(photo by Stephen Babcock)
The term “smart city” often brings thoughts of new technological tools to improve civic functions.
For Andre Robinson, however, people are also front and center in the conversation.
The executive director of the Mt. Royal Community Development Corporation sees key questions for Baltimore as it prepares for the future: “What city could consider itself smart if it’s not inclusive? How do you become a smart city if it’s not for the benefit of as many people as you can get into the mix?”
That will be one jumping-off point for the conversations at next week’s Smart Cities Summit. Organized by Innovation Village, the Oct. 2 event will be held during Baltimore Innovation Week. The daylong event will take on many of the themes at play in the creation of an innovation district in West Baltimore.
Like innovation districts that are rising around the country, the effort focuses on aligning companies, talent and capital around startups and small businesses in a highly-concentrated area. The West Baltimore effort also extends the innovation economy into an area of this majority-Black city where decades-old inequalities come into sharpest relief, yet has talented entrepreneurs, universities, transit and parks, Robinson said.
More than 500 leaders were invited to the daylong event at the new Conscious Venture Lab space at Baltimore City Community Colleges seeking to shine a light on unique tech and innovation efforts taking place inside the city, which will be highlighted in a panel moderated by Innovation Villages CEO Richard May.
Projects from outside the city will also be highlighted by speakers including
- Former Google SRE Director (and Johns Hopkins alum) Joe Pistritto.
- Wole Coaxum, founder and CEO Mobility Capital Finance, a fintech startup seeking to serve underbanked communities.
- Mayor Eugene Grant, of Seat Pleasant, Md.
To close out the day, the new, seven-startup cohort of Conscious Venture Lab will officially be launched.
While there will be plenty of networking, the organizers also want to create a platform that can inspire action, Robinson said.
“The fundamental premise is that Baltimore is what’s next,” Robinson said.