CityLab Defines Urban Entrepreneur

By mdkg1116

Oct 22, 2016 06:00 AM EDT

Over the years, it has been told that geography doesn't matter. People have conquered distance and the world is flat since wherever people live or work modern communication and transportation technology reach people out. Even with the ongoing back-to-the-city movement, it has been reached by the high-tech startups and the ecosystems in which they blossom are supposed to be the last defense of suburban geeks exhibited in office parks in Silicon Valley or the suburbs outside of Boston, Austin, and Seattle.

Startups and high-tech industry in the reality have become urban. In, Downtown San Francisco, there are more high tech startups now than suburban Silicon Valley. From Lower Manhattan to downtown London, Berlin, and Toronto are the urban areas which become the new entrepreneurial zones.

The Emergence of the Urban Entrepreneur, which laid in out in Boyd Cohen's new book written with Pablo Muñoz came out earlier this year. The book features the rise of the "urbanpreneur" not just in the private sector, but it also deals with how urbanpreneurship can be echoed in ways that can help us solve our most pressing urban and civic challenges.

Cohen, works as professor of entrepreneurship and sustainability at EADA Business School in Barcelona, Spain, and joint professor at the Universitat de Vic, he has big thoughts a lot on how to take theories taught in entrepreneurship classrooms out into the ideas of laboratories that are cities. Recently, he took some time to speak with CityLab about what transformations technology has brought to entrepreneurship in cities.

CityLab asks Cohen to tell them about this new era of urban entrepreneurship which was said to be a high-tech entrepreneurship as the product of suburban nerdistans such as the office parks of Silicon Valley or the Route 128 outside of Boston.

Cohen responded that as people explored books, it influenced the changing trends and how it has worked to urbanized in the recent years. We are certainly aware and know the fact that the creative class has started to migrate to urban areas in cities around the globe, Cohen added.

Lower-cost modification and less need for physical space have focalized and changed the way we work. As part of the creative class, tech entrepreneurs and their staff hugely preferred to live and work in dense, diverse urban areas with excellent public transit, cultural amenities, food, and night life.

Meanwhile, CitiLab raised another question on Cohen's coining a new term "urbanpreneur" he was also ask to differentiate how and why it differs from entrepreneur. The professor replied that entrepreneurs can live anywhere in the world and focus on any industry, while urbanpreneurs install and plunge in socio-ecological environments-cities and towns-to draw influence. They tapped into what cities have to offer so they can work with as they collaborate and innovate in their community.

Moreover, CitiLab ask further details about those who have lot of interest among urbanists in the sharing economy. Drawing a link between sharing platforms and urban entrepreneurship are the things that CitiLab would also like to know. For Cohen, the sharing of economy predominantly an urban phenomenon.

The density of urban spaces, and together with more mobile and web access, it will absolutely help real-time sharing with peers. The sharing economy is having profound impacts on cities, and on urban entrepreneurship. The examples of it are bike-sharing and car-sharing which are both entrepreneurial doors of opportunities that help entrepreneurs and their staff. We are really in the early stage of discovering the entrepreneurial opportunities for urban entrepreneurs in sharing, as well as the socio-economic and ecological impacts that different sharing activities that can be offered in cities.

Furthermore, as he spoke with CitiLab, he was asked that as a professor teaching entrepreneurship for decades, how come he had said that business schools are not serving entrepreneurs.

Cohen, confidently answered that he have taught entrepreneurship for 15 years now. He related that when he first entered the field, most schools used business planning as the primary method for understanding what entrepreneurship is actually about.

He taught business planning as well but then he became an entrepreneur and realized that the real world was much more than business plans. Most of the entrepreneurs are not even writing business plans.

 Luckily since then, pedagogical methods such as design thinking and lean startup have emerged as much better ways to get future entrepreneurs to solve real problems.

What we need to see is a shift away from treating startups as primarily focused on venture capital and global domination. Urban entrepreneurs come in all shapes and sizes and not all of them fit that mode. There are many young entrepreneurs who aspire to have an impact on their local communities more than becoming the next Bill Gates or Mark Zuckerberg.

CitiLab asked Cohen once again that in U.S. they tend to see urban entrepreneurship sprouting in cities like San Francisco and New York, thus he was questioned why he spent large part of his professional career and his research outside the U.S. and how is entrepreneurship work out in the cities around the world.

The professor then explained that U.S. is a fascinating area to explore. He had spent much of his career outside of the U.S, Canada, Latin America and recently in Spain. According to Cohen, many regions want to replicate the Silicon Valley model but many others outside of the U.S. do not aspire to develop a global monopoly supported by venture capital and an ultimate goal of an exit either through an IPO or acquisition. Whereas, in Latin America and Europe, the goal of independence and making an impact locally or regionally seem to be more ubiquitous. Culture plays a role here but this may also be true in parts of the U.S. as well.

In the height of the conversation, CitiLab raised a query that as they look at urban entrepreneurship, big cities like New York, London, San Francisco, Berlin, and Tel Aviv stand out. Thus, the professor was asked how can smaller communities engage and benefit from this shift.

Cohen pointed out that one major challenge many of the cities you mention have, such as London, San Francisco and New York, are rapidly step up costs of living. Thus, if the future of urban entrepreneurship is not just venture capital backed startups, but indie and civic entrepreneurs, cities that fail to support housing opportunities, definitely it will lose them to smaller towns and cities.

Therefore, those towns and cities with good public transit connections can leverage this to their advantage to recruit and attract talent that can't afford to live and work in the larger cities, Cohen added.

CitiLab was so inquisitive to ask more of Cohen's expertise. The professor was asked of his idea of Paul Graham, the venture capitalist who argued that entrepreneurship by definition exacerbates inequality. With that statement, can mayors, cities and governments do better to ensure that the benefits and welfare of urban entrepreneurship are more inclusive and extend to enormous number of people and neighborhoods.

Cohen stressed out that the Airbnbs and Ubers of the world may not help inequality, they might even make it worse. Yet the sharing economy is more than those venture capital backed behemoths. Time banking, local peer to peer (P2P) services, and new P2P food recovery and redistribution projects provide insights as to how sharing and the circular economy in urban environments could help support embodiment.

For Cohen, this is a big question for all economists, urbanists, technologists, and of course, economic development officers, mayors and their city councils.

In fact, Cohen live in Barcelona now and the city, behind the current mayor, Ada Colau, they are trying to tackle this very issue. Barcelona Activa, the city's entrepreneurship agency, has recently created a new line of activity under a director for alternative economies. He has been working with this group to explore how cities can adapt innovation in the sharing economy, cooperative business models, and the circular economy to include lower income residents.

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