“Don’t Tell me More, We’re Not Interested”. Why these words are deadly for a Start-up — and for your City.

Sascha Haselmayer
Nov 1, 2019 · 5 min read

Many city leaders profess their love for start-ups and small business. It smacks of innovation, equal opportunity, job-creation and finding answers to new and future challenges. Yet, if you are a start-up, few cities have mastered the art of translating this love into predictable action.

A vibrant start-up and small business community is a great asset for a city. Its diversity makes our economy more resilient and it accelerates new ideas into our communities. It multiplies the possible pathways to opportunity, sustainability and innovative answers to our problems.

Going forward, I refer to the start-ups and small businesses collectively as ‘start-ups’. Our data shows that small businesses have the same needs and are no less innovative or successful in helping cities and bring a lot more diversity to the table. This post covers something like the ‘last mile’ of being a start-up friendly city: How city halls can become great at doing business with start-ups.

Learning the Good ‘No’ for Start-ups

As a founder of a start-up I can tell you one thing: We all want cities to unconditionally say ‘Yes!’ to our ideas. For very good reasons that is not going to happen. So let me explain how differently the ‘No’ and ‘Maybe’ can play out, and why it matters.

Below, I share two conversations (both are no’s) I had with procurement managers in two cities whose Mayors publicly declared their love with start-ups, diversity and innovation.

A tale of two cities: Procurement & Startups

I am pretty sure that the person in City A would not consider himself any less open-minded than his peer in City B. But I would bet that neither of them had guidance on how to deal with a pitch from a start-up like Citymart. So it’s pretty much down to how the person felt like responding — it’s unmanaged. That is a shame, and doesn’t help the Mayor of A get an A+ rating from start-ups or small businesses.

I am not looking for sympathy here, but rather want my story to illustrate something bigger: The vision of a start-up friendly City Hall has yet to become practice. Over the years Citymart has brought thousands of highly diverse start-ups to participate in public procurements and tracked their experience. So, building on my first hand experience and what this small army of urban innovators and their investors have told us, here is what we would like start-up friendly city leaders and staff to consider when interacting with us.

10 Things Start-ups Want City Staff to Think About

  1. When a start-up calls. We want to tell you about a new, passionate and even disruptive way of doing things that could be better, faster or cheaper. Please be kind enough to really consider our pitch and suspend disbelief just for a second.

Download the 10 Things Start-ups Want from Cities here

How the other 99% can help.

Yes, your Mayor has said he loves start-ups, innovation and small business.

He did so, because he wants your city to be ready for the future and wants to make sure it is contributing to a healthy local economy. The future will bring change and even disruption: A lot of the answers will come from new places — including start-ups, small businesses and the 99% of the economy and society who have never worked with government.

Find ways of connecting with them, starting today.

But this isn’t just about a smart future, but about creating opportunity for small and local business to maximize inclusion and local job creation. We have found that the needs of start-ups and small businesses are very much alike. You will help them most by creating a predictable environment for them to compete and flourish, providing guidance and showing empathy to their needs.

Want to get started? We’ll be glad to help.

Originally published at http://blog.citymart.com.


Innovation in Cities, Public Procurement, Government and Communities.

Sascha Haselmayer

Written by

Passionate about urban + government innovation, delightful procurement, rebuilding civic + entrepreneurial eco-system around government. Founder/CEO Citymart.



Innovation in Cities, Public Procurement, Government and Communities.

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