Can Mayors Be Early Adopters of Technology? 1776 Makes It Happen
At its core, 1776 is all about connections. We don’t just love being connected—we enjoy facilitating connections, too. It’s one way we can measure success: When 1776 does its job well, we are able to introduce people to knowledge, customers and services they didn’t even know existed.
That’s what happened last Saturday when 1776 hosted a dozen prominent mayors from across the country. The mayors represented cities ranging from large municipalities like Portland, Ore., and state capitals such as Raleigh, N.C., to suburban communities like Shorewood, Minn., and college towns such as Burlington, Vt. During their visit, the mayors connected with startups that are already offering innovative solutions to some of the problems their cities face.
1776 was fortunate to host the mayors, who were in Washington for a national conference. These are the types of connections we’re all about. One advantage 1776 offers members is our location in downtown Washington, where thousands of powerful leaders gather from all around the world. While they’re here, we have the chance to bring them through our space so they can see the innovation and creative thinking that our entrepreneurs engage in every day.
As we walked through the campus, the mayors shared a desire to jumpstart innovation and implement creative solutions in their own cities. One of the challenges, though? It’s hard for mayors to know what’s out there; they’ve got a city to run, after all, so it’s hard to identify which startups have something truly new that is a “value-add” for the constituents.
As it turns out, the mayors’ interests are very much aligned with our entrepreneurs’ goals. Several mayors grew excited when they found out that RideScout, a real-time transportation app for smartphones, is preparing to expand behind Washington to serve new areas across the country. Several mayors from Southern and West Coast cities stepped forward to offer the company assistance entering their markets.
“The mayors were excited because they immediately get it as a public good,” said Steve Carroll, vice president of operations for RideScout. “If RideScout does what it says it will do, we will reduce single occupancy traffic—and we’re doing a city’s job for it. Dealing with congestion is a public good typically handled by cities.”
Similarly, Transit Labs CEO Dag Gogue said the meeting gave him the chance to talk about improving public transportation with the people who the power to actually implement change.
“For Transit Labs, the chance to have a dialogue with so many mayors who are extremely conscious of the role that an effective public transportation system can play in the attractiveness and overall economic development of their cities was priceless,” he said.
These tours aren’t just about good public relations. 1776 is building competitive advantage for its members, connecting them with forward-thinking mayors who are excited to be early adopters of new technology. This benefits the startup community by creating potential partnerships—but it also benefits cities all around the country to have their elected officials out ahead of the trends that our startups are riding.