Mayors Conference on Entrepreneurship

Growing Sustainable Communities Through Entrepreneurship.


Mayorship 2020 Menu of Activities

By registering for the Mayors Conference, you are making a commitment to exploring one policy, program, or practice that supports innovation and entrepreneurship in your community. As a first step, you or a member of your city’s economic development team will be asked to participate in NLC’s Virtual Kickoff on July 1st to learn more about the menu of policy options from NLC and technical assistance providers. At the Mayors Conference event, you will be asked if you’d like to formalize your commitment – officially entering the year-long technical assistance program, also known as the City Innovation Ecosystem Program. Please see below for the program timeline. 

Beginning with the July 1st Virtual Kickoff, the program year will include technical assistance from nationally recognized program experts, quarterly peer-learning conference calls with other commitment-making cities, quarterly webinars on innovation and entrepreneurship topics, as well as opportunities for public recognition of the work your city is doing.

Key events for mayors to participate in will be the following:

  • July 1 Virtual Kickoff
  • Sept 17 – 18 Mayor’s Conference on Entrepreneurship
  • Nov 18 – 21 NLC City Summit (Attendance Optional)

This menu of programs, policies, and practices is organized around the four pillars of America’s New Business plan to ensure that “anyone with an idea has access to the opportunity, funding, knowledge, and support to turn it into a reality.”

  • Opportunity – Building opportunities and reducing barriers to representation
  • Funding – Equal access to capital for historically underrepresented entrepreneurs
  • Knowledge – Sharing the skills to start and grow business
  • Support – A strong local foundation that can support diverse businesses

Opportunity Initiatives

Leveling the playing field and reducing barriers

Local procurement of goods and services is an opportunity for cities to advance economic inclusion and racial and gender equity. However, local governments often under-contract with businesses owned by women and people of color. The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted historical racial inequality and challenges in access to capital for businesses that are run by entrepreneurs of color and/or women entrepreneurs, as well as young businesses. Economic recovery provides an opportunity to reexamine legacy processes. By experimenting with changes to legacy procurement practices, cities can systematically determine which policy and programmatic levers are best suited to improving equity in public contracting and keeping city dollars circulating in the local economy.

Cities will commit to 1) using data and evidence to evaluate the current state of city contracting allocation with the goal of 2) piloting and evaluating process reforms or educational programming to increase participation of MWBEs and newer firms.

Program expert support provided by the Behavioral Insights Team.

Cities sometimes struggle to figure out the best ways to engage technology partners to address civic problems, including public health, economic recovery, and micro mobility transit. Technology and data visualization firms in particular have been critical to understanding this crisis and turning data into actionable information, and they have a lot to offer in understanding the recovery process as well. The cultures of municipal government and startups are dramatically different, and sometimes city leaders and technology entrepreneurs need translators to help them communicate effectively. Leveraging all resources to support the public good is more important than ever.

Cities will commit to identifying critical issues facing local government departments and agencies that could be addressed by civic-minded startups with the goal of creating a process for publicly sourcing startup solutions.

Program expert support provided by CivStart.

Addressing diversity and inclusion is critical to building long-term, equitable growth, and proactively including women in visible leadership roles in our ecosystem is one way to help change the image of what successful entrepreneurs and economic development professionals look like. Mayors can identify women (including women of color) for appointments and staff positions both within the City and with other key leaders within their local ecosystem (incubators, startup accelerators). COVID-19 has hit MWBEs particularly hard, and having their voices represented in city government and leadership roles is especially important in making sure they are fairly represented in recovery.

Cities will commit to 1) identifying potential female and nonbinary civic and ecosystem leaders with goal of 2) recommending them for civic boards, commissions and committees as well as leadership roles in ecosystem partner organizations.

Program expert support provided by the Appointments Project.

Funding Initiatives

Providing more equal access to capital for all

Our communities are full of entrepreneurs and small business owners who want to grow, but many lack access to traditional capital that could help them start or grow their business. As a Kiva Hub, the city government can help facilitate affordable, risk-tolerant microloans to entrepreneurs that are currently underserved by traditional banks and even mission-driven non profit lenders.

Cities will commit to 1) identifying the “hub organization” and 2) leverage connections within the community to help launch a microloan center.

Program expert support provided by Kiva.

Startups and small businesses consistently cite lack of access to capital as a key impediment to their growth. And conventional investors (VCs, angels, banks) have already started to dramatically pull back from investing in startups since the COVID-19 crisis hit. Wefunder is a Public Benefit Corporation (and B Corp) that makes it easier for entrepreneurs to raise capital — by enabling them to take investments from their customers and community members; publicly promote their offerings; and get in front of Wefunder’s 400K-strong investor base.

Cities will coordinate with Wefunder to identify a local nonprofit (e.g. accelerator, innovative CDFI, etc.) to partner with Wefunder in promoting the model of equity crowdfunding to startup founders and small business owners in the city.

Program expert support provided by WeFunder.

Knowledge Initiatives

Building the know-how needed to start a business

Developing a truly effective entrepreneurial ecosystem requires an expertly tailored mix of technology, community engagement, and data measures. Communities of any size often have an abundance of resource organizations, all seeking the same outcome: to help local businesses start and grow. From Small Business Development Centers to advanced and specialized accelerators, communities must both identify and then direct entrepreneurs to best fit resources. This is especially true now in a time of disruption and potential contraction, where all parties need to be rowing in the same direction.

Cities will commit to 1) conducting a survey of the full landscape of their ESOs and develop a plan/product to better communicate the resources available to potential entrepreneurs in order to 2) increase awareness, demand, and utilization of those resources.

Program expert support provided by Sourcelink.

Kauffman FastTrac aims to lower the barriers to entrepreneurship by equipping aspiring entrepreneurs with the business skills and insights, tools, resources, and peer networks necessary to start and grow successful businesses. The program is delivered self-paced, online and via teaching partners, to entrepreneurs. FastTrac encourages and equips more people to start businesses, contributing to increased startup and main street entrepreneurship activity nationwide.

Cities will commit to 1) identifying a local (ESO) entrepreneurship support organization to apply to become a Fasttrac affiliate with the goal of 2) providing entrepreneurship education for entrepreneurs.

Program expert support provided by Fasttrac.

Entrepreneurial ecosystems cannot be owned by one organization or one person. Local entrepreneurial ecosystems are emergent, complex systems, made of a dynamic mix of people and institutions. Traditional economic development in cities often lacks a focus on innovation and support for entrepreneurs and small businesses. City Halls and economic development must be a part of this mix, play their specific role, but not try to control the ecosystem. By making an ecosystem lead a part of the economic development leadership staff, cities may better be able to integrate nontraditional educational and support entities into their economic development efforts.

Cities will commit to crafting a job description and fill a position for an ecosystem lead, in consultation with local stakeholders.

Program expert support provided by FUSE Corps.

Support Initiatives

Increasing the ability for all to take risks

Many cities have access to spaces within their borders that could be activated and utilized to support local entrepreneurs. To be successful, a location like this needs to have meaningful programming and be accessible to community members. Many cities also already have existing incubators and entrepreneurship support organizations that should be part of the conversation.

Cities will commit to 1) conducting a needs assessment for incubator curriculum and 2) developing a business plan for the space.

Program expert support provided by Launch Pad Foundation.

Global Entrepreneur In Residence (Global EIR) enables the world’s most innovative entrepreneurs to continue to choose cities in the United States as the best place to build their businesses and create jobs. GEIR partners with universities to connect entrepreneurs with visas and allow them to grow their companies locally through a service commitment to the local community.

Cities will commit to 1) proposing GEIR program to university, entrepreneurial ecosystem leaders, and funder partners locally with goal of 2) signing MOU to deliver a GEIR program to the city.

Program expert support provided by Global Entrepreneurship in Residence program (GEIR).

Entrepreneurs come from every background and are growing businesses in every industry. While they all have the potential to succeed, many don’t have access to the resources or support they need. This is especially true for those operating in the informal sector with unregistered businesses. Designing an outreach and registration program for these entrepreneurs that is supportive rather than punitive can bring opportunity to a whole community.

Cities will commit to 1) identifying specific entrepreneurs and small business owners within the childcare or food service/restaurant industry operating without licensure and 2) making a plan to integrate them into formal businesses without punitive measures.

Program expert support provided by William K. Kellogg Foundation.

The foundation for regional economic growth is based as much on process as it is on policy or practice. Effective mayors and economic development directors corral the collective energy, resources, and creativity of their community’s leaders and channel it into a cohesive economic strategy for shared and equitable growth. This time of resource contraction and limited resources can be a forcing moment that can promote coordination and collaboration to lay the groundwork for future growth. By partnering with the National League of Cities’ City Innovation Ecosystem program, you will join a cohort of cities interested in developing strategic partnerships within their communities with the goal of expanding city resources, increasing innovation, and building a fairer economy for all. 

Connectivity between the entrepreneur and small business support institutions in my community is limited and there is no cohesive local or regional strategy to promote shared growth and prosperity. At a time when we are all struggling for resources, we can solidify our connections to each other and practice being more collaborative and communicative about how to leverage our local and regional assets.

Program expert support provided by the National League of Cities – City Innovation Ecosystems.

How do the initiatives work at the conference?

To register and gain admission to the Mayors Conference on Entrepreneurship attendees need to select one of the programs, policies, or practices above. By selecting one of these options, they agree to work with an expert during the course of the conference.

At the end of the conference, Mayors have the opportunity to publicly commit to implementing the plan they have spent the past day and a half developing. They do not have to make a commitment but are encouraged to, if it is feasible for themselves and their communities.

National League of Cities, the Kauffman Foundation, and the program experts provide support throughout the rest of the year to help implement the commitment. mySideWalk provides the dashboard to monitor progress and communicate impact.

There is some funding available for the implementation of the programs, policies, and practices that is based on impact and need. There is not enough funding to cover the costs of all ideas, but merely catalyze some of the commitments.

Who should attend?

Who will I meet?

If you are a newly elected mayor, a Mayor new to ecosystem building, or a returning mayor, you are welcome if you support the work of sustainably growing your local communities through entrepreneurship.

Each mayor is also invited to bring someone from your staff or a colleague that you’ll work closely with furthering your work and fulfilling your commitment.

You will meet and work closely with other mayors to discuss problems, find solutions, and gain the tools to complete your initiatives.

You’ll also have the opportunity to connect with attendees from the ESHIP Summit, which will be running concurrently. The ESHIP Summit is for ecosystem builders who are ready to give back and help make connections so that more communities can grow through entrepreneurship.

Why Should You Attend?

Program Highlights

Taking Positive Action. Gain Actionable Insights. Increase Entrepreneurial Success.