The Smart City Forum and Showcase on job growth was held in Saratoga Springs and hosted by IgniteU NY, a premier equity-free startup accelerator in Upstate New York.
The event convened numerous leaders, visionaries and entrepreneurs around the topics of community innovation, job growth and the connection between a city and its citizens and businesses.
Entrepreneur, startup investor and venture catalyst Martin Babinec gave a keynote address about Smart Cities and Job Growth. Let’s rediscover it!
Martin’s ideas about the development of smart cities through entrepreneurship fostering are rooted in his own experience as an entrepreneur.
In 1998, Martin founded his company called TriNet in the Silicon Valley, a company that helps small to middle size companies with their HR management. In 1999, he decided to move back with his family to Little Falls, NY, where he is from originally. He then commuted for about 10 years between the West coast and Upstate NY, which led him to compare Silicon Valley’s and Upstate NY’s city environments and question the status of smart city.
What strikes him today is the fact that the number of startups in Upstate NY is very low, whereas all the ingredients necessary for entrepreneurial success are present: 115 colleges and over half a million college students. The challenge faced by cities from Upstate NY is simple: the top talent leaves! What could have kept them here? he asked himself.
Comparing the Silicon Valley and Upstate NY clearly shows that the density of successful entrepreneurs and network is way higher in Silicon Valley. When companies already exist in certain geographical areas, this tends organically to create more companies and it makes it easier for first time entrepreneurs to get connected with the right resources.
Martin Babinec founded Upstate Venture Connect in 2000 with the purpose to help connect entrepreneurs with the resources that can lead them to be successful. So far, the organization has helped 6 seed capital funds get started and the group of top 50 leaders is dedicated to help startups grow. How else can we grow entrepreneurial spirit?
To Martin, convening talent matters and the Saratoga Springs Smart Cities conference is a good example of it. He explains that these events should be led by entrepreneurs – what differentiates places like the Silicon Valley, Boston, Austin or Boulder is that activities are led by entrepreneurs.
“The best approach is to identify who the entrepreneurs are and let them get out on front.”
The role of startup incubators is also critical. Programs such as the StartFast Venture Accelerator – co-founded by Martin Babinec – enable early-stage companies to get the help they need to get started and access the resources they need to grow.
ParqMi is a company whose purpose is to make the whole parking process easier by guiding drivers to open parking spots through its app. “StartFast was an amazing experience that really helped getting ParqMi off the ground and on the right track,” says ParqMi Co-founder Jacqueline Hsu, who also shared with us her experience of the Saratoga Spring Event. “The Smart Cities event was really a wonderful way for us to connect and learn more about the initiatives and demands that cities are currently dealing with. It was through this event that we really learned about what programs and problems the smart cities were focused on and how both startups and larger companies, such as Cisco, have taken an initiative to provide and map out their solutions to the cities’ needs.”
This event also helped the ParqMi team extend their network and plant the seed for meaningful partnerships they may form to improve the quality of life for citizens living in urban cities.
ParqMi will now be partnering with Annese and Associates, an IT solution interconnected with Cisco. “The next steps for us are to finalize the ParqMi product, and further work with our partners to better market and provide our services to their clients’ specific needs. We are currently reaching out to other smart cities and smart campus networks to see how we can better provide for them.”
Let us keep an eye on such entrepreneurial adventures. They will contribute to shaping the future of smart cities.