Beyond Incubators and Accelerators - Introducing a New Level of Actuator


Smart City Works is Currently Seeking Innovative Start-ups 

While there are now dozens of examples of cities successfully transforming themselves into hyper connected, digital domains with layers of connected things, systems and people, Bob Mazer, a pioneer in telematics, and serial innovator and entrepreneur, believes we can move faster and achieve more when entrepreneurs and investors are themselves connected.

Mazer and his partners Gregory Sauter and David Heyman co-founded a new not for profit business accelerator and community platform for infrastructure start-ups, Smart City Works, with a focused mission to help companies bring new ideas and inventions in civil engineering and technology to urban planning and development decision makers, to commercialize and scale Smart City solutions, one component at a time.

To say there are a lot of “moving parts” in the Smart Cities of the future is an understatement, as both failed and successful projects have proven.

To say an uber-community approach is what makes a connected community work makes sense, and in Mazer’s mind, working as a community to not only accelerate but “actuate” start-ups out to solve some of the biggest problems in the world, starts at a very early stage.

“We’ve identified an astounding number of companies now working in the infrastructure space,” Mazer said, “and are meeting constantly with the massive tech and communications giants who, with government agencies, are driving transformation across North America and the world. These bigger companies are doing their best to track companies whose sensors, software and systems might fit into their short and longer-term roadmaps. We’ve been successfully matching start-ups with opportunities, and saw the need for getting those start-ups business model’s refined, products in test beds to demonstrate viability and companies funded, which is how Smart Cities Works was born.”

Mazer and his team are leveraging their substantial business networks and own experience in large scale project development, consulting and management, to bring a dose of reality along with a promise of encouraging the emergence of high quality business models that will enable the development of efficient infrastructure including the design, planning, implementation and operation of new and innovative systems enabling private companies and  public agencies to move forward with quality and efficiency  in every layer, from the physical to the digital infrastructure. Smart City Works is hyper focused in building the next generation of technology businesses. We are fully committed to provide each company in our cohorts a successful experience that enable them to build a product, bring the product to market  and scale the product in a manner that creates success for the cohort company and enhances the business model of each company in the value chain of the product.

Why is this important?

Cities are growing faster than infrastructure can keep up with, and citizens and businesses are putting local, state and federal governments under pressure to improve roads, public transportation, public venues, schools, hospitals, energy and everything else that goes into “city living” with better services and security. And while there are multitude “Proof of Concepts” done at a small scale (some which succeed and some which fail), ultimately there is no technology that can succeed if it won’t work at scale. Smart Cities become Smart Communities when solutions are deployed bringing machines and people together.

Mazer and his colleagues are no strangers to the space, and were involved in the evolution of “Smart Cars” before the term was invented, before “OnStar” paved the way for IP-everything consumer autos. Mazer is also no stranger to the notion of roping in entire communities of people and businesses to participate in improving the way things are done, having been part of the growth of the world’s largest financial services trading extranet at the turn of the century (IXnet, a start-up networking company that grew revenue into the hundreds of millions by merging with IPC, and being bought by the world’s largest IP wholesale network company, Global Crossing, for nearly $4 billion).

From the Internet bubble to the IIoT high growth market today, Mazer, Sauter and Heyman have already produced their first cohort, with an open invitation to start-ups to apply and rise to the top and commence a 3-month intensive “Business Actuator” which begins with the careful curation and selection of high-impact, high-value ventures. Focusing specifically on solutions that lead to more efficient operations that improve quality of life in big cities, the chosen startups are brought together with relevant mentors, investors and prospective partners for detailed education, training and commercial development planning.

“We spend a lot of intense time on business fundamentals and understanding the market, but also on overcoming technical hurdles, customer development, testbeds, pilot projects and adapting to existing and emerging technology ecosystems, the lifeblood of successful businesses,” Mazer said.

Each three-month program culminates with a Demo Day, and event bringing together investors, government decision makers, end-users and corporations to help the winning companies grow, scale, and compete for market share.

Companies in the first cohort included:

  • Unomicedge has developed a Software Defined Network solution for security connecting the cloud to devices at the network edge.
  • Capital Construction Solutions provides mobile-based risk management platforms for improving enterprise wide accountability and transparency for construction projects.
  • PlanITimpact has created a smart modeling platform to help cities and building professionals better understand and improve performance, including energy, water use, storm water and transportation so owners, investors, and communities can better visualize project impacts and returns on investment.
  • Sensor Bottle bottle technology detects and relays water quality information to individuals, municipalities and water companies enabling peace of mind that the water you drink is safe.
  • Infraccess is powering up infrastructure investment by providing easier access to trusted data so you can more efficiently discover investment opportunities, make quicker, better informed investments, and reduce overall investment risk.
  • Greater Places creates a single web-based and mobile platform for bringing together the best ideas, inspirations and practices for designing and governing cities-a marketplace and tools to connect people seeking ideas, products and services to transform cities worldwide.

Smart City Works is gearing up for their second cohort, and have opened up the application process, which you can find here

The next  “Smart City Works Business Actuator” will commence September 13, 2017 with the Demo Day being held in mid-December.

“Our pragmatic Actuator approach is purpose built to move early stage ventures to commercialization, reduce risk for downstream investors, and improve likelihood of adoption,” Mazer said. “What sets us apart is our selection process based on an analysis of what cities need; maker spaces, laboratories, design and production tools to help companies overcome technical hurdles; testbeds and pilot project opportunities to more rapidly move from prototyping to demonstration; and a marketplace network of over 700 cities and end-users.”

Why It Matters

With the growth of the population and migration to cities and urban areas around those cities, governments are having a hard time keeping up with aging and failing infrastructure, and given the slow return of the economy, tight budgets and difficulties in attracting public investment. The best path, beyond private/public partnerships and other traditional approaches, are the development of business models that make it economically possible for all participants to be profitable.

With even greater threats, given severe weather events, terrorist activities, pollution, the need for secure food supplies, and more, solving for these new business models and bringing all participants together to strategize and actualize solutions becomes more important than ever.

“We actually can change the world,” Mazer said, “but that doesn’t happen by itself. It happens when dynamic, innovative and often disruptive businesses come together, when investor risk can be minimized, when elected officials understand that today a huge part of their job as employees of the people is to grasp digital living and how systems can reduce cost, reduce environmental impact, and dramatically improve their constituents’ lives. That’s where our passion comes from.”

Cohorts are paid for by sponsors of Smart City Works, primarily large corporations or organizations looking to be connected to the broader Smart City Works Eco-system and access to new innovative companies with the best new ideas and products all in a neutral environment. By sponsoring, they are given access to a curated portfolio of start-ups, able to interact across the board, learn about innovation, and be matched with the right up and coming suppliers. 

Edited by Erik Linask
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Contributing Writer

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