Social entrepreneurs

Read in The Guardian of 20 July 2015:


In Amsterdam it’s bad. In San Francisco it’s even worse. Yesterday we made a walking tour with policymakers of the municipality of Amsterdam who want to promote local startup ecosystems. We crossed the eastern part of the inner city. How to attract new tech-jobs?, they asked. Amsterdam is as big as San Francisco: bit more than 800.000 inhabitants. Why attracting tech-jobs when housing prices are steeply rising and neighbourhoods get filthy expensive? Do they want even more gentrification? It made me think of the problems in Tenderloin, San Francisco. More than 10.000 technology workers from Twitter, Spotify, Zendesk, Yammer and other companies have moved into the Tenderloin and the adjacant Mid-Market district. Rory Carroll wrote about this part of town in The Guardian last summer. “Tenderloin is filled with impoverished families, homeless people, drug addicts and the mentally ill. You don’t need an app to figure out who usually wins such contests.”

Tenderloin is host to an influx of tech companies. Social problems and tensions in this district could be solved if the technies would integrate. Will they? Some 78% of housing in this area is still affordable and 54% is rent-controlled. Office vacancy has dropped from 25 to 4%. The tech arrivals are co-existing with the Tenderloin people. At least so far. Tenderloin will not gentrify like Williamsburg in New York City, but it is certainly changing. “It remains to be seen what the outcome will be.” So why promoting startup ecosystems if they develop spontaneously, even invade poor city districts? Once a city starts burning, it easily gets overheated. Of course, as a city you have to be successful first. Amsterdam is doing well. The city should be careful now. It better protects its affordable housing stock and keeps its system of rent-control. And why not asking the techies to become a kind of social entrepreneurs?






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