Jumpstarting Tech the City
By Hillarie Pilier
Kendall Square is a center of high-tech innovation in Massachusetts, and Gilad Rosenzweig, architect and urban planner, thinks that Roxbury can be another.
A year ago, Rosenzweig founded a non-profit organization, Smarter in the City, the first high-tech accelerator in Roxbury that provides opportunities for entrepreneurs from under-represented minority communities, specifically Black and Latino, to develop innovative ideas.
“I was driven to create Smarter in the City by a mission to increase the opportunity for all communities to succeed in the high-tech business” said Rosenzweig.
The company, in the heart of Dudley Square, was conceived two years ago to develop companies in the high-tech area, and focuses specifically on founders of companies from the Black and Latino communities.
“The Black and Latino communities are statistically very under-represented as founders of technology companies.” Rosenzweig said. “It is not just a question of increasing diversity in the workplace as an employee, but there is also a need to provide greater opportunities for leaders and creators of companies to emerge from these communities.”
Smarter in the City has been developing some projects, and one successful example is a new app created by Toni Oloko, who is turning 19 this year, called Practice Gigs, a social network for tennis players to connect with more experienced players to practice and get better faster.
“The mobile app allows us to do what a website or a billboard at a tennis club couldn’t, tapping into the on the go nature of people’s lives,” said Oloko. “Push notifications, a great user experience, and a scheduling tool make this the simplest way for you to play tennis is Boston.”
There are other projects still being developed in the company’s six-month business-development training program. One of them is a nutrition app created by Techtrition, which helps people improve their diet. The plan of the app is to make people send pictures of their meal. The app will then measure the food to determine if there’s too much on the plate—or not enough—and indicates whether the plate has the necessary portions, proteins and calories needed for the day.
Another project under development, Door to the Outdoors, is a website for outdoor activities created by Stanley King II. It consists of socializing and staying active outdoors with activities such as riding bikes, hikes, urban scavenger hunts, and other outdoor activities. The purpose of the website is to inspire people of color to develop an adventurous and environmentally conscious connection with nature.
“These kinds of projects are not only good for people in the community, but also provide advertising opportunities from other companies such as Nike, Adidas and so on,” Rosenzweig said.
Although the Smarter in the City training program is free, there are companies who support Rosenzweig. Sponsors like Microsoft, Google and the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) gave Rosenzweig the opportunity to prove the incubator can succeed and make a difference in Boston and educate people in the high-tech sector.