Philly’s ‘Super-Group’ Startup Accelerator Targets Urban Problems

January 5, 2014 | Forbes.com by Anne Field

Attention social entrepreneurs focused on public safety: You can apply to a new Philadelphia-based accelerator that recently won a $1 million grant.

Called FastFWD, the “super-group” accelerator was formed by the City of Philadelphia, along with  GoodCompany Group, a nonprofit, social enterprise accelerator in the city, and the Social Impact Initiative at the  Wharton School, after winning Bloomberg Philanthropies 2012-2013 Mayors Challenge, along with four other cities. (They included Providence, Chicago, Houston and Santa Monica).

The Mayors Challenge awards grants to cities that come up with innovative, entrepreneurial ideas for addressing urban problems.  Some 335 cities submitted proposals.

Why public safety? Basically, over a period of six months, researchers at Wharton surveyed a handful of potential challenging areas to focus on. After interviews with more than 75 experts, they concluded that public safety  was “fundamental to other problem areas,” says Garrett Melby, co-founder and managing director of GoodCompany.  Accounting for more than one-third of Philadelphia’s budget, according to Melby, it also involves a larger portion of local discretionary spending than, say, education. They also broke the problem into four categories–”built environment”, “recidivism”, “community violence” and “enabling technology”–and nine sub-categories, including neighborhood surveillance, vacant lots, re-entry employment for ex-inmates, and effective technology, among others. (Here’s more about the areas).

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