Lessons Learned From an Urban Accelerator’s First Cohort

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Tumml announces which startups are joining its first class and shares the lessons the urban accelerator learned selecting this initial bunch of companies.  By Julie Lein and Clara Brenner (Co-founders, Tumml)

In April, we issued an open call for applications for Tumml, the urban ventures accelerator. We were looking for the next generation of Zipcar and Revolution Foods – entrepreneurs tackling cities’ most pressing problems with innovative consumer-facing products and services – to take part in our first cohort.

Today, five startups will be joining us in our office space in downtown San Francisco.  We are thrilled to welcome Tumml’s inaugural cohort of companies:

Corral makes your urban commute easier and faster.

Earth Starter builds all-in-one garden systems that help city dwellers grow food and flowers in small spaces by removing the guesswork.

HandUp is a mobile donation platform for the homeless and other neighbors in need.

KidAdmit provides an easy, efficient way to apply to multiple preschools online and manage the preschool admission process.

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WorkHands is a blue collar online identity service that makes it easier to find work in the trades.

We were impressed by the response to our open call, both in terms of quantity and quality.  And we thought it might be interesting to share some of the urban innovation trends from our applicant pool with Women 2.0.

Women Are Applying!

As a woman-run incubator, we were very pleased to see that 48% of our applications had at least one woman co-founder.  Readers of this site certainly know the stats – 35% of startup business owners are women, and female founders secure under 5% of VC funding.

So why the gender parity in our application pool? We suspect that this has something to do with the urban impact theme. When asked about the motivations to start their companies, many of our female applicants pointed to the satisfaction they felt solving a problem in their own backyards – problems they had experienced first-hand and were moved to try and address. And our applicant pool is no fluke. Many of the most successful urban startups – Zipcar, Getaround, TaskRabbit, Alta Bicycle Share, Revolution Foods – were started by women.

Success Begets Success

There were three sectors where we saw the most applications: small business services, mobility, and food. This wasn’t incredibly surprising given the relative success of startups in these three areas (think: TaskRabbit, SideCar, Revolution Foods). Although the idea of "urban impact" is relatively nascent, the success stories in this space have attracted a lot of attention and are clearly inspiring other entrepreneurs.

We were also excited by the number of applicants developing solutions for relatively underserved urban communities. 40% of our applicants are building products or services for this market.  They are tapping into both a social impact opportunity and a huge (and often overlooked) market opportunity.

Clearly, there is growing community of innovators thinking about urban challenges. So, for the new and aspiring entrepreneurs out there, we encourage you to think about solving problems in your own backyard.  And, when you do, apply to Tumml!

ClaraBrenner-150x150JulieLein-150x150About the guest bloggers: Julie Lein and Clara Brenner are the co-founders of Tumml, an urban ventures accelerator with the mission of empowering entrepreneurs to solve urban problems. A nonprofit, Tumml is based in San Francisco, CA. Through a three-and-a-half month program, Tumml invites early stage companies into its office space to receive hands-on support, seed funding, and services to help grow their businesses and make significant impact on their communities.

Photo credit: Stuck in Customs via Flickr.