From a pool of 316 applicants and over a four-stage process including site visits, we’ve found 10 startup ventures serving poor or vulnerable populations in U.S. cities. Our job now is to get them what they need to scale their solutions to reach millions. We’re providing each $100,000 in grant funding + 9 months of support. Learn more in the video below!
Ranging from a platform that diverts surplus food to the hungry to a board game that makes kids nearly 3x better at math, meet the 10 ventures we’ve selected for the first ever Future Cities Accelerator!
Meet some of the proven practitioners and world-class experts who will advise our 10 ventures during the Future Cities Accelerator!
The Future Cities Accelerator is the brainchild of The Rockefeller Foundation. Because over 75% of human beings will live in cities by the year 2050, The Rockefeller Foundation, as evidenced by their 100 Resilient Cities initiative, has developed a strong focus on making cities more inclusive and resilient to major social and environmental challenges.
In early April 2016, The Rockefeller Foundation reached out to Unreasonable Institute, one of its grantees from 2013. Founded in 2009, Unreasonable Institute equips early-stage startups (whether for-profit or non-profit) to get the mentorship and funding they need to scale their impact. It has done this through accelerator programs, which it now runs in over 24 countries. 93% of its first 112 ventures are active and funded, having raised over $100 million and benefitting over 8 million lives. Because The Rockefeller Foundation aimed to support highly innovative, early-stage organizations through this initiative, Unreasonable Institute’s experience working with early-stage organizations seemed like a perfect fit for the program objectives.
The Rockefeller Foundation recruited SKDK, a New York-based communications firm, and Blue State Digital, a DC and New York based social media firm, to help promote the initiative. Unreasonable Institute brought in Unreasonable Media, a video production firm.
And that’s how The Future Cities Accelerator was born! Now that you know, you should apply.
More than 80% of Americans live in urban centers. While these areas of the country are centers of commerce, finance and innovation, some urban populations face disproportionate rates of poverty, food insecurity, and unemployment. Future Cities Accelerator is working to address these inequities by supporting next generation leaders who together can unleash a wave of change with their unreasonable ideas.
Absolutely! We want to help poor or vulnerable populations in U.S. cities at scale and are open to any route to get there.
Future Cities Accelerator supports early-stage organizations with the potential to create deep and lasting impact for poor or vulnerable populations in U.S. cities at scale. Theses organizations work in a wide variety of sectors, from social justice to clean tech. The criteria for selection are:
(1) Deep and lasting impact. We want to know if your product or service fundamentally changes the quality of life of your intended beneficiaries in a way that endures for years. For example, providing someone a job would be what we consider deep and lasting impact. Showing someone a want ad would not be.
Critical to creating this kind of impact, in our view, is identifying a “hair on fire problem”, that leads to rapid adoption of your solution by your intended customers or beneficiaries , especially when that solution is affordable to them.
(2) A relentlessly dedicated team. Because we’re looking at early-stage organizations for this program who may not have much traction yet, we’ll look heavily at the people on your team. Specifically, we want to understand how committed you are to solving the problem you’re taking on, which we evaluate by how much time and energy you’ve spent understanding it. We also want to understand how cohesive your team is. 65% of startups fail due to co-founder conflict. We want to understand if your team can stick together through the difficult work of starting and growing an organization. Lastly, we want to see a team of people who are formidable, who will do whatever it takes to address the problem they’re trying to solve.
(3) The potential to reach 1,000,000 lives. We know it’s early days for your organization. But we want to hear about your plans to help a lot of poor or vulnerable people in U.S. cities. The best approach to thinking about scaling your impact comes from this article by Kevin Starr, Executive Director of Mulago Foundation, and a mentor for the Future Cities Accelerator. In it, Kevin explains that to go to scale, you can either: (1) grow a big organization, (2) create a model so profitable that other for-profits copy it, (3) teach or otherwise equip other non-profits to reproduce your model, or (4) get the government to reproduce your model. Whichever route is right for you, we want to hear about how you’re making it viable!
We’ll look for rigorous logic and / or evidence that you can pursue one of the above four routes to scale. For example, “our business model is really profitable” is evidence that either you can fuel your growth to becoming a large enough organization to scale your impact and that other businesses will want to imitate your model. “We’ve partnered with the US Department of Education” offers evidence that the government may scale your impact.
(4) Fit with what we’re offering. We want to work with organizations we truly believe we can help. We’ll want to know how much of a gamechanger $100,000 is for your organization and why. We’ll want to know if you’re open to challenging feedback from mentors, who can coach you in growing your organization. We want to know if you understand the key needs of your organization and where you need help to grow it. Because if you have an amazing team that can create deep and lasting impact at scale for poor or vulnerable people in U.S. cities and we can really help, we want to work with you!
No! Funding comes in the form of a a grant for both for-profit and non-profit organizations.
There is no cost to you if you’re selected to attend this program. In fact, we’ll deliver you all of the services described on this website for free; provide you a $100,000 grant; and cover your airfare, food, and lodging for your time in Denver, Colorado (March 20 – 24, 2017) and your time in San Francisco for SOCAP (October 2017).
All we ask in exchange is that you fill us in your impact on poor and vulnerable populations in U.S. cities every six months up to five years after the end of the program.
The 10 chosen organizations will participate in a six week online course from January 23 – March 3, 2017.
From March 20 – 24, 2017, we’ll run a a 5-day in-person bootcamp in Denver, Colorado (all expenses paid for chosen organizations).
In October 2017 (exact dates TBD), the 10 chosen organizations will be flown to San Francisco, California, where they’ll present at and participate in the SOCAP conference, a gathering of thousands of funders and entrepreneurs in the impact sector.
According to Tim Ferriss, an entrepreneur should ignore most of the advice he or she hears. However, the best advice an entrepreneur will come from those that have done what that entrepreneur aspires to do at the scale at which they aspire to do it.
Therefore, we look for mentors who have either (1) created impact for poor or vulnerable populations in U.S cities at scale or (2) who have mastered critical skills that our chosen organizations can learn from. While we choose some mentors before starting our recruitment and selection process, we’ll also recruit additional mentors after announcing the 10 winners. We’ll spend time understanding their bright spots and their needs through diagnostic calls. With this information, we’ll recruit additional mentors who have expertise where our 10 chosen organizations face challenge. Altogether, we aim to convene around 35 mentors at the in-person bootcamp portion of the Future Cities Accelerator, taking place in Denver between March 20 – 24, 2017.
We’ve got an amazing team of partners working together to pull off this program. It consists of: