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Cover for Flywheels


How Cities Are Creating Their Own Futures

Tom Alberg


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Once a blue-collar outpost, Seattle, home to Microsoft, Amazon, and hundreds of startups, transformed into one of the world's major innovation hubs in less than twenty years. As other cities try to solve the riddle of creating vibrant economies, many have looked to Seattle as a model for tech-driven urban renaissance. However, that success comes with skyrocketing housing costs, increasing homelessness, public safety concerns, persistent racial inequality, and a widening gap between the haves and have-nots. Against that backdrop, big tech has become a popular target.

Tom Alberg, a venture capitalist who was one of the first investors in Amazon, draws on his experience in Seattle's tech boom to offer a vision for how cities and businesses can build a brighter future together. He explores ways that cities can soar to prosperity by creating the conditions that encourage innovation. Like flywheels, livable cities generate momentum by drawing creative citizens who launch businesses. Success attracts more talent, energizing local economies and accelerating further innovation. Alberg emphasizes the importance of city governments and tech companies partnering to address civic challenges. He reflects on why the benefits of the tech boom have not been distributed equally and what business and government leaders must do differently to ensure inclusive growth. The book also examines success stories from smaller cities and their lessons for other up-and-coming tech hubs. Demonstrating the need for innovative thinking that encourages livability alongside economic growth, Flywheels is timely reading for everyone from mayors to business leaders to engaged citizens.

Columbia Business School Publishing, 9780231199544, 296pp.

Publication Date: November 2, 2021

About the Author

Tom Alberg is cofounder of the venture capital firm Madrona Venture Group. He previously was senior vice president of McCaw Cellular and president of LIN Broadcasting. Alberg was an early investor in Amazon and one of its board members from 1996 to 2019. He has also served on the boards of numerous other companies and was a member of the National Advisory Council on Innovation and Entrepreneurship.