Can entrepreneurs improve public safety and make money? FastFWD said yes.
FastFWD launched in March 2013 when the City of Philadelphia—supported by the Wharton Social Impact Initiative and GoodCompany Group —won a $1 million implementation prize from the Bloomberg Philanthropies Mayors Challenge.
“Philadelphia’s selection as a Mayors Challenge winner is a huge honor for our city and a testament to the creative, innovative work that is going on across city government,” says Mayor Michael Nutter. “Through [FastFWD], our goal is to explore innovative new approaches to issues affecting cities across the country and ultimately to improve the quality of life for our residents.”
This program was designed to develop an ecosystem that supports civic entrepreneurs and innovators in Philadelphia and cities around the globe.
“Wharton Social Impact Initiative is thrilled to be helping the city in spurring entrepreneurial solutions to urban challenges,” says Katherine Klein, Vice Dean for Social Impact at Wharton. “The FastFWD process represents a cutting-edge approach, linking business, city government and the University to create sustainable solutions. There’s a palpable sense of excitement and optimism among all who are participating in this process, including the Mayor – a Wharton alum – and his team.”
Using Philadelphia as a focal point, FastFWD focused on urban public safety challenges – an important issue not only for the safety of Philadelphians, but also in considering the $1 billion per year the city spends on public safety.
The first acceleration cycle was focused on reactive solutions to public safety issues, and the second cycle was broadened to include proactive public safety components that would decrease the presence of these issues in Philadelphia.
Why the focus on public safety?
WSII kicked off FastFWD with a ‘Challenge Definition’ process, where research and interviews were conducted to identify what issue area in the City of Philadelphia was most ripe for innovation.
By defining five necessary criteria for innovation – internal spend, internal interest, internal willingness and execution, external regulatory environment, and absence of external competition – to measure for each urban challenge, we were able to make the case that Public Safety was the best area for new entrepreneurial solutions.
Spider graphs, like the one below for Public Safety, were created to visually represent the viability of each area and presented to Mayor Nutter and the FastFWD steering committee.
“It would have been easy to make assumptions about which Philadelphia issue FastFWD should focus its efforts on,” says Jacob Gray, Senior Director at WSII, “but by bringing Wharton’s analytics and rigor to the issue, we were able to measure the components that make innovation possible and concretely present Public Safety as the best option.”
From there, we conducted additional research to define and measure specific sub-sections of the Public Safety challenge area. Though the pain points of these areas are often publicized, WSII went a step further, producing findings and reports on the markets for these solutions to show to entrepreneurs where, how and how much money was being spent addressing these issues.
This data was packaged in clear, accessible formats – like the re-entry employment summary below – and shared with entrepreneurs to demonstrate the presence of a market around these challenges.
The strongest innovators and solutions were selected for participation in one of two cohorts of an urban innovation accelerator, managed by GoodCompany Group.
Participants in the accelerator program were selected based on multiple factors, including the potential for impact, team leadership, level of innovation, scalability, and relevance to the defined focus area. The accelerator guided social entrepreneurs in business model development, as well as mentorship and in-depth support around urban innovation. A WSII-led student team supported entrepreneurs through their acceleration process, as well: composed of Penn and Wharton undergraduate, Wharton MBA and Penn Integrated Product Design students, this cohort acted as consultants to the entrepreneurs, supporting them with work including their financial modeling, storytelling, design, etc.
At the conclusion of each FastFWD cycle, a FastPITCH day takes place to expose investors and other stakeholders to the innovations accelerated through FastFWD. Selected innovators from each cycle also received startup funding and the opportunity to pilot their innovation with the City of Philadelphia.