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After 12 Years, Gov Tech Startup CityLife Shuts Down

The company's founder, Lisa Abeyta, pointed to the COVID-19 pandemic — which hit just as it was about to be acquired — as the main reason for CityLife's end. It kept its customers' apps running for a year afterward.

Albuquerque, New Mexico
Albuquerque, N.M.
CityLife, a startup that offered an app development platform to government, has shut down.

Lisa Abeyta, who founded the company as APPCityLife in Albuquerque, N.M., in 2009, said the pandemic is to blame. The company was in the process of being acquired when COVID-19 threw everything off the rails last year.

“We had completed due diligence and gained the final approvals needed during the first week in March of 2020,” Abeyta wrote in an email to Government Technology. “After COVID hit, it became clear that the acquisition wasn't going to happen because of significant changes having to be addressed by our acquirer. Without that opportunity, there was no way for us to continue operations.”

CityLife kept running for another year in order to let its customers continue running their apps during the pandemic, then officially ended operations in April.

Abeyta started the company early on in the modern revolution of gov tech, where a flourishing ecosystem of startups has sprung up to tackle everything from permitting and licensing to foster care to wastewater epidemiology. It offered a platform to help government create mobile apps — with an emphasis on empowering nontechnical users — and participated in a variety of competitions and activities such as Startup in Residence and NYC BigApps.

CityLife was also featured on the GovTech 100 list for all five years it has been published so far.

While some areas of gov tech found increased demand during the pandemic from government agencies desperate to move services online, that was not the case in all sectors. Capital-intensive, in-person activities such as transportation and construction suffered, at least temporarily, and many IT projects were put on hold amid an uncertain budgetary future. Many small businesses across the country closed in the last year; one study by the Federal Reserve found that about 200,000 more businesses permanently closed during the pandemic than usual.

Abeyta has joined the nonprofit Voices in Action, which offers reporting tools and other services to survivors of sexual assault and misconduct, as vice president of technology and innovation. In a blog post, she wrote that she’s looking for her next role.

“And so now I am yet again on the precipice of more change, but this change is good,” she wrote. “This has been the opportunity to redefine myself, to really take inventory to decide what makes me happy and where I thrive.”
Ben Miller is the associate editor of data and business for Government Technology. His reporting experience includes breaking news, business, community features and technical subjects. He holds a Bachelor’s degree in journalism from the Reynolds School of Journalism at the University of Nevada, Reno, and lives in Sacramento, Calif.