A paltry 17 percent of venture-funded startups are founded by women, according to Crunchbase – and that number has barely changed since 2012. With gender equality at the forefront of national conversations, companies in Silicon Valley and beyond clearly have a lot of opportunity to change those stats.
URBAN-X is one of them. The startup accelerator that focuses on solving urban tech problems has made it a mission to ensure that women’s voices are heard, and that woman-founded startups are able to find their place in the marketplace of ideas. So far, this commitment is proving fruitful: 50 percent of all URBAN-X startups have at least one woman founder.
When it comes to diversity and inclusion, it’s not just a matter of doing what’s right. For URBAN-X, it’s also good business. In a crowded arena where new ideas are increasingly difficult to come by, women – who have so often been institutionally excluded from the conversation – are an untapped resource. When it comes to designing the future of cities, women’s experiences open up fresh perspectives on solving old problems, not to mention knowledge of problems that other tech founders might not recognize.
Take Carey Anne Nadeau, who specialized in quantitative research and analysis at the Brookings Institution and Urban Institute before moving on to found Open Data Nation with help from URBAN-X. After a career spent at a DC think tank, Nadeau wanted to use her background in data analytics to help build better, smarter, and safer cities. And ODN is doing just that – among other projects, their Hopper application (named for pioneering computer scientist Grace Hopper) is a "modular machine learning engine" that processes and evaluates a wide range of data sets in order to analyze traffic risk and prevent accidents in real time.
There’s also Niki Choo, co-founder (along with partner Dennis Wong) of Campsyte. Everyone who lives in a crowded city knows the frustration of trying to find a party space on a weekend – or even a bar or restaurant empty enough to host an informal meet-up with friends. Choo and Wong identified this problem, and founded Campsyte as a way to pair people looking for gathering spots with the many outdoor spaces in cities that often go unused because of the logistical difficulties in booking them. Though so far only available in the Bay Area, if all goes well, Campsyte promises to ease one of the major hassles of urban life.
Of course, URBAN-X program participants aren't the only startup women who are redefining our cities: well-known entrepreneurs like Audrey Gelman and Lauren Kassan of The Wing, and Alyssa Ravasio of Hipcamp have had major success by identifying problems of modern life and working to find innovative solutions that might have been overlooked by more statistically typical startup founders.
With the movement toward urban renewal that has unfolded over the last several decades, our urban centers have become more vital and more vibrant, but also more complicated and crowded. Building the cities we have into the cities we want calls for a diverse coalition of innovators, with a full complement of personal backgrounds, life experiences, and problem-solving styles. And at slightly more than half of the population, it’s vital for everyone – of all genders – that women have a seat at the table. While other investors and incubators continue to turn a blind eye, URBAN-X is looking to the future.
Futurism fans: To create this content, a non-editorial team worked with URBAN-X, who sponsored this post. They help us keep the lights on. This post does not reflect the views or the endorsement of the Futurism.com editorial staff.
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