Planning Public-Private Partnerships for Sustainability, Resiliency & Success!

Author photo: Jim Frazer
By Jim Frazer
Company and Product News

with Herb Sih of Pioneer Partners

Join Herb Sih of Pioneer Partners  & Jim Frazer of ARC Advisory Group for an in-depth examination of:

  • The history of public private partnerships
  • How have P3’s changed over the past 10 years
  • Why this change became necessary
  • The driving forces behind this evolution
  • How public private partnerships will change in the future
  • The pitfalls & key challenges of public private partnerships
  • How P3's have changed the technology landscape
  • The most important key elements for successful public private partnerships
  • How to create a successful public private partnership


Listen in to the conversation here:



Or read below for an excerpt from the full transcript.

Jim Frazer  - Welcome again to another episode of the smart city Podcast. Today, I'm very happy to be joined by Herb Sih senior partner at Pioneer Partners. Welcome, Herb How you doing today?

Herb Sih  - I'm doing great, Jim, thanks so much for having me on.

Jim Frazer  - Hey, it's well, it's great to have you. Herb, can you? Can we get started with you giving us a little bit of background of how you came to the smart city ecosystem?

Herb Sih  - Sure, Jim, I'm happy to do that. Well, really, there are a couple of things that I think are valuable for the listener understandable what what makes me tick and how I think about things in the smart city space, one of the first things that's somewhat salient would be I was in the military for 11 years. And as a military helicopter pilot, you're given missions to accomplish but you also understand that you don't have a parachute. So you take off expecting to crash and your words are coming up with Plan B, to be able to make sure in the event that you've got a problem that you know how to accomplish a mission and not you know, have bad consequences. So that's the first thing smart cities, there's a lot of issues that you come up with, you always know how to how to get there, but you always have a plan B, C, or D in your pocket. Another piece that kind of led me to where I'm at Jim, is I spent a number of years 14 years in the investment and finance space. And so whether it was managing money or getting into investment banking, as even on a venture fund really gave me an understanding of the economics and the orientation, especially for stakeholders the return on investment, both from cities, and from the business market, they're really important. And that really gave me a foundation. And then lastly, how I got here, we took the combination of those experiences in my background a lot with my partners. And in 2009, we started a company called Think Big Partners. And that really started off as a technology incubator. We started running accelerator programs for emerging technology. And that program caught the eye of some of the larger fortune 50 technology companies, we started doing innovation partnering of which that led to our first project that we were asked to do, really is more of an example of how to use advanced technology to help cities back in 2014. When Cisco approached us, we really didn't know what a smart city was. But we knew that technology can be used as a tool to solve problems. That's how we got into the space in 2014. And since that time, we've worked in probably 40 cities spend some time your partners was spun out from Think Big Partners and rough years ago to specialize and focus exclusively on digital transformation and helping cities make that journey.

Jim Frazer  - Wow. So you've been you've got a varied career there. You know, now that you're involved in the world of smart cities, and more particularly smart city public private partnerships. Let's get started with you giving us your perspective of the history of Smart City PPCPs.

Herb Sih  - Sure. Well, what's interesting to note is sometimes you don't realize that you're in a partnership until you're kind of along the way. And so if you think about the role that cities play, and you know, they represent the citizens and the businesses, and they're trying to create a high quality life, if you really start going back, when they first started contemplating this back in 1974, la created what they'll call a urban big data project, and it's called a cluster analysis of Los Angeles. Really, back then it was an intelligent viewpoint, using data to try and better understand how they can improve the quality of life. Well, if you follow them the course of that line of thinking, Amsterdam created something 20 years later, and then you started getting the commercial markets, IBM actually along with Cisco, in the early 2000s. They started really investing a lot of time and money into the research and that partnership started to happen because when the private sector market got involved with these cities, that's where the partnership really began because you can't really do research in a vacuum and then over the years is he saw this as a sort of really first blossoming yet Barcelona that came out. There was a city called Yokohama, you know that that was a demonstration project in 2010. There was a project in South Korea that took place and evolution partnerships went from theoretical and academic, to more research and practical. And then it started getting into specific challenges that people were facing, whether it's urbanization or traffic, or climate change and all of that it called that back then. But really, that's where the evolution of partnerships came. And, and really, there's been probably 20 projects I can point to over the course of the last 30 years, but especially since mid-late 2000s. That's really where they started to pop up.

Jim Frazer  - That's that that is fascinating. So you alluded to an evolution of P threes over those decades. How have they changed in the last five or 10 years?

Herb Sih  - Well, what's been interesting, Jim is if you if you go back to let's go back about 10 years ago, you had a combination of technologies and goals. And I'll even say hopes of the cities that started really coming together and butting up against each other. And so about 10 years ago, you had the hope and promise of what we'll call smart cities impact areas, but the technology didn't quite make it. And there's a whole array of technologies that has to come together. And so you have to have connectivity that connectivity provides that base layer, they have to actually the application itself. So what was the starting point of a good discussion where people thought they were quite ready for primetime became not quite ready for primetime. And so the partnerships went from, how do we get something done, or realizing that we aren't quite there to a cure, we're starting to get some success, you're getting incremental progress. And they started developing a much more robust set based on learning, understanding, working how to collaborate, and it became more of a working relationship that was an ongoing process versus kind of a project with a very finite beginning and end, because again, to get from point A to point B is not always well defined. And I think now you've got an evolution of mutual benefit stakeholders, working in a ongoing conversation that really understand that they have to be able to represent both sides to be successful. And you have to look at all the array of technologies together all at the same time, to be able to really understand that partnership is going to work. So I think it's become much more of an ongoing relationship that has a lot of stakeholders versus one or two parties that kind of dream something up in the backroom, and then just give it a shot.


Jim Frazer  - Herb we're nearing the end of us of our hour. Let me ask somewhat of a comprehensive question. So if I am that city manager how, what's a cookbook approach? You know, how do I create a successful public private partnership.

Herb Sih  - So if I were to give kind of a point, form narrative, real quick back first, understand what you're trying to achieve who are the stakeholders that are involved in, and usually its citizens residents, but also, some of the folks that city managers need to be thinking about whether they like it or not, as most cities are competing for people people provide that workforce that attracts employers, and that high quality life and the job that you want, comes from people. So you've got to build a very high quality, highly livable safe, secure city. So if you don't have a safe and secure and a high quality life, I mean, you're really on the back end, and by the way, your neighboring community, whether it's across you know, the city limit, or in another state, I've seen signs, billboards saying, Hey, move to x community, we get the $15,000 to move. So city managers really need to think, okay, what are we trying to affect? And a lot of times it's an economic development dimension, the next thing that we got to think about is okay, what's our time frame, to include everything from problems that are firsthand what funding they have available, the ability to be able to pair up funding you can float up municipal bond, if you can achieve cost savings, there's ESCO models to where you can get at a cost reduction that's being paid for by performance you can look at federal funding, maybe you can get a grant, maybe it's all for those things, if you've got emerging technology that can be useful. But the funding piece, you got to assess, what is the funding, but now it goes back to ROI. What is the impact that the city needs to be able to make this a valuable use of both their money and their time, and, frankly, the trust of the citizens? If you cannot define those, you can reach out to the additional stakeholders to start creating these partnerships forgot? Who is it? Why would they be interested? And are they available right now with a useful technology that can start implementing a holistic point of view, that's the last piece, you got to have a holistic view because all the technologies are interconnected. You can't look at things in silos. Nothing exists in a silo today. And if you don't understand the tendency of the technologies or how one thing can make another technology more valuable by complementary data or creative, then you know, you're really missing the boat. That's true. I mean, there are there are

Jim Frazer  - Oh, great. Well, thank thanks, Herb. Again, my guest today was herb Sih of P3 Pioneers. And Herb, let me ask you, if our listeners would like to reach out and contact you, what is your contact information? Sure, while you can go to pioneer partners website,

Herb Sih  - it's . Again, we came out of the Think Big Partners era, which was our original kind of company, you can find plenty of our work product on that as well. You can always contact me by email as well, it's . And you can find us through different partners who we work with large technology companies, engineering firms, again, we're technology and vendor agnostic. We've got a lot of great people out there. And if anyone wants to contact us, we're happy to just point you in the right direction, have an intelligent conversation. Certainly we're happy to help people make an impact in their community to whether your city or technology company or whatever it is. We just brought all this together.



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