The Smart City Challenge from the US Department of Transportation invited cities from across the nation to think progressively about the transportation ecosystem of the future. With intentions to allocate $40 million to one city, DOT is making a large investment in fully integrating technologies into the transportation network.
Like the challenge judges, we carefully reviewed each of the seven finalists’ plans. What struck us, at Open Data Nation, a company focused on using data to predict the future of cities, was the promotion of large firms and the omission, in most application of small businesses, even though small businesses out-innovate big corporations.
You know who will disrupt urban transportation? I’ll tell you, it is not big incumbent business firms that are willing to offer millions of dollars in free services. Their motivation is good press, not good policy or productive cities.
Focusing on private industry partnerships that are large, pushes small businesses out of the conversation. We simply can’t negotiate free services. We can’t compete with a million dollar investment from AT&T.
Of the seven finalists, only two make reference to startup and entrepreneur-specific partners.
- Kansas City is partnering with KC Startup Village, an entrepreneur-led community helping to grow and support entrepreneurs.
- San Francisco’s startup in residence program to connect cities with startups to address civic challenges.
The Department of Transportation has the opportunity to recognize small, proven businesses and facilitate partnerships with these organizations through small business set-asides. Doing so demonstrates a commitment to the smart city of tomorrow and solutions that are truly innovative and disruptive.
Photo credit: Mark Goebel