San Francisco’s Program to Link Startups to Cities Expands

San Francisco, California

San Francisco, California


Connecting state and local government leaders

The program will also help two transportation agencies on opposite sides of the country share ideas and create a technology advisory board.

A program connecting startups with government agencies to develop civic tech solutions announced Wednesday that it is expanding to 31 cities across North America.

The Startup in Residence program, begun under the late San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee, is designed  to help governments with challenges from mapping homeless encampments to connecting businesses with vacant commercial spaces.

In 2018, with the help of a federal grant, the San Francisco mayor’s office transferred management of STIR over to local nonprofit City Innovate to move  the 16-week program into more cities and streamline municipal procurement tied to a problem each identified. The city’s chief innovation officer, Jay Nath, became co-executive director of City Innovate in February.  

Initially expanded to 11 cities, the program will add another 20 next year.

“We wanted to make sure the government partners we were working with were committed and in a good position,” Nath said. “It’s really about co-creation, starting from what are the needs of government and how do we work together in a cohesive, collaborative way to solve those problems.”

The 2019 cohort includes Long Beach, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and San José in California; Boulder, Colorado; Las Vegas; Memphis, Tennessee; Mobile, Alabama; Portland, Oregon; and Syracuse, New York; as well as Canadian cities like Montreal.

Regional organizations, counties and even Pennsylvania will also be included this go-around with another state in talks to participate, Nath said.

Participants are currently identifying which of their challenges currently have executive support, resources they can put toward a solution and money to put toward the problem area.

In late September, early October national and global startups will be invited to apply to be selected to work with the governments on their solutions. The implementation phase will run January through May 2019.

New with the latest batch of cities, STIR is creating a “peer-to-peer knowledge exchange” between San Francisco’s Metropolitan Transportation Commission and Miami-Dade County, Florida, which will hopefully generate transportation policy takeaways for cities, Nath said.

STIR is also introducing a technology advisory board of industry and academic experts for as-needed support concerning civic tech standards and protocols.

“We’re really making sure we’ve got a great bench of thought leaders on the technology side of things,” Nath said.

Nath said he wants to get academic startups more involved in STIR this time after having three previous successes from academia like Symbium out of Stanford Law School. The startup worked with the San Francisco Planning Department to develop an application programming interface, or API, that city planners and developers could query to make sense of about 2,000 pages of planning code.

Symbium’s work could have ramifications for autonomous vehicles if its API is used to understand a jurisdiction’s traffic laws ahead of the technology’s adoption, Nath said.

Demo Day on Wednesday at San Francisco City Hall featured six startups from the spring 2018 cohort, including Symbium, demonstrating their tech products.

In another project, a company called RideAlong built software that informs police officers about people with mental illness at the scene they’re arriving on and offers tailored de-escalation techniques and personalized service referral options.  

Another demonstrator, Nordsense, makes smart waste dispensers that alert the waste management agency or contractor when they’re full to improve collection workflows, reduce garbage truck carbon emissions and curtail city spending.

Governments can apply for the next STIR cohort here.

Dave Nyczepir is a News Editor at Government Executive’s Route Fifty and is based in Washington, D.C.

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