An Urbanist Investor’s Table Stakes for Tech Leaders

A growing number of startups are pitching technologies to “solve” urban problems. So it matters when they can’t even name their own local representatives.

How can someone genuinely care about solving city problems if they don’t care enough to vote for city council?

In other words, if you want to be an urban tech entrepreneur or investor, here is the bare minimum you should do to be civically engaged—and credible:

  • Join a neighborhood group
  • Attend a public meeting
  • Read—and subscribe—to your local news outlet
  • Know who represents you in city hall
  • Vote

Great article. Thank you @Molly.

All for being civically educated as an urban tech leader claiming to “solve” wicked problems more so if they touch upon issues of social and economic justice.

Though, as an immigrant urban tech person who does not (yet) have the privilege or right to vote, it’s harder for me to yell this from the rooftops.

That being said there are certain issues that I care about such as how my city spends our taxes on maintaining leaks, cracks, and holes in its physical & digital infrastructure that go beyond reaching out to my local representative.

These are structural issues that deal with how money flows in local government, what is subsidized by the state and federal government.

@Molly, I’ve spent the past 5 years trying to convince my city government for the need to change the paradigm around fixing potholes towards being more proactive than reactive (NYC spends $200+ million a year in maintaining streets and I think we could use data to do better with that type of funding) OR why the MTA can do better than spending $8,000 per bus to manage MTA Bus Time.

Showing up to neighborhood councils is great and virtuous but i’m skeptical that it leads to systemic change for wonky infrastructure issues that I believe are relevant to economic and social justice.

For reference: Here’s what $10 Million gets you in NYC. Imagine what saving 1% on our yearly street maintenance budget can buy us.

Source: NYC Independent Budget Office -

Copyright Cornell Tech — 2020.