#Asia Remarkable Amazon homeless shelter should be copied in Southeast Asia


The Southeast Asia tech scene will inevitably conflict with local neighbourhoods, and it is best to learn from mistakes made out West

One of the advantages of “being behind” other startup economies is that Southeast Asia gets to look at mistakes made in the US and China and try to avoid falling into the same traps.

The opposite should also be true, if a Western or Chinese company does something remarkable, Southeast Asia should try to implement a similar idea in our region.

This week, Amazon has done something remarkable.

Lost in the hubub of the e-commerce giant revealing its next generation Echo was news that the company integrated a homeless shelter into a new office the company is building in Seattle.

The basics of what happened

About one year ago, Amazon bought a large lease of land in Seattle build new office space. On that land was a closed motel building. As the company moved into the neighbourhood, Amazon struck a deal with a homeless shelter named Mary’s Place to turn the unused building into a homeless shelter. It had 200-beds and was a moment of civic engagement overlooked by much of Silicon Valley.

Also Read: EarlySalary raises US$4M Series A round, wants to accelerate growth and innovation process

Amazon (inevitably) will need to tear down the building for its offices, and this week it announced plans to open a new facility on the land in 2020. As Nick Wingfield wrote in the New York Times:

“A year ago, when Amazon let a homeless shelter for families move into a former motel it owned, it was viewed as a nice but fleeting gesture.”

Except, it turns out, the gesture was not fleeting.

In a few years, when Amazon opens its brand-new, glimmering, office, it will include a homeless shelter. The partnership with Mary’s Place is now permanent, and a portion of the office will houses homeless people. It will be about 47,000 square feet with a capacity of 220 people or 65 families.

Communities at odds with techies


Pardon the cynicism, but Amazon’s gesturer is a rare example of a tech company being a good neighbour.

An uncomfortable truth of the Silicon Valley is that successful tech companies have a habit of moving into neighbourhoods and, to put it bluntly, acting like assholes.

Ask any San Francisco resident (if they haven’t already moved out to Vallejo) what they think of the Google busses and one can expect a 15-minute anger-fuelled rant.

For non-tech people that live in the Bay Area, the industry is viewed as a necessary evil (I know because I used to be one of those non-tech people in the Bay Area). An Average Joe like myself appreciated the economic opportunities created by Silicon Valley, but it comes at a cost.

For example, when I lived in Oakland, one of the big stories in the Bay Area was that the tech giants had discovered a San Francisco neighbourhood known as The Tenderloin.

The Tenderloin was, justifiably, defined by its easy access to drugs, large homeless population and a legitimate threat of danger from erratic people who were either mentally ill or extremely high.

Then Twitter decided this was the perfect place to open an office. Rent was cheap, The Tenderloin is right in the heart of the city and maybe the tech community could “clean it up”.

Also, there was proof this could work. Before the baseball stadium (AT&T Park) was built, South Beach was a bad neighbourhood. Today, businesses have grown around the stadium and its one of the nicest neighbourhoods in San Francisco.

But, it is also one of the most expensive areas in the city and the people who once called it home are long gone (and most of the people that work in the area live elsewhere).

There is a word that describes this phenomenon: Gentrification.

Yes, if I visit The Tenderloin today, I am sure I will be pleasantly surprised by its relative safety, the hipster yoga studios on the corner and its economic viability. But what about the slightly-scary weirdo that tried to sell me blank CDs? That guy is gone; and nobody cares.

Twitter’s move into The Tenderloin was an example of Silicon Valley’s nasty habit of moving into neighbourhoods without care or regards to the people who live in the area.

And that, is why Amazon’s homeless shelter is a big deal. Finally, a tech company did not ‘clear the swamp’. Rather, it embraced the realities of a community, and made sure its most vulnerable people had options.

Why it matters in Southeast Asia

It matters for a fairly simple reason: most policymakers in the region have made startups an essential part of their economic plans.

It seems to be working, and if  Southeast Asia truly starts to compete with Silicon Valley, cities in the region will face the same gentrification problems that plague the Bay Area.

For perspective, Singapore’s Block 71 is a hub for startups and is receiving international attention for being a center of innovation. It is also roughly the same size as Oracle’s campus.

The area is already crowded and significant future growth is untenable.

So, companies that started in one-north have to move (highlighted by the decision by Carousell to move in less than a year because it required more space). Now, what happens when Singapore produces the next Oracle? Where does a campus of that size go? Probably to an underdeveloped part of the city.

When that happens, it presents an opportunity to be a good neighbour.

I am not advocating for Southeast Asian startups to open homeless shelters in their offices (that, I think, is a luxury afforded to one of the world’s most successful companies). However, there are reasonable alternatives that can make a positive impact.

Also Read: With these strategies to achieve growth through virality, you can accelerate traction like Facebook and other big brands

Companies already host talks with a range of positive intentions. More of that is a good place to start.

Other ideas include opening a food bank, hosting activities for the elderly or running programmes for local kids (especially if the area is poor).

Final note, do not do these things and build a marketing campaign to “get the word out”. Just do them without telling anyone.

The conversation about ‘disruption’ has already begun in Southeast Asia, but inevitably there will be a more direct clash between company and neighbourhood.

Amazon’s homeless shelter is an inspiration for when this conflict arises and it should be emulated in this part of the world.

Copyright: twindesign / 123RF Stock Photo

The post Remarkable Amazon homeless shelter should be copied in Southeast Asia appeared first on e27.

from e27 http://ift.tt/2pmMVGt

This entry was posted in #Asia by Startup365. Bookmark the permalink.

About Startup365

Chaque jour nous vous présenterons une nouvelle Startup française ! Notre pays regorge de talents et d'entrepreneurs brillants ! Alors partons à la découverte des meilleures startup françaises ! Certaines d'entre elles sont dans une étape essentielle dans la vie d'une startup : la recherche de financement, notamment par le financement participatif (ou crowdfunding en anglais). Alors participez à cette grande aventure en leur faisant une petite donation ! Les startups françaises ont besoin de vous !