As D.C. produces more new technology, leaders want to make sure everyone gets a chance to benefit.
That’s the message that the Washington DC Economic Partnership (WDCEP) and the city brought to SXSW last March and WDCEP will now follow up with their inaugural Inclusive Smart Cities Summit.
WDCEP, affectionally known as “The Partnership” by Emily Rasowsky, Director of Marketing & Communications for WDCEP, aims to drive business opportunities across all sectors, in part by creating meaningful connections between ventures. Lately, smart cities has become an important avenue of focus.
“We’re not just building a connective city with the coolest innovation--which we are,” Rasowsky asserts, “but we’re doing it so that it intentionally benefits and speaks to all people in the population.”
Hosted on September 12 at the US Institute of Peace free of charge, the Inclusive Smart Cities summit will break down innovation efforts through three specific lenses—transportation, the workplace, and the workforce—before convening for a collective panel about smart city ideals and initiatives in the city.
After 54 hours of competition among seven teams at Eastern Foundry, three startups emerged as winners last weekend at Startup Weekend DC: Civic Impact Edition. However, their journeys to success weren’t without a few hurdles. After the event, members of some of the winning teams provided some insight on what it’s like to launch a company over three days.
It starts with a team, and an idea for the business. For the team of cofounders that included Tambra Raye Stevenson, Peter Boyd and Tim Nguyen, identifying a singular business plan to work on presented a challenge right away. They pitched Cottage Foodie, a virtual local farmer’s market that for customers to view the food available, pre-order, pay online, and pick up orders in person.
From there, it’s time to start building. Grand prize winner RecruitHer detects gendered language in job postings and provides alternatives to attract more female applicants by using natural language processing and machine learning methods. The team of founders—including Hratch Sofian, Natalie Olivo, Robert Chandler, Yurani Sandoval, Belen Sanchez, Tracy King, and Evann Smith—had a clear takeaway for finding success at a Startup Weekend competition.
“[You must] clearly identify the value proposition of your company/product in a single sentence as early as possible,” explained Smith, Founder and Chief Data Scientist. “If you can do this, then the problem you are solving should be clear and direct your path to monetization.”
Five months ago, when Amazon Web Services, C5 and the PeaceTech Lab debuted their inaugural cohort for the PeaceTech Accelerator, several misconceptions were stacked against the project.
Perception topped the list, according to Sheldon Himelfarb, PeaceTech Lab president and CEO.
“When people think about conflict, they’re picturing bombed-out buildings, bullets flying and chaos. But the fact is, in nearly every conflict zone we’ve worked, we see [technology],” Himelfarb said. “You don’t have to be defined by your immediate circumstances — there’s an outlet for expression, for cultivating and sharing new ideas, and for building something with purpose and value.”
A prime example of the innovative nature in the first cohort is Junub Games. This South Sudanese nonprofit develops video games and gaming communities as a means to promote peace in the area.
There’s also Wistla, a crowd gathering app for “sociable” experiences. While it may seem like a bit of a stretch for peacetech, Wistla focuses on “building peaceful integrated societies” and “offer[ing] an opportunity to build offline communities by helping people group together, mobilize and share their experiences,” explained Bee Heal, program manager of the PeaceTech Accelerator.
After finishing the program, Wistla soft launched their app for Andriod users at the British Style Collective last month and iOS users can expect to see the product later this month.
Now, the PeaceTech Accelerator is back for the program’s second cohort.