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MIT grads launch urban ventures program

Posting in Cities

Is there a market for solutions based on the concept of "urban impact"?

The founders of Tumml, Clara Brenner and Julie Lein, believe so. The startup is an "urban ventures" accelerator program, designed to direct and assist entrepreneurs in solving urban problems. The MIT management graduates note that even though the majority of Americans now live in cities, there are not enough investors involved in ways to improve standards of living.

In an interview with VentureBeat, Lein commented:

"At the same time that more people than ever are living in cities, the fiscal climate means that cities are less able to provide certain services and quality of life.

Entrepreneurs can shoulder that load. There is such a market opportunity here. This is where entrepreneurship should enter, there is so much they could do."

According to Lein, if entrepreneurs are working on urban issues, they are less than half as likely to receive funding at the seed stage than other services. Politics and bureaucracy factor in the why, as such projects not only need investment in physical services and space -- unlike Internet-based schemes, for example -- and often have to battle local authorities over permission, permits and paperwork.

Not only do local authorities present a challenge, but every time a project wants to expand, the battle begins all over again. Uber, a service which connects passengers to private transport through a smartphone app, is a prime example. Although popular, Uber's team have had to cope with lawsuits, local regulations, and taxi drivers taking the firm to court over Uber's price brackets.

All these factors are enough to turn away any investor already gambling on a startup, but Tumml hopes to get entrepreneurs over the first hurdle by providing $20,000 in seed funding to worthy projects. in addition, entrepreneurs can be given work space at The Hatchery in San Francisco, as well as lessons and mentors.

Applications close on April 30, and Tumml expects to take on five companies in the first group, depending on the quality of potential projects.

Image credit: Mike Behnken

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— By on April 11, 2013, 7:35 AM PST

Charlie Osborne

Contributing Editor

Charlie Osborne is a freelance journalist and photographer based in London. In addition to SmartPlanet, she also writes for business technology website ZDNet and consumer technology site CNET. She holds a degree in medical anthropology from the University of Kent. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure