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STiR Talks 2019 Successes, Next Round of Gov Tech Partnerships

The program, which has consistently created public-private partnerships to develop tech-oriented solutions to government hurdles, announced some of its latest partnership results this week.

In a June 6 announcement, City Innovate shared a bevy of new solutions created during the fifth Startup in Residence (STiR) cohort.  

Ever since its launch as a pilot out of the San Francisco Mayor's office in 2014, STiR has been an annual opportunity to foster better collaboration between the public sector and entrepreneurs — consistently crafting tech and IT-oriented solutions to government challenges.  

As part of this round of STiR's mashups, a total of 43 projects were undertaken by 39 startups within 22 different government agencies. The issues the collaborations tackled ranged from affordable housing and public safety to property development.  

“The Startup in Residence program is a model for civic innovation and national collaboration,” said Jay Nath, former chief innovation officer for San Francisco and co-executive director for City Innovate, in a press release. “This program is a unique opportunity for government agencies and startups to think creatively about how we can all work together to modernize government to benefit residents.” 

One of the more innovative projects from this year’s cohort was a collaboration between the city of Boulder, Colo., and startup Neighborly Software to create an intuitive digital portal for the city’s affordable home ownership program. 

Christian Koltonski, data and analytics project manager for the city’s Housing and Human Services Department, said that taking the process digital had unencumbered it in a big way.  

“In the past, we used to collect home ownership applications for affordable homes through pen and paper and that was a really burdensome process,” Koltonski said. “It was not timely, it was difficult to read people’s handwriting, there were a lot of miscommunication between the applicant and the staff member — which caused a lot of delays in approving people for affordable homes.” 

The new digital portal has successfully reduced staff time spent on applications, reduced errors and missing information, and has also increased process efficiency through heightened data and analytics, Koltonski added.   

Another success story involved the city of Syracuse, which used STiR to partner with California-based startup Camino to create a digitized permit management platform that has largely streamlined the once cumbersome process for city residents, staff and contractors. The program focused mostly on HVAC and electrical permits.   

“Since the only way to do that has been to come into city hall in person to file and pay for those, we’re now going to save hundreds of hours — not only of internal staff time, but also for our applicants and our contractors who no longer will have to visit city hall to get these permits,” said Jake Dishaw, director of the city's Central Permit Office. 

“The STiR program has provided countless benefits for the city of Syracuse,” said Adria Finch, director of innovation for Syracuse, in a press release. “Not only have we identified companies to help us solve City challenges, but we have also adopted new techniques to improve our procurement, advance innovation and technology budgeting practices, and identify new employees to drive change throughout the organization,” she added.  

Other projects to among the many developed this year included an easy-to-use platform in Mobile, Ala., that allows potential city vendors to participate in government bid opportunities, as well as an online interactive mapping tool for the city of Long Beach, Calif., that gives stakeholders a view of the major development project in process throughout the city.   

City Innovate is currently inviting governments to join the sixth STiR program cohort. The deadline to apply is June 30, 2019.  

Lucas Ropek is a former staff writer for Government Technology.