Working With Cities

“Ask for forgiveness, not permission,” has become the commonplace mantra for startups. This still applies in many contexts, but with respect to urban innovation, changing attitudes and greater awareness of technology has created a massive opportunity for entrepreneurs to drive innovation through working hand-in-hand with cities.
 
Over the first half of this decade, Airbnb and Uber enjoyed tremendous growth amidst a backdrop of regulatory uncertainty. [1] At the same time, the proliferation of mobile devices and new online platforms, advanced by innovative young companies, has not gone unnoticed by American cities. Cities have appointed Chief Innovation Officers, invested in infrastructure projects that provide free wifi, and worked with private bus services to provide an alternative for commuters. 
 
Most recently, Spin worked with the Seattle Department of Transportation to devise an innovative permitting system that allowed multiple vendors to operate bikeshare in the city. With the stroke of a pen, the City of Seattle enabled Spin and other operators to provide the people of Seattle with now thousands of bicycles to rent, replacing an aging and limited station-based system that was forced to close to due to lack of funds.
 
Startups in todays world, where cities are more tuned to the potential and needs of technology companies, can enjoy a healthy and cooperative, not combative, relationship with regulators and officials at all levels. Pilot agreements, data-sharing, and open, honest dialogue all serve to drive innovation at the intersection of cities and innovative companies at an incredibly fast pace. [2]
 
[1] As an interesting quirk in history, it was once Uber that was pointing fingers at Lyft and fingers for being the “bad guys” when it comes to regulation. As you may recall, Uber had started as a black-car hailing app that mainly worked within the confines of taxi regulations, and it was the upstarts Lyft and Sidecar that charged forward with everyday folks working as drivers.
 
[2] We would know. Spin’s policy team drove the process in Seattle from first contact to a signed permit in 10 weeks.
 
Note: Spin is hiring quickly across the board for engineers, operations, business and policy. Reach out to me euwyn@spin.pm if interested.

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