David Zipper is a fellow in the Urban and Regional Policy Program, where he is building programming around urban and mobility innovation.
As a college student, Zipper cofounded Empowered Painters, a business training unemployed residents of North Philadelphia to paint homes in affluent suburbs. From that point forward, Zipper has shaped strategies for cities to catalyze economic growth through innovation and new technologies. His perspective on urban development is rooted in his experiences working within city hall as well as being a venture capitalist, policy researcher, and startup advocate.
From 2013-17, Zipper was the managing director for Smart Cities and Mobility at 1776, a global entrepreneurial hub with over 1,300 member startups concentrated in life-critical sectors like transportation, energy, health, and education. As managing director, Zipper connected hundreds of entrepreneurs to urban leaders eager to deploy their solutions, and he closed millions of dollars in partnerships with cities and corporations worldwide. He continues to support 1776’s mission by serving as a partner in the 1776 Venture Fund, where he oversees investments in smart cities and mobility startups.
Zipper previously served as the director of Business Development and Strategy within the mayor's office in Washington, DC, under mayors Vincent Gray and Adrian Fenty. In that role, his responsibilities included attracting new businesses to Washington, promoting entrepreneurship, and overseeing the city’s economic development strategy. Under his leadership, the District created the DC Tech Incentives program, designed to help startups grow to scale in the city. Zipper oversaw the creation and implementation of the city’s first 5-Year Economic Development Strategy, and he provided city support to Washington’s first startup incubators.
Before moving to Washington, Zipper served as executive director of NYC Business Solutions in New York City under Mayor Michael Bloomberg. In this role, he designed, implemented, and managed a $6 million economic development initiative called Training Funds that helped over 75 businesses improve their profitability and provide 3,000 employees with average wage gains of 11 percent. Zipper has also served as an economic development consultant at the Initiative for a Competitive Inner City, an organization founded by Harvard Business School professor Michael Porter that promotes private sector-led investment in inner cities across the United States. He and Professor Porter later co-authored a Harvard Business School case study about New York City’s economic renaissance under Mayor Bloomberg.
Zipper holds an MBA with highest honors from Harvard Business School, an M.Phil in Land Economy (urban planning) from the University of Cambridge, and a BA with high honors from Swarthmore College. He has been selected as a Truman Scholar, Gates Scholar, and Lang Scholar.