The STIR program first emerged out of San Francisco at a time when tech startups like Uber were beginning to change the way that people think about their ability to move, build, and even eat. And while the rise of the tech scene in Silicon Valley has certainly changed our ways of life, it has, at times, neglected to address, and some argue it has even exacerbated, underlying societal issues like income inequality and homelessness, which are further complicated by broken or antiquated public services.
Through STIR, teams of tech entrepreneurs apply their knowledge to critical problems facing communities by collaborating with the government bodies dealing with those key issues.
One of the primary challenges facing the potential for collaboration between the government and the private sector is procurement. Slow-moving bureaucracies that are often tied to long-term budgeting processes mean that corporate contractors could face a waiting period months or even years for the processing of requests for proposals (RFPs). Even when those RFPs are processed, rigidly defined solutions and contract requirements hinder flexibility and iteration.
STIR has both simplified and added flexibility to that process so that startups can score contracts, and government agencies and STIR participants can better identify issues and malleable solutions to problems. And local governments have taken note.
Of course, that doesn’t mean that any team with a marginally novel idea is accepted to the program. Jay Nath, the co-executive director of San Francisco-based City Innovate and former chief innovation officer under Mayor Ed Lee, told Crunchbase News that nearly 700 startups from around the world competed in the process, and 40 were selected through the formal RFP process to work with 22 governments. The most recent cohort is partnering with local government bodies ranging from Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) to the city of Norfolk in Virginia, and Edmonton, Canada.
STIR program veteran GovRock worked with the City of West Sacramento last year on an engagement tool for volunteer opportunities and events. This year, the team will be working with the City of San Francisco’s Department of Emergency Management on a resource management platform for disaster supplies.
“Programs like STIR are catalysts for startups to gain early customers and traction in the burgeoning GovTech space,” Sarah Daniels, the co-founder of GovRock, told Crunchbase News in an email. “Through STIR, our team has the unique access to local governments that are eager to build new products.”
But the program isn’t just for govtech-focused startups. James Kwong, the head of product at Australia-based Unleash Live, told Crunchbase News that the STIR program provides startups with unique opportunities that can further both their own missions as well as those of government bodies.
“For us, working with government bodies means that there’s greater access to the data sets, but also [that] you can have an impact on a much broader scale,” Kwong expressed.
For its part, Unleash Live will use its A.I. analytics platform in collaboration with the City of Sacramento Public Works Department to streamline crosswalk planning, which is currently a labor-intensive, manual process.
“We’re looking to set up and tap into the existing network of cameras pointing at key intersections and crosswalks across the city,” he explained. “Through our platform were able to do people counts, movement counts, and traffic flow of individuals to asses which prioritized intersections might require attention.”
For tech enthusiasts interested in the intersection of government and tech, the STIR program is a shining example of the benefits that can be attained for both startups and public sector agencies through partnerships. If governments commit to lessening the barriers to startup participation, and startups show interest in collaboration with public servants, fewer communities may be left behind in the process of technological advancement.
Tolemi is helping the City of Boulder build a data integration and analytics platform for City employees to report on housing data. Tolemi is also helping the City of Long Beach to develop an online interactive mapping tool which informs stakeholders of the major development project in process throughout the City.