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by Ed Frank | February, 2021


Smart Cities — The Bucket List and Getting your startup inside


Innovation corridors are being established at leading cities around the world to incorporate the latest technologies to improve the lives of the residents. This represents a unique opportunity for startups and smart cities to create a symbiotic relationship- a win-win! At the recent Mobility Pioneer virtual event, co-organized by Axis Innovation, startups had the unique opportunity to hear from cities around the world share their vision for the future city and core areas of interests. Perhaps most importantly, more and more cities are offering paid pilots, fast implementations, and soft landing resources for startups to grow and attract more investors.

I had the pleasure to host a roundtable discussion with leading public sector innovators who are actively looking to engage with startups that can help them achieve their goals.

I had the pleasure to host  a roundtable discussion with leading public sector innovators who are actively looking to engage with startups that can help them achieve their goals. 


  • Faye Dimassimo, Senior Advisor to the Mayor of Nashville:  Faye has implemented a number of innovation projects to improve public transportation as well as to address the biggest issue facing Metro Nashville - traffic congestion.  


  • Michael Sherwood, Chief Innovation Officer at the CIty of Las Vegas: Michael has implemented over 200 pilots over the last three years - an unbelievable number! They havenew projects coming online each month with a fast track approval process with the city council. Kinetic sidewalks to generate energy, IOT connected downtown areas for smart lighting and integrations with Amazon Echo are examples of the projects implemented.

  • Sergio San Martin, Smart City Expert at IE University: Sergio has had a career working with finding innovative end to end solutions for infrastructure, such as data analysis to improve services in cities. He’s deployed students to benchmark leading cities and identify unique solutions to add more transparency and insights into how different cities are evolving.

  • Rikesh Shah, head of Commercial Innovation at Transport for London (TFL): TFL is a government body responsible for London's network of principal road routes includingvarious rail networks- responsible for a staggering 31 million trips a day!  

Throughout my sesion as well as listening and networking with many others, 3 key takeaways and insights come clear for startups to work with smart cities:


  1. Understand the needs- from smart traffic, to safer streets: While many cities are part of the “Vision Zero” initiative to reduce accidents, most cities have specific challenges they need to address.  For Nashville this is to reduce traffic congestion in the Metro area, while for London, it means to improve the economic recovery and employment, for Las Vegas, reduce manual tasks with automation and Madrid, increase use of data. Knowing the specific needs and challenges of each city can help pinpoint the locations with the best fit for your startup solution and increase the chances of success. 

  2. Be Patient- Cities have been hit hard with reduced revenues from taxes and reduced use of public transportation from the effects of Covid19. Many of the cities rely on funding from other sources,and approvals take time. However, many of the needs are long term focused- such as London’s goal of 80% of commuter trips to be by walking, biking or public transportation by 2041 is certainly a long term outlook.

  3. Offer specific benefits- As many of the initiatives are funded from different sources, the specific benefits must match the goals of those programs, be it EU funded, or at the national level.  The decision makers need to justify investing in pilots that bring benefits that can be publicized- and validate promises made- such as Mayor Cooper of Nashville’s “better future for transportation in Nashville” campaign messages that are now being realized, project by project. 


Despite the challenges of the past year, Mobility Pioneer showcased how cities are committed to bringing in new innovation and working together with startups, We look forward to playing a key role connecting both sides and seeing many more successful pilots and implementations to make our cities safer, smarter, and more enjoyable!

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