Second Act

With the recovery in motion I have seen a few intriguing ideas on how startups will reshape cities. These range from creating whole new cities or city centers aimed at housing a common type of startup to using crowd sourcing to identify community needs, be it a service or amenity.  On the new city side I have seen two very different approaches based on whether the it’s a completely new office park, operating around existing regulations or a new startup community as an extension of existing infrastructure.

Blueseed, commonly referred to as the “Googleplex of the sea,” is a concept funded by Peter Thiel, co-founder of Paypal, which anchors a ship in international waters to house a ‘Silicon Valley-esc’ offshore startup community.  The benefit of housing the startups in international waters is it will create a visa-free community, speeding up the international recruitment of engineers for companies that would otherwise be located in the U.S. (Chris Taylor, Mashable)

Blueseed Cruise Ship

There are a number of concept designs provided by Blueseed to give an idea what this startup paradise may look like, range in design from standard cruise ship to high tech barge (Scheduled for launch late 2013, early 2014, so a final design has not yet been released).  Blueseed will provide its residents offices, residential space, wifi-access, 24-hour cafes, and a full gym.

Blueseed High Tech Barg

While Blueseed creates a separatist new community for startups, Tony Hsieh has a slightly different concept of creating a New Urbanist community in downtown Las Vegas, “to turn the overlooked area into a neighborhood not just for his workers’ coffee breaks, but a new live/work/play destination for Las Vegas’ emerging creative class” (Leigh Gallagher, Fortune Magazine). With moving Zappo’s headquarters into the downtown area, Hsieh is investing to create a community where his employees and their families will be able to live, work, go to school, and thrive.

With a $350 million investment, Tony Hsieh is investing in real estate, tech startups, small businesses, and education to establish downtown Las Vegas as a place people will want to love and work.  Using Edward Glaeser’s Triumph of the City (Next on my personal reading list), along with New Urbanist concepts, Hsieh’s group has developed a list of musts for a perfect city, including jazz fest, beer garden, wine/cheese store, hybrid e-school, and yoga (Kimberly Schaefer, Downtown Project).  While Zappo’s intends to move their headquarters by 2013, I haven’t found concept drawings for the redevelopment of Downtown Las Vegas yet.

What I find most intriguing about Tony Hsieh’s approach is that it both revives an existing community and recognizes the need for investment in the local community for business success. “When you’re in a city, the bar or the restaurant becomes an extended conference room” (Leigh Gallagher, Fortune Magazine).

The final approach to rebuilding community comes from the other end of the spectrum.  Rather than being a business led approach, it completely relies on community input.  Neighborland is a project launched in New Orleans that uses crowd sourcing to identify what the local community desires.  Using a large sticker with “I want ____ in my neighborhood” community members are able to write in what they feel is missing, opening up lines for communication on how to make improvements possible (Neighborland Handbook).  These ideas are then posted on line to discuss how to make these a reality (See New Orleans concepts here).

While these are three very different approaches to the development of cities, they show how startups, be it business or community driven, are reshaping cities and what we commonly understand as cities.  These will create new connections and new opportunities to make the businesses and their communities more cross-reliant finding connections between them to cut costs and improve results.

Next week’s entry is planned to be the first in which Patchopolis will explore urban agriculture and will begin to explore a startup concept of its own to better serve as a site for collaboration among community members.