The entrepreneur as community problem solver

Give an entrepreneur a challenge and let them rise to it.  That strategy is fueling two transportation efficiency efforts, and it may provide a much needed model for community problem-solving. 

In one case, Oliver Kuttner, a Lynchburg entrepreneur, is responding to the fuel efficiency challenge made by Progressive Automotive’s X-Prize: to create a practical, safe car that can travel 100 miles on a gallon of gasoline. His company, Edison2, is working to make a vehicle as light and easy to move as possible.  With relatively little investment, the X-Prize is sparking many times the $10 million in investment from 40 teams across 11 countries. And it may result in a worldwide transportation paradigm shift.

Meanwhile, the Metropolitan Boston Transit Authority (which didn’t have $10 million dollars to address their problem), wanted to create a mobile phone application to  provide real-time information to bus riders.  To do it, they gave software developers free access to their data and recently convened 200 software entrepreneurs to hear about the needs of users. The prize for workable mobile applications: free rides for a year. The response was quick.  Now passengers have mobile phone and Web application that cost the authority very little, and ridership is up. 

What challenges are you facing in your community?  What goals do you have for your downtown?  Could there be an entrepreneur-based solution?  There might be a way you can spark local creativity, get the job done, and save money.