North American Smart City Incubators and Accelerators You Need To Know
To succeed in life, one first needs to survive. Survival is all about being able to “beat the rest.” The same aspect applies to any business enterprise. Startups in particular need to be the best if they are to make steps towards fulfilling their objectives. This is evidenced by the startup competitions that were around before accelerators and incubators came along. They have helped a number of startups with funding and other resources such as training, working space and mentorships. These programs also help link startups to investors, often for a specific equity stake. It is vital for startups to distinguish between accelerators and incubators.
The Difference Between Incubators And Accelerators
Incubator programs are suitable for startups in their infant stages while accelerators are suitable for those that that are already past the beginner’s stage. The two types, however, do share some similarities. Such programs may focus on a specific industry, or they may accept startups from different industries. Sectors include smart city, robotics, Artificial Intelligence, Energy, Agtech and Fintech among others. Based on the area of specialty, startups can join a program that has majored in a particular area or one accepting different spaces.
With the technical expertise needed and regulations that exist in the smart city space, it’s advisable that startups join programs that have specialized in that one area. Accelerators and incubators in this field are divided into; those that work one on one with the cities while others only offer mentorship to startups in the sector.
North American Accelerators and Incubators You Should Know About
Here is a list of accelerators and incubators with interest in Smart City startups:
1. Singularity University Smart City Accelerator
Singularity University Smart City Accelerator accepts startups at all stages. They offer innovative programs to help startups grow and be successful. Currently, the program runs from Columbus, Ohio in the United States.
During the intensive 10-week program, startups will enjoy the following benefits:
- Workshop training on topics such as funding and forecasting
- Mentorship and access to Fortune 500 execs
- Access to investors from Silicon Valley
- Up to $100K in seed funding (funding by NCT Ventures). SU ventures offer an opportunity for long-term support to startups that have gone through the program.
- A chance to implement the new things learned and worked with key experts
- Co-working space
SU Smart City Accelerator accepts startups that have majored in any of these five areas:
Importantly, the accelerator only benefits startups with the intention of expanding into the US market; therefore, it is necessary for ventures to have a parent US company, at least by the time the program starts. However, you don’t necessarily have to move to the US.
Application Deadline: Applications are currently closed. The current program closes on 17 November 2017.
2. INFINITI Lab
INFINITI and Multiplicity share a love for innovations, and ideas led them to team up and form Infinity Lab. This is INFINITI’s first international launch that runs from Toronto, Canada. They look to pre-seed startups working in two primary industries: Smart city, and the Internet of Things (IoT) innovation.
INFINITI Lab works with already established startups, and they offer the following perks:
- A chance to go to Hong Kong if selected
- A curriculum that provides an opportunity for one on one with top industry speakers and an opportunity to partner with industry and corporate partners
- Co-working space
Other than the accelerator program they have Startup Weekends, a 3-day event for aspiring entrepreneurs and Integration program (based in Singapore) which has a focus on solving specific automotive challenges.
Application Deadline: Toronto Program for 2018 is not yet open but you can stay informed on their website.
3. Y Combinator
Y Combinator (YC) is one of the oldest accelerator programs available. As of 2012, it was ranked as the top accelerator by Forbes. They select startups from different sectors such as Energy, A.I, Robotics, Mass Media, Food, Farming, Healthcare, Biotech, Education, Virtual and Augmented Reality, Water, Financial Services, Transportation and Housing, among others. YC provides seed funding of up to $120K, and they have a list of investors to choose from. They offer more than money, and their investments are made in return for small percent stakes in the ventures. Startups are funded in batches, January to March and June to August.
YC will do two things for startups: help them with their ideas, and deal with investors. Should your venture be selected to join YC, you will benefit from the alumni network, especially with regards to B2B. They also have an expertise database, offer advice through mini-conferences and workshops, Demo and Investor Days.
Application Deadline: Applications are open for the winter 2018 funding cycle (W2018 Batch) taking place from January–March 2018 in Mountain View, California.
4. City Accelerator
City Accelerator is a program by Living Cities and the Citi Foundation. The program works directly with cities, to promote and advance innovations that have a promise of improving people’s lives, especially those with low incomes.
Each cohort works together over an 18-month period in which they will gain from:
- Learning from what other cities have done and through working with leading experts during workshops, conferences, webinars and one on one meetings
- Mentorship and tactical support which also includes implementation resources
City accelerator startups benefit from partnerships formed and a chance to work with the over 35 plus leading cities across the nation. They provide seed funding for cities looking to implement innovations that improve its efficiency and improve people’s lives.
Application Deadline: Applications for 2018 are not yet open. Cohort IV, launched in June 2017, is currently active in TN, Chicago, NC, Charlotte, Milwaukee, Memphis, and Los Angeles. Cohort III (2016) is also active.
5. Smart City Works
Smart City Works was fashioned to “galvanize innovation” and to facilitate commercialization for the sole purpose of bringing improvements to civil infrastructure (the “built environment”) and “livability in cities.” Smart City Works is a business “actuator” – a class of accelerator that works with both startups and mature companies. Smart City Works helps them with either transitioning new ideas or transforming inventions into viable businesses that will bring “high-impact solutions” that will make cities safer, smarter and more resilient.
- Access to state of the art design tools
- Partnerships with mentors and leading industry executives
- World-class technical support from network of partners, laboratories, and universities
- Business services
- A 3 to 5 month long curriculum
- They offer to fund up to $50k, in return for 8% equity
Check out other benefits on their website.
Application Deadline: They issue a call to innovation twice yearly. Applications for the 2017 fall cohort are open.
6. Dreamit UrbanTech
Dreamit UrbanTech accelerates and invests in startups that shape cities of tomorrow. A main benefit of the accelerator is a chance to work with one of the largest real estate developments in Tampa. There is a 14-week program for startups with enterprise customers. Ventures that successfully graduate from the program have a chance of being selected for further funding. Other benefits include coaching, access to their community, customers, and capital. Upon acceptance to the program, startups provide $50K security which converts in the next round of funding.
Application deadline: 17 November 2017 11.59 pm ET
7. Building Efficiency Accelerator (BEA)
The Building Efficiency Accelerator (BEA) is a collaboration between the government and the private sector that aims to turn “global expertise into action” in order to facilitate the implementation of efficiency policies and programs for buildings by the local government.
The BEA don’t offer funds but instead offer startups insight into funding options and other support. They also help cities to connect with funding opportunities and financial mechanisms. Through partnerships, program participants benefit from products, tools, workshops, institutional knowledge and training.
Cities that join the accelerator must do three things:
- Implement one enabling policy
- Create a baseline of building energy performance, track and report annual progress, and share experiences and best-practices with other governments
- Implement one demonstration project
Application Deadline: Contact BEA http://buildingefficiencyaccelerator.org/contact/
Every six months, Urban – X invests $100k in startups “reimagining city life.” They focus on transportation, real estate, local governments, services, and utilities. The accelerator is an initiative of MINI and Urban Us. Benefits include:
- Access to their partner and alumni network
- Demo day and funding
- Access to industry experts, mentors, and partners for advice
- A 20-week intensive program for network building and product development
They are based in Brooklyn, New York.
Application deadline: The deadline for cohort 04 is January 31, 2018
9. Future Cities Accelerator
Future Cities Accelerator works with startups that have an interest in improving the lives of the vulnerable and poor in US cities. They have partnered with Rockefeller foundation. They select ten startups to be part of their program and benefit from $100k in funding. Other benefits include a 6-week online training, five-day boot camp, and a six months mentorship program.
Application deadline: Applications for the year 2017 are closed, but you can check to see when they open.
Other Notable Smart City Accelerators/ Incubators
IMPACT Growth Smart Cities and Startupbootcamp (SBC) are some of the top startup accelerators globally in the smart cities niche but are based in Europe.