CYstarters Spotlight Story: City City Bang Bang

This story is part of a series featuring each of the fourteen startups in the CYstarters 2021 summer cohort. Each team has the opportunity to focus on their startup or business idea while receiving $6,500 or up to $13,000, along with mentorship, accountability, and educational sessions on how to build a business.

By Samantha Dilocker, ISU Pappajohn Center for Entrepreneurship

Founded by recent Iowa State University grads Abraham Polonia-Suarez and Eric Diaz, City City Bang Bang helps cities address the lack of resident involvement in city planning so that we are able to collectively design the future of our cities.

Get to know: Abraham Polonia-Suarez

Age: 25

Education: Master’s in Industrial Design with a BS in Mechanical Engineering from Iowa State University

Passionate about: Experience design, industrial design, storytelling, the entertainment industry and placemaking

Most recently I: graduated with my masters!


Get to know: Eric Diaz

Age: 26

Education: Master’s in Industrial Design with a BS in Mechanical Engineering from Iowa State University

Passionate about: questioning, organizational change, and slow thinking

Most recently I: graduated with my masters!

Currently working on: City City Bang Bang

When did you start working on City City Bang Bang?

We started working together in Options Studio in the College of Design and from there tried to see if our idea was feasible! 


Have you always seen yourself starting something?

Eric: It’s always been my desire, but I don’t know if I ever saw myself actually pursuing it! I always thought that eventually, maybe after I got some experience, I would start something of my own, but CYstarters was a great opportunity to get started right out of the gate. It’s always nice when something semi-pretend in school can become real. 

Abraham: I guess not really! I wouldn’t say I saw myself starting something because I never thought I’d have the experience, and I didn’t really know how! Given the opportunities I’ve had, I can see myself starting something! 


Why mobile city planning?

Eric: it initially started in that class where we saw the current needs. Cities are struggling to have residents engaged in the process. The only way for residents to be involved is to attend city meetings. We’re proposing a paradigm shift where the city comes to the residents instead of the residents coming to the city. We want to remove barriers that could prevent working residents from participating in making change. Knowledge is situated. It’s important that you’re in the context of meeting residents in their daily routine. 


How have you grown since you started?

Eric: You always gain valuable practice in navigating open-ended problems, especially when you’re in the situation of taking something through the next steps of how it could be applied. You really have to get into the details of turning ambiguity into decisions. 


What future milestones would you like to hit? 

Abraham: We would like to understand further how we fit in the organizational structure of the government and develop a packaged toolkit and/or workshop that can be delivered and tested. 


What is the biggest challenge you face each day? 

Eric: Conveying thoughts clearly is something I struggle with. That’s a problem I feel CYstarters can help with. If you can’t convey your message, you’re dead in the water with your business. It’s hard to convey thoughts that others can internalize.

Abraham: Interacting in a hyperactive environment is a struggle for me. It’s hard to adapt to what will allow me to thrive in such an environment. 


How has entrepreneurship at Iowa State impacted you?

Eric: It helps encourage you! It’s a bit of a different vibe from other classes because entrepreneurship focuses on empowering you and encouraging you to create change. It builds you up a bit personally! Entrepreneurship at Iowa State allows you to explore the possibilities for yourself.

Abraham: My entrepreneurship journey is just beginning! It wasn’t until I was exposed to entrepreneurship through the Student Innovation Center’s Flagship Friday sessions and short circuits that I became interested in entrepreneurship.


What advice would you give to a smart, driven college student?

Eric: Don’t be too hard on yourself. Try not to get stressed. Take the opportunities in front of you to explore, and don’t be afraid to get out of your comfort zone. 

Abraham: Don’t be afraid to get involved! Don’t feel like you have to stick to something you don’t love; you have so many opportunities to explore. You get out what you put into your experiences. Study abroad if you can!


Where are you headed? And how would you invite others to join you?

Eric: We are headed towards a more collective vision of our city’s futures, and if we’re doing our job, we’ll join you. You don’t have to join us.