Over at TechCrunch, Jon Bischke makes the case that they do: “[T]he best mayors are the ones who are looking at their cities in much the same way as entrepreneurs look at the companies they have founded.”
Bischke lays out four ways successful startups are similar to successful cities, arguing that they both do the following:
1. Make a product that people want: cities make sure they do everything possible to attract startups.
2. Attract quality talent: build a culture of talent that draws more people, business and innovation.
3. Actively court top investors and venture capitalists to get the necessary capital to move forward with great ideas.
4. Foster a culture of livability that makes people want to stay, even during rough times.
Bischke points specifically to New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee, and Newark Mayor Cory Booker as good examples of this rising “mayor-entrepreneur.” I would add Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel to the list.
Under Emanuel, Chicago has taken steps to attract talent and encourage startups. Earlier this week, the city opened a new digital tech hub for entrepreneurs. When asked what was important to the hub, the entrepreneurs said, “a central location close to public transportation and bike lanes, flexible lease terms and an open environment where people working on different projects can swap ideas.” Since livability is important to attracting talent, Chicago has made these investments a priority with millions spent on bike and transit infrastructure alone.
And this culture for nurturing startups has been a been a boon for jobs. Illinois’ latest jobs report shows that job losses were offset by 13,000 startups in the Chicago area that produced 23,000 new jobs. The city has also opened up large amounts of city data to promote civic innovation and engagement, backed by a $20 million innovation fund.
With cities throughout the U.S. struggling financially, it’s these forward-thinking mayors that are providing hope for cities of the future.
Budgets are a mess and job growth has been minimal for a good swath of the country. Cities in need don’t just need strong leadership, they require transformational leadership. It’s no easy feat but it’s likely that the more that mayors view their cities through an entrepreneurial lens, the better they will be able to adapt to a rapidly-changing world.