Student Fellowship

Fostering a Startup Ecosystem to Diversify Boca Raton’s Post-COVID-19 Economy

Project Area:

Economic Recovery


Boca Raton, FL

Reporting to:

Innovation Strategist

The Challenge

The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on local municipalities and their communities has been profound. At the heart of Boca Raton’s community are local businesses. These established companies, small businesses, and startups have all needed to make massive strategic and operational pivots. These changes, albeit necessary, can create a longer-term ripple effect of implications that will be felt across a large portion of the community. For example, if a large portion of the local economy shifts, long term, to a substantially remote workforce, this could create a radical change in Boca Raton’s daily population density, which would impact multiple industries like commercial real estate, hospitality, retail, transportation, and others. The City of Boca Raton’s leadership recognizes that going back to “business as usual” is unlikely to work. They see a need to anticipate and prepare for a new reality. The city leadership believes that this will require a re-think of the structure of Boca Raton’s economic ecosystem, reassessment of policies, understanding of the changing needs of local businesses and schools, establishment of new partnerships, and overall better alignment between City Hall, academia, local businesses, and residents. The overarching question the city is looking to answer is: What changes to infrastructure, policy, partnerships, technology, incentives, and communication need to be made to evolve Boca Raton into a more vibrant technology-driven ecosystem that is more reflective of the economy of tomorrow? This work is at the intersection of multiple streams of ongoing work and the fellow will be an integral part of a team of city leaders from the City Manager’s Office, including staff from the Economic Development, Innovation, and Sustainability Divisions.

What You’ll Do

The fellow will be expected to:

  1. Assess ecosystem needs and trends (including impact of COVID-19 on local companies and employees, existing make-up–including industry mix–of local companies, factors contributing to ongoing success, etc.), and identify key stakeholders (e.g., schools, businesses, investors, etc.).
  2. Conduct interviews with key stakeholders in academia, private industry, and the local community to better understand needs and identify potential partnerships.
  3. Conduct interviews with stakeholders from other startup ecosystems and conduct research to obtain lessons learned (industry mix, workforce skills required, resources, programs, and investments made to attract and retain companies and employees), and to answer the question: How does Boca Raton grow its own startup community?
  4. Participate in ongoing cross-departmental work on this issue as part of the Bloomberg Harvard Innovation Track, which is helping cities engage stakeholders and residents in ideating, prototyping, testing, adapting, and scaling creative ideas. The student will become an integral part of this team and provide support on prototype building, impact measurement, and implementation planning.

What You’ll Bring

  • Cross-functional, collaborative mindset
  • Data analysis skills
  • Business acumen; experience with startups
  • Strategic thinking and entrepreneurial skills
  • Design thinking skills
  • Creativity and self-directed problem-solving skills
  • Adaptability, resilience, and comfort with ambiguity
  • “Government outsiders” welcome
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