Frequently Asked Questions

Who is Smart City Works?

SMART CITY WORKSTM is a new class of business accelerator, called a BUSINESS ACTUATOR, that builds and launches next generation infrastructure companies. We are uniquely focused on urban infrastructure and on changing the way we design, build, and operate civil infrastructure. Our mission is to improve the livability, operations, and resilience of cities and urban communities. We do so by way of a Spring and Fall business acceleration program that is designed to more rapidly move early stage ventures to commercialization, reduce risk for downstream investors, and improve the likelihood of product uptake in the marketplace.

What areas of infrastructure does Smart City Works focus on?

We are mission-focused on improving the livability, operations, and resilience of cities and communities. Broadly-speaking, that means we look for companies with high-impact solutions that align with our mission, and that solve key problems related to energy, water, transportation, resilience, public safety, housing, and construction in urban environments. Typically, these solutions address one or more aspects of how to design, build, operate, or maintain infrastructure in these areas. Businesses related to enabling technologies, such as materials, processes, computer technologies and applications, sensing, optimization, analytics, etc., are also of interest. Look for our Call for Innovators (CFI) every Spring and Fall for more details!

What is a business accelerator?

A business accelerator provides hands-on personalized business and technical mentoring to emerging businesses over a period of months to speed commercialization of early stage ventures and new technologies.

What is a business ACTUATOR, and how is Smart City Works doing more than traditional business acceleration?

We go beyond traditional business acceleration and into a new model of commercialization called business actuation. What does this mean?

First, business actuators provide all the services and programming that traditional business accelerators provide –i.e., developing strong business plans and operations, as well as opportunities for funding. These are core elements of our program. But actuation aims to move faster and perform better over the long- run. Like you, we want to speed the path commercialization and help ventures get to market faster. We do so by looking across the entire innovation- commercialization life-cycle and closing the gap between innovator and investor, and between entrepreneur and end-user. We do this by integrating end-users and investors into our selection process and earlier to identify key needs and capability gaps from our municipal partners, investors, and others. Applicants that meet these needs, are then selected and are therefore in a far better position to participate in demonstration and pilot projects with Smart City Works partners, and ultimately to drive their solutions into the marketplace faster.

Second, selected ventures participate in a detailed gap analysis program we pioneered as part of our intake process. From this, we develop a uniquely tailored, highly-focused, and highly-customized business acceleration program for each venture. This includes intensive 1:1 mentoring with a world class network of executives, technical resources, and direct engagement with decision-makers and department heads in municipalities. Our core curriculum and executive training program is designed to help CEOs overcome challenges in product development, go-to-market strategies, pricing, operations, and other core capabilities, to endow ventures with proven products, and help build a team equipped with the skills to grow and compete for funding and market share.

What resources and funding do Smart City Works companies receive?

We offer a number of key resources and amenities to participating companies:

• Intensive 90-day Business Executive training curriculum + 1:1 mentoring tailored to each company’s unique business growth and scaling needs;
• Business model, go-to-market, marketing, and term-sheet development;
• Multiple guest speakers, mentoring and networking sessions led by industry and government experts;
• Up to 12-months rent-free office space for graduates.
• HubSpot’s world-renowned CRM, Marketing and Sales software at a 90% scholarship for the first year.
$10,000 in AWS credits, tech support, and platforms.
• Pro-bono and reduced-fee legal & professional services, makerspaces, and more!
• Strategic introductions to a curated group of cities, universities, laboratories, technical experts, entrepreneurs, and business executives from the Smart City Works network; and
• Development of an investor-ready pitch with the support of seasoned Angel and Venture investors Initial funding.

What type of training will companies receive in the cohort acceleration program?

You will receive and participate in top-level immersive training and mentorship across all the important elements of creating a successful business. The program has multiple learning streams including: how to best organize and manage a startup; business planning; building a world class team; developing and instituting your corporate culture; product design and development; raising capital; communications and pitching your company; sales, customer acquisition, and go to market strategies; market analysis; building and implementing a financial plan, and ultimately testing and commercializing the product. We maintain regular and scheduled deliverables and check-ins with the Smart City Works team to make sure that all companies stay on track and progress throughout the program.

How can I participate in a Smart City Works cohort?

Twice yearly, Smart City Works will issue a Call for Innovators (CFI) to announce a new cohort class is forming. We accept companies into our cohorts through a rolling admission process: applicants are selected on a first come, first serve basis until the cohort is filled. Each cohort may be tailored to advance a particular aspect of designing, building, and operating infrastructure, or a particular smart city vertical, enabling technology need, municipal challenge or all of the above! Companies that seek to compete for a place in a cohort class, should sign-up for notifications or apply through the Smart City Works website at

How are cohort companies selected?

We are looking for the best team, best ideas, best inventions. We want to change the world as much as you do. Companies that meet eligibility requirements will be included in a selection process that may require responding to a written questionnaire, and/ or submission of additional information. Finalists will be required to pitch their solution and participate in an interview process. We evaluate applicants primarily based on three key criteria:

  • Impact. How likely will your proposed solution improve the livability, sustainability, operations, and resilience of cities? How great will your innovation change the way we design, build, and/ or operate urban infrastructure or scale or bolster IoT solutions?
  • Commercial Feasibility. Is your innovation and business well-positioned to reach commercial markets?
  • Team. What is the maturity of your business and your business team?

If you are competitive in these areas, you will be well-positioned to be selected to participate in a cohort.

Am I eligible to participate in a Cohort?

To be eligible, you must be an established business, with a specific product or solution in the Smart City Works mission space. You and key members of your team must be willing to travel to the accelerator and re-locate for 3 months to participate in person with other motivated entrepreneurs and professionals.

Do I have to be in the Smart City Works location for the entire 3-month period?

For the most part, yes. Experience shows that co-locating with other leading entrepreneurs for the entire three months of the program adds tremendous value to start-ups and will yield the most from the experience. We have an in-depth curriculum and ongoing events and learning opportunities daily as well as industry leaders and mentors regularly spending time on site. We provide opportunities for business building, actuation, and time with customers as part of the program. We want you to be successful. The best means to achieve that success is through the synergies that come from similarly-focused entrepreneurs and participation together in the business acceleration program.

Can I apply if our company or founders are not from the US? Can you help with visa/immigration issues?

Africa, Europe, Australia, India and all over the world. You do have to be legally in the U.S. during the program, of course. Once accepted, we can help with legal/immigration issues by leveraging our contacts and network to help. However, we cannot help with them in advance of acceptance to Smart City Works.

What level of business maturity should our team have to be eligible?

We will look at all applications from established businesses, at all levels of development. We typically accept both start-ups and mature companies in each cohort. Fundamentally, we are looking for great ideas and great teams. We are looking for solutions most likely to re-invent the way we live-in, design, build, and operate cities. You may be that difference. If so, we want to work with you. We want to help make your company a success!

When is the next opportunity to join a Cohort?

We are now OPEN for Fall 2019 Cohort Class! APPLY NOW!

What are my responsibilities?

Two things. First, each cohort company will need to determine who on the team will participate. Participants will be responsible for travel, living arrangements, and local transportation. Second, you are responsible for showing up and being open to a world of possibilities! Bring your passion, ingenuity, and dedication to your cohort, and your commitment to listening, communicating, challenging, and adapting your ideas to create a viable commercial business ready to change the world.

What happens when the program ends?

After your three months in residence with Smart City Works ends, it is the beginning of a long-term relationship. Our post-cohort support program begins with you. You are now part of the Smart City Works family and alumni network. And we remain part of your team. We will continue to support your journey. You will be invited to events, pitches, and industry gatherings. Our training programs and technical office hours are open to you for refreshers or to work on key areas of interest. We will continue to monitor your progress and look for opportunities for further investment, partnering, and customer contacts, and we will look to you as future cohort companies come through our actuator program, to lead the way, sharing your lessons and success with them.

Our goal is to help you be wildly successful!

Where will the Fall 2019 cohort be located?

The FALL 2019 cohort will be located in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area at Refraction – a collaborative co-working environment at the end of the Silver Line on DC’s Metrorail

Where will I live?

If a company is accepted into a Smart City Works cohort, we will work with the team to find suitable living arrangements, but ultimately your living arrangements are up to you.

How can I invest in cohort companies?

Great idea. We can work with you on how to best partner with, sponsor, or invest in Smart City Works and its cohort companies. Send us an email through our website