breath in the 13th century, a new “city pacemaker” like AoT is required to keep kickin’.
Cities around the world, therefore, need to prioritize open platforms as a requirement to remain as a choice of livability and sustainability for (at least) another 8 centuries to come.
And if stakeholders continue to support a transparent city with citizen solutions, the 21st century will be remembered for the resurrection of cities - and the social, economic and environmental progress they help to unlock.
More and more of the international startups which go through Sente.Link’s accelerator program are in the “smart cities” domain - essentially, domains where technologies and solutions connect citizens, their local government, urban infrastructure and industry.
This is the first in a series of posts where we will explore Smart City and IoT innovations around the world, with specific emphasis on Sente’s main hubs in Chicago, Helsinki and Istanbul.
In their pre-Sente days, Sente CEO, Serhat Cicekoglu and and Sente COO, Gerod Carfantan, spent some years in consulting. One of the many things it did to their brains was forced them to organize ideas into frameworks. So one of the first things they did to better understand the global Smart Cities innovation ecosystem was to create a basic framework.
What this artistic display depicts is that, for a city to be “smart,” it needs to think about its capabilities and stakeholders in three ways: (a) Enabling ecosystems, (b) enabling platforms, which are foundations for (c) a variety of potential smart city solutions. On this week’s post, let’s take a closer look at what is meant by “enabling ecosystem.”
The stakeholders (or players) of a city - i.e. the government, educational institutions, industry, and you (both as a citizen and as a worker) - need to cooperate for anything to really work. And in order to enable a “smart” ecosystem, leading smart cities like Barcelona have prioritized building a stronger relationship between the city’s stakeholders and the role the internet of things (IoT) has within a city.
In 2012, Barcelona teamed up with the worldwide leader in IT, Cisco. As part of Cisco’s “Internet of Everything (IoE) for Cities” theme, Cisco and the local stakeholders created “Smart City Barcelona.”
Through this initiative, the city employed smart technologies to help its citizens plan their commute and pay for public parking in the city utilizing GPS. “Smart City Barcelona” also worked with the city’s government to create projects that enabled the safety and functionality of the city (i.e. traffic lights that interact with emergency vehicles, and clear paths to an incident, which decreases response times and traffic incidents). The city also placed sensors in irrigation systems, which saved money and water.
According to Deputy Mayor, Antoni Vives, “‘Smart City Barcelona” is “saving $58 million annually using smart water technology” -- and -- “the city has created 47,000 new jobs through its Smart City efforts.”
By partnering a large corporation like Cisco with IoT, Barcelona can enhance its stakeholders’ trust and cooperation and thereby boost the city’s economy. In this case, it’s not a government which has led the IoT revolution. But instead, a large corporation has played role in both technology and strategic leadership, which cities around the world should embrace.
Prague is another ecosystem finding ways to develop partnerships between companies, government agencies, educational institutions and citizens through IoT and smart city initiatives. The Czech Smart City Cluster (CSCC) was created to help build smart cities, “where social and technological infrastructure and solutions make life easier for residents and promote sustainable economic growth.”
Along with Barcelona and Prague, Chicago and its stakeholders are embracing the rise of innovation as a missing link to create a stronger Chicago. Ever heard of 1871? Chicago’s home to hundreds of entrepreneurs where people from around the world come to build ideas, make mistakes, share and learn (and where 1871 CEO Howard Tullman hangs his incredible collection of contemporary art).
1871 is a rare example of a tech ecosystem that really does include all stakeholders - universities, startups, investors and corporations - under a single roof (AKA one of the largest roofs in the world - The Merchandise Mart). All of Chicago universities have offices there, as do many of the world’s most influential tech companies like Microsoft and Pivotal Labs, and major corporations like Bosch, Lenovo, Quaker, Caterpillar, and State Farm.
What 1871 has done for the city of Chicago is to remove barriers between the various stakeholders and as a result, more smart city initiatives have emerged out of Chicago - Ekistic Ventures, Datamade, Spothero, and Sente.Link’s alum, Boni to name a few.
So what can other cities around the world take from the above? That city stakeholders should begin to nurture and adopt corporate partnerships, startup accelerators, and smart city technologies as the enablers to create stronger “cities of the future.”
In the next post in this “Smart Cities series,” we’ll tackle the second building block for creating smart city solutions - “enabling platforms” - i.e. technologies with open interfaces and open standards in which solutions can be built by the stakeholders.
By Charlotte Waldmeir (@cwaldmeir), Content Strategy for Sente Advisory @Sente_Advisory
Back in October, Sente along with Helsinki-based partner, LandInChicago, ran a 12-week market entry program designed exclusively to bring Finnish growth companies, like Redland, Qentinel and NOOA, to the US market. Their entry point - Chicago. Their homebase - 1871.
I recently got the chance to catch up with Jonne Hirvonen - VP of Sales of the innovative digital agency, Redland, that [now] brings Scandinavian design principles to small/medium sized enterprises across the US. During our chat, Jonne discusses his decision to bring Redland to Chicago, who he networked with along the way and how he thinks Silicon Valley and Chicago compare.
Charlotte [C]: How did the Finnish design startup, Redland, end up in Chicago?
Jonne [J]: We have been involved in the LandinChicago acceleration program since Autumn 2016. The idea behind the program is to support Finnish companies to enter the US market, and especially, to “land in Chicago.” The decision whether or not Redland should participate was an easy one and Tekes, the Finnish organization that funds research, development and internationalization, gave us another boost by funding our project.
As far as bringing our company to the US, we know from experience that design can function as a gateway to projects in technology and marketing service as customers often appreciate a one-stop shop. Due to this, our US offering is introduced on our website www.redland.agency, and supported locally by social media.
[C]:Do you feel that the 8-week preperation period in your home country helped you get ready for your experience in Chicago?
J: Yes. Although it was a lot of work. We had to first get focused on what we were going to sell in the US (because we offer a wide variety of services in Finland). Plus, we needed to create a solid financial plan so we could justify our market entry with our management. Finally we went through several iterations of our pitch - and got lots of practice - because we even landed in Chicago.
C: What do you feel like you achieved coming to Chicago?
J: While in Chicago, we met a number of different companies, entrepreneurs and partners in Chicago as well as Silicon Valley. Although we are a new company in the US, we came to Chicago with a clear story and offering and it has been well received. Also, being a part of the big 1871 startup hub and cooperating closely with Sente Advisory has helped a ton.
Not to mention, there is a lot going on in Chicago and meetup culture is strong here.
For example, at the end of our very first day on October 10th, we participated in an event called “Introduction to Chicago Design Community” hosted by advertising agency Leo Burnett. The idea of the event was to help young designers expand their network and help them move forward in their careers.
It was interesting to realize that the same challenges and features affect design both in the US and in Finland.
C: Tell me more about your experience being based out of 1871 Chicago. What was that like?
J: 1871 is the ‘center of technology and entrepreneurship in Chicago’ and hosts more than 500 companies ranging from early stage startups to large enterprises and universities. During our first week there, we attended the event TGIW (Thank God It's Wednesday) that was sponsored by Microsoft, and presented Redland along with the other LandInChicago companies, Qentinel and NOOA.
As a member of 1871, we got access to its many member workshops on various topics that we participated in during the framework of our schedule. The workshops discuss topics that growth companies find interesting, such as sales, business development, negotiation skills and marketing.
Another interesting service at 1871 is the ‘office hours’ and mentoring. There are more than 500 mentors actively operating in the 1871 community. Mentors are experienced professionals in their own field and they bring a lot of benefit to the community. We found these meetings useful as we got to expand our network and reach decision makers who would otherwise have been difficult to contact.
- Relatd -
"Why International Startups Should Choose Chicago As Their Entry Point Into The U.S. Market"
.C: You mentioned going to different meetups, startup events. What were some of the biggest takeaways you had while at these events?
J: Most important observation is that “design know-how” is increasingly in demand.
On 12th of October, design and innovation consultancy, Fjord, organized a meet-up on the topic “Design as a Business Strategy.” At the event, Design Director, Tim Irvine, stressed the importance of design in the development of business strategy and implementation. In terms of this, Redland is on the right track, due to our investments in the development of design expertise and expansion of our own team. One sign of the importance of the matter is the fact that IBM is recruiting 5,000 designers in the future. Digitalization and large strategic projects therefore require a lot of engineering expertise.
C: What was the Demo Day like at 1871?
J: On 19th of October, at 1871, we organized a Demo Day for the LandinChicago companies. The event was opened by the 1871 CEO Howard Tullman, who stressed the importance of entrepreneurs and how they play a major role in the well-being of the entire Chicago area. The event was accompanied by stakeholders, investors and companies involved in 1871. Together with Qentinel and NOOA, we held presentations and introduced our activities and services. Finnish serial entrepreneur Sampo Parkkinen, Honorary Consul of Finland, Olavi Göös, and Head of Region Americas, Tomi Rauste. from Finpro were present at a panel discussion. The contacts made in the event will be useful in the future because through our networks we will receive a lot of benefit to our operations and will receive the opportunity to discuss with a variety of different partners.
C: While in the states, you also headed west to have meetings in the San Francisco/Palo Alto/Silicon Valley area. How was it?
J: Because some of our meetings were held in Palo Alto, we got acquainted with morning traffic jams on highway 101 and 280. Compared to San Francisco, Palo Alto is a really clean and peaceful place.
In terms of Silicon Valley, it hosts a unique community of companies funded by numerous risk investors and is home to five high quality universities, including the famous Stanford University.
C: So how does Silicon Valley compare to Chicago in your opinion?
J: From the perspective of living and business, the Silicon Valley area is quite expensive compared to the Chicago area that we are already experienced in. Competition for talent in Silicon Valley is fierce, which is reflected in the wages that have risen to a relatively high level.
Living is quite expensive and, for example, in Palo Alto, renting a detached house of 100 sqm house costs around 5,000 bucks a month plus other expenses. Living costs in Chicago are only half of the costs in Silicon Valley and even the food is cheaper.
When it comes to corporate culture, the pace in Silicon Valley is tighter than in Chicago. This is a good thing from our point of view, as things progress at a brisk pace. We were also happy to realize that people found our company and its offering interesting. I would be interested to see the same level of interest towards new partners and ways of working also in Finland, to avoid getting stuck in the present or even worse, in the past.
C: What are next steps for Redland after going through the LandInChicago program?
J: First and foremost, the LandInChicago program made it possible for Redland to create a plan towards internationalization. Although some of the issues were familiar to us, having an international partner gave us a clear, local viewpoint on how to do things and bring Redland to market in the US.
At the moment we are going through the learnings of this second phase and will make the necessary repairs to proceed to the third stage which consists of moving to the US market in a manner suitable for Redland.
Chicago has made a steady climb as one of the fastest growing startup ecosystems in the world. Since 2012, the city made a nice hop skip and a jump from #10 to #7 in its ranking and is just getting started. According to INC 5000’s list of top cities for fast growing companies, Chicago is home to 104 of America’s private companies plus a total of 37 Fortune 500 companies like Boeing, State Farm and most recently, Kraft Heinz Co.. With a central location, affordable living options and quick Uber from two of the world’s major airports, Chicago serves more than deep-dish pizza.
“Chicago is a fast growing startup hub with a long and remarkably strong technology innovation heritage” says Serhat Cicekoglu, Founder of the international startup accelerator, Sente Advisory. “With its access to a very large base of customers in close proximity compared to other ecosystems, Chicago gives startups from overseas a great opportunity to test their growth hypothesis.”
That “strong innovative heritage” Serhat mentioned is more than meatpacking, skyscrapers and the wireless remote control (you’re welcome). Chicago is home to one of the largest innovative hubs in the world - 1871. Every day, over 400 early-stage high-growth digital startups set up shop on the 12th and 13th floor of Chicago’s tech epicenter, the Merchandise Mart, to “test their hypothesis” amongst a city of builders, investors and experts.
Since its first breath 4 years ago, the 1871 community has focused much of its attention on fostering global startup collaboration by housing international accelerator Sente Advisory and the 12 week intensive start-up accelerator program LandInChicago - programs that make U.S. market-entry possible.
“1871 is proud to host these international companies as they hit the ground running in the U.S. market," said Howard Tullman, CEO of 1871. "We believe that Chicago is the best point of entry into the U.S. market because our ecosystem offers access to customers and capital alike, as well as significant support and mentorship. This cohort represents our commitment to bringing new minds and great talent from all over the world to Chicago, and we congratulate Sente and LandInChicago on their success."
After a 6-week boot camp back in Helsinki, LandInChicago’s inaugural cohort of top selected Finnish tech startups - Redland, NOOA & Qentinel - entered into Chicago the same day as the Chicago Marathon to hit the ground running. With 1871 as their starting line into the US market, they will go through a rigorous business development training, shake hands with potential investors and collect advice from their industry’s mentors. Their “Chicago Marathon” finish line: a demo day on Oct 19 hosted at 1871.
Despite their sweat and dedication, there's a chance that their choice of starting line could become their achilles heel. So why start in Chicago?
For LandInChicago member startup, Qentinel, a software company that combines the robustness of industrial quality management with the agility of the digital work, Chicago isthe mecca of quality in the digital age.
Qentinel’s Founder, Esko Hannula states, “Chicago and Illinois are home to many great companies that are now leading the fourth industrial revolution. We want to be a part of it. And a program like LandInChicago can save a lot of time and money for a new entrant.”
Esko’s right. Just this past September, digital transformation leaders in big-data analytics, the Internet of Things (IIoT) 3D printing, artificial intelligence and other emerging technologies gathered together at the Smart Industry 2016 conference, in Chicago. Those that attended represented GE, Emerson, Siemens, Intel and Uptake Technologies, a Chicago-based predictive analytics Saas platform provider (named Forbes Hottest New Startup in 2015).
And again, why the windy-city versus other tech hubs in the U.S.? According to Smart Industry publisher, Tony D’Avino, “Chicago is a natural hub for our annual event, as the most exciting digital-transformation initiatives and the most innovative minds can be found here."
Like inside Chicago’s top universities. “Chicago is home to some of the best universities, like University of Chicago and Northwestern, which creates an incredible talent pipeline. Thousands of students each year are looking for internships and full-time positions,” says Senior Director of University of Chicago’s entrepreneurial center, The Polsky Exchange, Kristin Barrett. “They are able to gain experience in entrepreneurship through University of Chicago’s Polsky Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation and Northwestern's The Garage. University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign also graduates more computer science students each year.”
The three universities mentioned above (plus Illinois Institute of Technology, Loyola University Chicago, DeVry University and most recently, DePaul University) all have satellite offices located inside 1871. This kind of access right in one watering hole only helps when looking for top talent to join the team and recruit business advice. And if Chicago-based startups need a break from this force of (windy) nature? Just head southwest to Champaign, Illinois, a city voted by Forbes Magazine as the top best places for business study. Here you can visit UIUC’s Research Park that brings in more and more corporations like Deere and Abbott in each year to work side by side with it’s member startups.
“The most successful startup hubs benefit from strong connections to major universities, and Chicago’s got a great advantage there” says University of Chicago Booth Business School graduate and Sente Advisory COO, Gerod Carfantan. “This strong foundation emphasizes Chicago’s analytical rigor and creates invaluable connections between startups, corporations, governments and educational institutions.” A recipe for success when an international startups decides it’s time to scale in the United States.