For all the credit the tech industry gets for making things cheaper, faster and better, there remains a growing list of of critical, real world problems that are still largely unsolved, and in many cases, getting worse. The sustainability of our cities is at the top of that list.
For the first time in human history, cities are home to more than half of the world’s population, and the work that happens within them represents 80% of global economic output. And yet underneath the hood of some of our greatest cities, you’ll often see unimaginable poverty, insufficient housing, transportation gridlock and poor air quality.
You’d think the magnitude of these problems would signal massive economic opportunity to entrepreneurs and investors alike, but Silicon Valley’s contributions to cities have been, thus far, ad hoc at best. The tech industry is great at going from zero to one: creating something where nothing existed. But cities have people and policies and centuries — even millennia — of history to contend with and work within. Solving the problems of our cities will require collaboration, nuance and patience.
We need a new approach to fixing our cities, one where Silicon Valley plays a role in partnership with the public sector, policy makers, urban planners and environmentalists.
To that end, I’m thrilled to announce our work with 100 Resilient Cities (100RC), an organization created by The Rockefeller Foundation to help cities around the world become more resilient to the physical, social and economic challenges of the 21st century. It is today’s unequivocal leader in driving global urban resilience. 100RC combines local action, including Chief Resilience Officers in cities that manage risk and plan for the future, global influence that incentivizes policy makers and financial institutions to fund resilient development, and solutions — the tools that underpin these shifts. This is where Social Capital will contribute its expertise.
With this collaboration, we’re bringing up to $150M in capital commitments to invest in startups that are building tools and solutions to solve urban infrastructure’s most pressing challenges.
We’ll work hand-in-hand with 100RC to identify the most pressing problems and their possible solutions, then test ideas together before incubating or investing in companies that fill the gap. In these early phases of development, 100RC will pilot the proposed solution with up to ten carefully pre-selected city partners, providing an invaluable opportunity to bring real, practical technology products to cities so that millions of citizens stand to benefit. Throughout the growth cycle, companies will benefit from 100RC’s expertise, which will help them see around corners and find successful fit within city landscapes, while we actively support the right team, product and business model to nurture long-term, sustainable businesses.
In 5 years, we think we can see tangible success:
- Presence in 100 cities worldwide
- Influence the highest level of policy decisions for increased resilience
- Impact 25 million citizens in 20+ cities with improved environmental and living conditions
- Access transparent insights at the local level with anyone doing business in or with cities
Put simply, we are working to help bridge the gap between what cities need to build resilience and improve quality of life, and the toolbox they have to do it.