Serial entrepreneur Ben Huh has been tapped by Y Combinator to lead its New Cities project. As a member of the startup program’s YC Research team, he’s its first “explorer” and for the next six months will be tasked with examining new ways to build new and better cities.
The founder of popular meme site Cheezburger, Huh stepped down from his leadership position in 2015 after being at the helm for eight years. He was also the cofounder of the news app Circa before its shuttering (the service has since been acquired by the Sinclair Broadcast Group).
He joins one of Y Combinator’s newest divisions, which has been empowered to explore new ideas and technology innovations beyond the startup scene. Its New Cities project launched in June with a mission to think about how to transform cities into places that offer opportunities and living conditions necessary for the success of its citizens.
According to Adora Cheung, a Y Combinator partner, “The need for new supply continues to increase significantly. Many constraints related to where cities should be located (e.g. near rivers for trade) have changed. We now have major technologies such as smart grids, autonomous vehicles, etc. The internet itself allows for participation never before possible. Also, housing prices in many cities have become untenable and we need more housing in places people want to live.”
Huh’s global perspective in this matter may be his advantage. After departing from Cheezburger and Circa, he and his wife set off on an international journey, traveling to a multitude of places. While it could be thought of decompression after a lengthy ordeal as an entrepreneur, it’s possible that his travels have educated him on what life is like outside of the technology space.
Previously based in Seattle, Huh recently relocated to San Francisco with the goal of starting another company. However, during his time of self-reflection and networking, he admitted that he “failed to find something I love.” But then he met with Cheung and his passion was reignited, and he’s joining the New Cities effort with a goal of “creating an open, repeatable system for rapid cityforming that maximize human potential.”
“I’m done complaining about cities. I want to be a part of a solution. I want cities for the poor and the rich, the locals and the transplants, the freaks and the geeks, and the young and old,” he continued in a Medium post highlighting all the problems that are wrong with cities of the world today.
“The problem-scape is vast. It’s difficult just to catalog and sort all the systems that a city needs to get started. To call a city a system or a platform underestimates the complexities. We’ll be working on a project to develop a system for creating networks of systems. The size of the challenge excites me, and we’re putting options on the table.”