Essays

Startup City as a Service (SCaaS)

SCaaS is to Minimum Necessary Infrastructure what SaaS is to Minimum Viable Product.

In my post, The Network State: A Country Birthed From the Web, I wrote how starting a new country is akin to building a startup. Most successful businesses were startups that coupled it’s competence with available tools (SaaS) to create a Minimum Viable Product and kept on iterating from there. Studying the course of history, there’s a similarity between the formation of countries and the startup approach. Today’s countries began as a small band of people [sometimes as villages] which morphed into towns, cities, then sovereign nations. The resources available in this age permit formation of new countries without the lengthy metamorphosis experienced by previous ones as we have the advantage of leapfrogging from an online community into a relatively better minimum version- a startup city.

 

What is a SCaaS?

A SCaaS is an organization/tool that a founding community can partner with/incorporate to build the Minimum Necessary Infrastructure required to start as a city. Once the city is created, iterations can be made over time.

Some SCaaS have development teams across a variety of disciplines that can partner with founding communities in starting a city. They can assist in aspects such as research, advisory, fundraising, architecture, legal frameworks, land acquisition, urban planning, and more. They also offer media distribution channels and help build connections between different founding communities worldwide. Other SCaaS provide APIs and tools for rapid prototyping of a smart startup city.

 

A List of SCaaS

Bluebook Cities

Co-founded by Dryden Brown and Charlie Callinan in 2019, Bluebook Cities partner with communities to develop beautiful, energetic, resident-owned cities. The institution is a full-stack city builder. They can partner with governments of cities to propagate verticals like technology, entertainment, finance and create skill-building opportunities that attract the top talent in the world. The institution is also capable of partnership with local and online communities from the conceptual stage of building. They enable communities by getting involved in land acquisition and land value appreciation.  An effective distribution system of convincing talented young people worldwide to live in startup cities is also one of its offerings.

Bluebook Cities is affiliated with Pronomos Capital, a venture capital funded by renowned individuals like Peter Thiel and Marc Andreessen. Currently, Praxis Society, a city conceived around shared values among talented individuals, is one of the startup cities being developed by Bluebook Cities on the Mediterranean.

 

Tipolis

Founded by Titus Gebel, a lawyer who’s turned his focus on building value in the creation of new communities, Tipolis aims to  build the world’s most advanced Special Economic Zones. The organization partners with companies who are looking to set up semi-autonomous jurisdictions like Starbase and the operating company in question must be entitled by the host nation or state based on a special zone law. Tipolis partnership with the company promises to bring economic growth to the nation/state, attract foreign investment, reach the UN Sustainable Development Goals and accelerate growth by using best practices from all over the world.

Tipolis offer structuring services that help in moulding the legal blocks of a  Special Zone. Besides the complete regulatory and administrative framework, they also offer concepts for security, social issues, education, e-Governance and environmental protection.

The organization’s personnel are prepared to operate advanced Special Zones based on a contract with the host nation and the company. Their services include basic infrastructure, security, firefighters, judges, business development, risk and market analysis, impact assessments, as well as guidance on how to best structure the operating company’s business model and other administrative operations.

 

Startup Societies

Startup Societies is an organization created to support the expansion of an industry around the creation of new societies. The organization was established due to the fact that most startup cities typically operate in isolation with no media distribution channel and no support network. The result of this is a greater propensity to failure. Startup Societies is the hub where startup cities builders get access to connections, information and resources.

Their mission is to “connect, educate, and empower small territorial experiments in government- all over the world.” Startup Societies idea is simple: Don’t Argue About It, Build The Alternative. With this mantra, they intend to use their network to assist builders who are interested in creating a better political and technological setup. The organization is being advised by technocrats like Dr. Balaji Srinivasan.

 

Seasteading Institute

Although the cost of floating cities is huge, many builders are willing to take advantage of the fact that nearly half of the world is unclaimed by nation states. This presents an opportunity to build floating societies with absolute political autonomy. The Seasteading Institute is a niche non-profit think-tank promoting the creation of floating ocean cities as a revolutionary solution to some of the world’s most pressing problems. The institute empowers builders whose seasteading projects align with The Eight Great Moral Imperatives. These are:

  1. Enrich the poor.
  2. Cure the Sick.
  3. Feed the Hungry.
  4. Clean the atmosphere.
  5. Restore the oceans.
  6. Live in balance with nature.
  7. Power the world sustainably.
  8. Stop fighting

The institute is committed  to advancing bold visions outside of traditional offshore activities by partnering with researchers and builders centred on engineering, business, law and policy.  Ocean Builders is a team backed by the Seasteading Institute. Currently, they’re working on version 2 of a single-family, affordable seastead, called the SeaPod. Ventive Floathouse is another team of builders in partnership with the Seasteading Institute. They have a mission to build permanent ocean structures for the masses which will be designed to make ocean living safe, comfortable, and affordable. These floating-structures will be organized into floating communities and ultimately into independent cities.

 

Charter Cities Institute

Founded in 2017, the Charter Cities Institute is a nonprofit dedicated to creating the ecosystem for charter cities. It was established on the idea that a fresh approach was necessary to tackle humanity’s most pressing challenges: global poverty, rapid urbanization, conflict and migration caused by poverty, war, and climate change. The institution wants to alleviate the complexities of starting a startup city by coordinating the efforts of the various stakeholders involved. This is the motivation of the Charter Cities Institute founder, Mark Lutter. They’re equipped with a team of academics, economists, entrepreneurs, futurists, humanists, technologists, urbanists, and experimental thinkers that are focused on building cities.

Some of the services offered by the Charter Cities Institute are:

  1. Research & Technical Assistance: The team works directly with startup cities builders to develop the legal frameworks to grant startup cities an independent jurisdiction and implement the new city’s governance structure.
  2. Events: The institution organizes global events targeting individuals passionate about the transformative power of improving governance in every corner of the world. This creates a community of various startup cities stakeholders and presents networking opportunities.
  3. Media: The Charter Cities Institute blog offers a distribution and education service for various startup city projects worldwide. They research and share the economic upsides being pursued by startup cities. This information helps stakeholders like investors to make good funding decisions.

 

IOTA

IOTA provides a decentralized network with feeless and distributed ledger which can be used to make startup cities operate smartly. The network is designed to build apps which support frictionless transfer of data and value. The Tangle is IOTA’s network.  It ensures that information transacted is trustworthy and cannot be tampered with nor destroyed. IOTA can be used by startup cities to power internet of things which enables

  1. Transparency: An interaction between citizens and machines can exist where sensors gather data to inform authorities and citizens, reducing waste and making resource consumption more efficient. Through this, citizens provide real insight to a startup city’s needs, allowing businesses and the government to react proactively, instead of reactively.
  2. Integration of City Systems: Cities become smart by interlacing multiple types of data in their solutions to impact citizens, visitors, businesses and governance. IOTA’s permissionless technology can connect systems in Mobility, Energy and more. This allows a common, standardized platform for sharing and securing data freely. It can also offer incentivization options through incorporating value transfer capabilities offered by a feeless and real-time token.
  3. Decentralized Identity (DID): IOTA Identity builds on the W3C’s proposed standards for a digital identity framework. Issuance of DID to citizens of a startup city permits borderless verification by anyone or anything to engage in transactions seamlessly.

 

Placekey

Placekey is a free, universal standard identifier for any physical place, so that the data pertaining to those places can be shared across datasets easily. To achieve this, Placekey uses unique strings for encoding that follows a What and Where structure. This way, there’s a knowledge of the descriptive element of a place as well as its geospatial position in the physical world via a single identifier.

The technology is built upon Uber’s open source H3 grid system. Placekey’s free API service appends the Placekey universal location ID to any address. As a startup city scales, lack of standardization when referring to places can make identifying information messy. Placekey creates a standard for identifying any physical space and allows startup cities to easily merge two or more datasets. These present new avenues for data insights, increasing data transparency, and enabling open data.

 

Final Thoughts

I’ll be looking forward to making updates to this list as more people with founding mindsets are motivated to start a city which will spur the formation of more SCaaS. It’ll be interesting to see SCaaS that target verticals like green energy development, smart agriculture setup, education and many more.

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