Amid keynotes, roundtable discussions and busy networking, one of the more exciting parts of the 2016 New Cities Summit in Montreal was the Global Urban Innovators portion.
Vetted and pre-selected by a group of New Cities Summit judges, 10 high-potential startups from around the world were given 10 minutes to get in front of the crowd and explain why their idea was worth listening to.
Here’s a quick roundup of the 10 companies and one thing we liked about each venture:
Jugnoo, Chandigarh, India – is auto-rickshaw aggregator (known as “tuk-tuks” in many places in the world), focused on doubling the driver’s efficiency and earnings and providing affordable transportation to the masses. Since its launch in November 2014, the company has built a user base of around 2.5 million people and handles about 30,000 transactions each day. Jugnoo now offers service in 25 cities in India and the company currently represents 8,000 autorickshaws.
What we liked: Let’s briefly forget that India’s population is 1.25 billion. The fact that Jugnoo is effectively serving a user base of 2.5 million users is impressive enough.
Urban3D, São Paulo, Brazil – focuses on developing digital fabrication and natural material solutions for construction in order to foster sustainable urban development using technology. Their mission is to partner with governments and developers to eradicate houselessness in the next 15 years. The company’s first product is a 3D printer that produces concrete slabs faster, cheaper and without wasting materials. The company is working to create a process that will enable building homes ten times faster at one-tenth of the cost.
What we liked: Founder Anielle Guedes explained her idea clearly. She was able to communicate well how serious an issue the lack of basic housing around world is. Her idea to 3D print out the slabs to a house and simply pour in the concrete seems effective.
Wecyclers gives low-income communities in Lagos, Nigeria a chance to capture value from waste and clean up their neighborhoods through incentive-based recycling. Recyclable goods collected from households are converted into an SMS-based point system that can be redeemed for useful goods and services. The collection of waste from the subscribers is done using low-cost bicycle-powered vehicles called “wecycles,” manufactured locally and operated by youths from local communities. The waste is taken to the Wecyclers’ collection centers where they are sorted and baled for recycling organizations.
What we liked: With approximately 184 million inhabitants, Nigeria is the most populous country in Africa and the seventh most populous country in the world. Still, about 70 per cent of people there are poor. Can you imagine if Wecyclers could replicate this system all over the nation?
OurCityLove, HsinChu City, Taiwan – Dr. Chong-Wey Lin and Momo Huang’s own experience witnessing family members and others excluded from participating in social events inspired OurCityLove. OurCityLove created the world’s first Friendly Restaurant app, allowing people with both visual and mobile-impairments to understand which restaurants are most accessible and where to find them. The app also helps find jobs for disabled people. Currently, OurCityLove is present in 11 cities, has created more than 400 friendly jobs and has surveyed over 4,000 restaurants.
What we liked: Dr. Lin’s stage presence and overall energy was charismatic to say the least. He has a way of getting his message through. With increasingly aging populations and many people with disabilities, Dr. Lin explained that it’s often difficult for cities to adapt. He pointed out that at some point in our lives, for some period of time, we will all be disabled.
Spacehive, London, England – the world’s first civic crowdfunding platform, aims to democratize the way we shape towns and cities by allowing anyone to create and fund civic projects online. It works by providing tools that help people develop their ideas, get noticed by crowds of people, companies, councils, and the media, and attract funding to make great projects happen. Since its 2012 launch, Spacehive has helped fund 158 projects across the UK worth over £4.8m. Successes include public wi-fi in Mansfield, an urban farm in London, a motorway flyover re-imagined as a “sky park” in Liverpool, and a giant waterslide on Bristol’s high street.
What we liked: It was created by Chris Gourlay, a former Sunday Times staff journalist. Chris covered architecture and planning, and led the paper’s London coverage. He launched Spacehive in 2012 as a social business to stimulate new sources of funding and creativity for the civic environment.
BestMile, Lausanne, Switzerland is an innovative Swiss startup developing technology for urban mobility. A spin-off from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne (EPFL), BestMile provides a fleet management platform designed to operate and optimize any fleet of autonomous vehicles. BestMile’s cloud technology leverages the full potential of autonomous vehicles to tackle urban mobility challenges.
What we liked: Autonomous vehicles could be the way of the future. It was also fascinating to hear about BestMile’s journey to where they are today.
Cubigo, Hasselt, Belgium – is a cloud-based platform that empowers aging people to live independent and healthy lives by supporting self-care and comfort for loved ones. The platform connects seniors, caregivers, family and businesses in an easy-to-use, modular user interface. Users can make doctor’s appointments, set up video calls with family, read up on local news or events, track and share medical data, order meals at home, create medication reminders, and so on.
What we liked: Let’s face it: we’re all going to age at some point. To see startups being proactive in developing better solutions in this area is refreshing.
FoodCloud, Dublin, Ireland – connects businesses with surplus food with charities in their local community that need it. To date, FoodCloud has redistributed the equivalent of over two million meals to charities in Ireland and the U.K. In cities across the world, food businesses frequently have food surpluses while charities struggle to provide food for those who need it most. Globally, 1.3 billion tonnes of food is wasted annually while one in seven people don’t have enough to eat.
What we liked: FoodCloud has managed to build its list of businesses that give excess food to 300, and charities that need it to 700.
what3words, London, England – is a location reference system based on a global grid of 57 trillion 3mx3m squares, with each square pre-assigned a unique three-word address. Easier to remember and communicate, quicker and more cost effective to implement, this is a “global and human-friendly system.” Used in over 170 countries, it means packages, post and aid are being delivered easily and cost-effectively. It means emergency situations, friends and business are found. Why? The world is poorly addressed. Street addressing is often inadequate and while coordinates and alphanumeric systems are accurate, they are prone to errors in transcription and communication.
What we liked: This startup seemed to be the most different from the rest and it does attack an issue that we likely take for granted. International mail delivery services, we’re sure, must love these guys.
PopUpsters is a marketplace for businesses to connect with space. Businesses use the platform to find offline opportunities to reach new customers. Hosts use PopUpsters to connect with the perfect vendors for fair, festival, corporate campus or retail space. As a Public Benefit Corporation, PopUpsters mission is to spark community and economic development by fostering entrepreneurship, especially in low income, minority and disadvantaged populations. The PopUp model “makes it easy for anyone to start, grow or expand their business.”
What we liked: CEO Aaron Lander, despite working within the San Francisco area, wasn’t afraid to point out the Bay Area as a prime example of where soaring rent is squeezing out the little guys. He wants to help small businesses and startups.