Start-ups reveal 43 tech solutions for government

6th June 2019 Jonathan Andrews

A new digital map that shows development in a more open and transparent way for residents, and an automated process for permit applications, are two of the 43 solutions to come out of the fifth Start-up in Residence cohort.

Jay Nath, Executive Director of City Innovate, which runs the programme, said 700 start-ups applied from across the world for the opportunity to work with 22 governments over the 16-week residency. These 700 were carefully whittled down to 39 that helped develop the 43 new products.

Nineteen of these solutions focused on mobility–the first time the topic had been included–while others worked on problems including property development, public safety, and housing services.

“The challenges we are facing in our communities are often too complex and too great for government alone to tackle,” said Nath in a press call. “We need to work across sectors to solve those challenges.”

He added that the key was to identify the needs of government and the community, not to start with the solution in hand.

“We know that government is hard to work with, especially procurement,” said Nath, who was also the former chief innovation officer of San Francisco. “Start-up in Residence really streamlines that procurement process, using challenge-based procurement and it is really focused on what the outcomes are that each of us want.”

Long Beach

The city has seen a boom in development and wanted to be more transparent about this to residents. An interactive development map was built with the start-up Tolemi.

“It will provide a window into what the current development landscape looks like,” explained Ryan Kurtzman, Management Assistant, City Manager’s Office, City of Long Beach.

Once the map is launched, in early June, it will highlight the 75 major developments in the city through a user friendly map. But Kurtzman is keen to expand this and show not just major developments but also minor ones that include additions or renovations and building permits.

“We will continue to work with Tolemi to monitor, evaluate and add new features to allow residents to provide feedback and input back to us,” said Kurtzman.

He added that with traditional procurement, cities often tend to look at certain start-ups and sometimes prioritise those that can provide a service at the lowest price.

“This was a way to look outside traditional solutions we mightn’t usually use to create a map to get a really wider menu of options to partner with,” he said.


Jake Dishaw, Director of the Central Permit Office in Syracuse, had a number of challenges related to the city’s permit management system. He narrowed the focus down to the 2,000 permits the city issues for licensed HVAC and electric contractors.

“On average they would take upwards of 15 to 30 minutes to process because the only way to obtain those was coming into City Hall in person to file and pay for them,” he said.

Working with the start-up Camino, they developed a permit management platform that allows collaboration and visibility between applicants and city employees. Dishaw said the new system would save “hundreds of hours” not only for internal staff but also for applicants and contractors who no longer have to visit City Hall.

Syracuse is now looking to expand the work with Camino and move this to a full system.

The sixth cohort

Governments from the US and Canada that want to participate for the next cohort need to apply by 30 June, although a limited number of new governments will be accepted.

“The start-up community is creating so many transformative and game-changing solutions,” added Nath. “[The aim for us is] to bring that ingenuity and creativity to solving problems in our communities and in government.”

Other highlighted solutions include:

  • The City of Boulder, Colorado collaborated with Neighborly Software to develop a digital portal for the city’s affordable home-ownership programme. The city also worked with Tolemi to develop an integration and analytics platform for city employees to report on housing data.
  • The City of Mobile, Alabama worked with Qwally to develop a tool that will allow potential city vendors to apply for Disadvantaged Business Enterprise certifications and more effectively participate in government bid opportunities.

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