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San Francisco Unveils One-Stop Business License and Permit Shop

License 123 pulls San Francisco business licensing and permitting information onto a single website.

As in many cities across the country, entrepreneurs and small business owners in San Francisco must search for multiple forms on various government websites to ensure they comply with permitting and licensing processes.

But the City by the Bay is changing that. To simplify what was previously a complicated process, the city and county of San Francisco – through a new public-private partnership officially announced Thursday, Feb. 14 – launched a new Web tool for accessing the city’s permitting and licensing information.

The cloud-based tool from Santa Monica, Calif.-based DocStoc, called License 123, compiles business permitting and licensing information and forms into a “one-stop shop” website to help business owners stay compliant with the city, said Jane Gong, a project manager for the city’s Office of Small Business. Users can go to the site and select which industry they’re in, then select their business type, and from there can view which business permits and licenses are required in San Francisco, she said.

In the past, Gong added, the city’s Office of Small Business encountered multiple instances when small business owners would ask questions like, “What do I need to start a restaurant,” or “What do I need to start a consulting service?” Often they would visit multiple departments within the city looking for the proper forms, or would search across several websites to find the necessary information on business permits and licenses. 

She said DocStoc not only provides forms pertinent to San Francisco, but also California state  forms as well as federal forms wherever it’s applicable. 

License 123 has changed the business permitting process. “We’ve taken the process that takes business owners and operators up to two weeks and can cost them hundreds if not thousands of dollars to figure out what licenses and permits they need, and we turned it into, literally, a 30-second process,” said DocStoc Founder and CEO Jason Nazar.

Jay Nath, the city’s chief innovation officer, said the partnership is yet another step toward innovation for San Francisco. Currently, he said a large gap exists between the experience individuals have with consumer technologies and technology used to interface with government.

“Citizens have been interacting with technology on the consumer side with really modern technology, 21st-century technology,” he said. “Yet when they’re interacting with government, we’re stuck in the 20th century.”

License 123, however isn’t exclusively used San Francisco. Nazar said users can register to access the site for a nominal fee; however, the online service will be free to San Francisco constituents through the new partnership.

Other government entities have already begun to streamline permitting and licensing information into a single website. Last April, the Kansas Business Center was linked to through a partnership with NIC to help business owner complete paperwork mandated by the state for starting a new business.

Sarah Rich is a former staff writer for Government Technology.