On a damp evening in July, Gilad Rosenzweig cut a red ribbon strung across the stairwell to a three-decker home in Roxbury, a primarily African-American neighborhood in the middle of Boston.
The event marked the grand opening of Smarter in the City, an incubator created to support entrepreneurs within the city’s poorer districts, one of several efforts under way to help to spread out the current tech-driven economic boom.
Shiny new buildings are rising in Cambridge’s Kendall Square and Boston’s Innovation District, but storefronts around the once-thriving Dudley Square are still boarded up and tagged. A few steps up the street from Smarter in the City was a freshly burnt-down building, and a few steps down the block was a sign beseeching residents to “stop the killing.”
“What struck me is we have such a strong high-tech economy, but we have neighborhoods that aren’t participating at all, just a few miles away,” said Rosenzweig, an architect and urban planner who founded the organization.
Smarter in the City named its first five participants in April, including Post Game Fashion, StoryMap Solutions, Mbadika, PracticeGigs and KillerBoomBox. They were given $5,000 in seed funding and free space for six months, and were offered mentorship, training and networking opportunities.
Rosenzweig said they’re currently sorting through applications for the next class of startups. Sponsors include Brightcove, the Lewis Family Foundation, the Boston Impact Initiative, the U.S. Small Business Administration and others.
G. Valentino Ball, co-founder of KillerBoomBox, said he and his partners created the multimedia company to tell stories of inner-city youth largely missed or inaccurately portrayed by mainstream publications.
Ball, who had been running the entire company off of a Toshiba laptop, said the incubator has provided additional resources and the chance to connect with other neighborhood entrepreneurs. It has also drawn attention to the fact that startups can form anywhere in Greater Boston, he said.
“The idea is people will not just see Kendall Square and the Seaport as places where great companies can grow and come to life,” Ball said. “I’m just hoping that we can rise to the occasion.”
This article originally appeared on Recode.net.