The Power of Ideas: Gilad Rosenzweig
How a Canadian-born architect plans to expand tech innovation in the city.
The city’s startup scene is booming, with clusters of new businesses cropping up in the Seaport and Kendall Square. But Gilad Rosenzweig wants to have the innovation economy expand into all corners of Boston. This month, he’s launching Smarter in the City—the country’s first inner-city high-tech startup accelerator program—in Dudley Square.
Rosenzweig shuttled between Kendall’s booming tech center and the empty storefronts of Dudley Square while writing his master’s thesis at MIT on the transformation of Roxbury’s Grove Hall neighborhood. The dichotomy between those two worlds captivated him. “Dudley Square doesn’t know what’s going on in Kendall Square. And Kendall Square doesn’t know where Dudley Square is and assumes nobody there knows how to write code,” he says. “It’s ignorance on both sides.”
Smarter in the City will offer an intense, six-month business-development training program to several startups out of its 1,100- square-foot space in the heart of Dudley Square. Each nascent company will also receive $5,000 in funding. Inaugural enterprises include KillerBoomBox, a publishing outfit focusing on the lifestyle of multicultural youth, and Mbadika, which creates engineering kits for students in the U.S. and sub-Saharan Africa. Most of the businesses Rosenzweig selected for the first round were spawned in Dorchester, Mattapan, and Roxbury, or have minority or women founders.
Rosenzweig believes that to truly diversify the tech sector, the startup ecosystem needs to benefit all neighborhoods. City Councilor Tito Jackson agrees: “Silicon Valley isn’t a physical place; it actually spans many municipalities.” He says Rosenzweig’s effort is part of a larger conversation about what the city is and what it can become.“Roxbury is not looking to be saved ,” Jackson says.“It has people and resources, and these accelerators, coworking, and innovation spaces will allow these awesome people to connect and begin to build a movement.”