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STiR Startup Raises $4M to Make Regulations Machine-Readable

The company, Symbium, operates on the concept of "computational law" — that regulations and laws can be translated so that computers can work with them just like any other data. It got its start in planning and zoning.

Symbium, a startup tackling bureaucratic processes in government, has raised a seed investment round of $4 million.

The company got its start participating in the Startup in Residence program last year, which matched it up with the San Francisco Planning Department to help it deliver information to developers and others about where they might be able to locate or build a business. Symbium has since added functionality to help homeowners determine whether creating an accessory dwelling unit — basically a secondary housing unit on their property, a particularly hot topic in housing-crunched California — is feasible. After delivering information, the company also aims to help people navigate the application process.

It’s the kind of simple convenience that local government has long struggled to deliver. City zoning codes can range from a series of hard-to-interpret PDFs hosted on a website to a thick binder at a planning department help desk, and figuring out which parts of a city are zoned for a specific purpose can be time-consuming, expensive work.

The concept Symbium turned to in order to untangle that knot is called "computational law." It is what it sounds like: translating laws and regulations into computer-speak so that machines can work with them like any other data.

“The rise of regulation-enabled Web applications signifies an inflection point in the evolution of the Web, radically transforming the way individuals and organizations and government agencies interact with each other,” said Symbium CEO Leila Banijamali in a statement. “Our Zone Check and ADU Services are but two small steps towards the widespread adoption of Computational Law.”

The fundraising round was led by Hummer Winblad Venture Partners.

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.