Civic minded startups enlist themselves in a four-month program to launch their companies that benefit city goers.
Summer is nearly here, and with it, a new line up of eight potentially disruptive civic tech startups gathers at the Tumml urban accelerator program in San Francisco.
The accelerator, founded in 2013 by MIT graduates Clara Brenner and Julie Lein, is designed to incubate startups that supply beneficial services to urban communities. These “urban impact entrepreneurs” — as the accelerator dubs them — receive advice and $20,000 in seed funding in return for five percent of company equity.
As in past years, Brenner said the new group of participants — see below for a list and descriptions — exemplifies entrepreneurs that are developing consumer and business-facing products and services that solve city problems. But this year Tumml expanded its number of businesses accepted for the program from five to eight. This year's group also includes international companies -- Letsmake from Germany and Weeleo from France -- for the first time, she added.
“We are really excited by the energy and diversity of all the urban innovators who applied to the program,” Brenner said. “Tumml received applications from entrepreneurs from 21 U.S. cities, as well as 20 countries internationally."
The application process revealed two notable trends in the civic tech space, according to Tumml.
The first is a drive toward mobile services. This trend is aptly represented by Volo, a peer-to-peer mobile platform that lets drivers buy, sell and give away parking spaces in heavily congested cities. If a driver has found a premium spot, the app allows the driver to post when it will be available and how much it will cost to have — think subletting for parking spaces. The app even allows bidding for highly competitive areas.
A second trend, Brenner said, is a move toward formalizing informal financial transactions. As example, she pointed to the startup Letsmake that connects “makers” such as hobbyists, artisans, cooks, mechanics, etc., to rentable workplaces where they can produce their products. In other words, it’s an Airbnb-styled solution for creators.
“There are a number of companies working on formalizing the informal economy,” said Brenner.
The eight participants were chosen from 163 applicants. Brenner said civic tech activity is growing both quantity and quality. During the next four months the accelerator will gather the participants together, pairing companies with opportunities for networking, mentorship and securing investors.
Below is Tumml’s description of each participant and links for more information.
Akimbo is a career development platform that re-imagines the hiring process while working to build a more inclusive workforce.
Barnacle is a community that ships your most treasured possessions through a trusted network of drivers already en route.
Chariot is a commuter shuttle service that builds better transit routes by learning commuter habits and preferences.
Letsmake is an online platform that helps makers find spaces for their activities, like workshops and commercial kitchens.
PopUpsters is an online platform that connects local vendors and makers with unique opportunities to "pop up" their brands.
Valor Water Analytics is a suite of tools that transforms water utility data into financial and conservation solutions for the community.
Volo is an intelligent peer-to-peer mobile platform for street parking.
Weeleo is a peer-to-peer platform to exchange cash currencies in person, based on the current rate, and for free.