Startup Culture Lite in San Francisco

Are the latest crop of entrepreneurs lacking ambition?

I’m sure they are working hard. But as I discussed in a recent column, it appears the old entrepreneur ethos of creating technology to change the world has been chucked over. Now, startups are working on apps to solve problems most of us don’t know we have.

The new crop, mostly settled in San Francisco, are solving the irksome daily issues of the young urbanite – how to find the best restaurant, how to get a date, how to compare prices in a store (see above), how to organize my social media contacts on my smartphone.

Put aside for a moment whether you really need Now, a mobile app that will tell you what is going on in your city right now based on photos uploaded on social media. And table for a second the roiling debate over whether the tech boom in San Francisco is creating more class tension and what to do about it, as Willie Brown brought up in his column last Sunday.

Maybe a startup culture arriving in San Francisco could change bureaucracy for the good of all.

Dan Parham, a founder of Neighborland, sees the current startup movement in San Francisco and other cities as a positive force. His company was founded in New Orleans but moved to San Francisco.

Here’s what he told me:

Because young workers are living in cities, they will inevitably want to solve problems that they experience. Consequently, organizations like SF Mayors Office of Civic Innovation can tap into this creative capital to solve thorny, systemic issues with municipalities (ex. getting a business license, permitting, finding legal information, finding parking, school selection, making transit choices, finding an apartment, etc.). I see many of these issues as big opportunities, as cities across the world are all facing similar problems.  We’re building tools to facilitate better collaboration between residents and cities, and see the need for a platform like Neighborland in every town and city.

Photo: The boom in tech startups includes those making apps for smartphones. Here is a shopper in Oakland scanning products on her phone.  (Laura A. Oda/Bay Area News Group)



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