Akron, Ohio, the hometown of LeBron James; the seat of the U.S. tire industry; the 127 largest city in the U.S.; and the home of America’s first toy company, is now the latest site of a global experiment in whether cities can use behavioral economics to help foster good citizenship.
Thanks to the work of the city’s deputy mayor for integrated development, James Hardy, Akron is the first city to roll out services from an Israeli-based company called Colu. A startup backed by just over $20 million in financing from American and Israeli investors, the company has developed an app-based rewards service that cities can roll out to provide perks to users.
In Akron’s case, the initiative rewards points for shopping at local businesses that can be redeemed for discounts at those stores. The initial effort, which includes a platform for businesses to market directly to the app’s users, focuses on businesses owned by women and minorities (a response to the movement for racial justice that has sprung up in the wake of the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis).
Akron is the first city of what Colu founder Amos Meiri expects to be a nationwide rollout throughout the U.S. The company a