Urban innovators share a commitment to using new approaches, and often new technologies, to tackle long-standing challenges that seem unsolvable to others and that affect a large number of cities. Despite urban innovators’ insightful ideas on new ways to solve metropolitan areas’ most difficult challenges, many lack access to critical resources, tools, and funding. These access to capital hurdles most severely affect women entrepreneurs and entrepreneurs of color, who historically have lacked opportunities for creating their own ventures, building wealth, and achieving financial empowerment.
Throughout 2016 – 2017 the Aspen Institute Center for Urban Innovation worked with partner programs and organizations to demonstrate the sustainable impact urban innovators have when they have access to the capital necessary to start, grow, and stabilize their organizations and businesses. We learned from entrepreneurs, leaders of support organizations, government officials, and funders from capital-heavy places such as Silicon Valley, New York, and Boston, but also from places starting to garner more attention for their innovation-friendly cultures such as Buffalo, Cincinnati, and New Orleans. The Access to Capital for Urban Innovators report highlights the lessons learned from several convenings and programs focused on strategies to eliminate barriers to resources for women entrepreneurs and entrepreneurs of color. We heard firsthand what urban innovators need to achieve success, and put forth principles and ideas on ways different sectors can improve their cities’ economy and become centers of inclusive prosperity.
We are grateful to the Bank of America Charitable Foundation for its support of our Access to Capital for Urban Innovators series of programs.