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The story of how a SF Bay Area startup embraced government technology and civic innovation
Technology startups in the San Francisco Bay Area, in Silicon Valley, the global hot spot for innovation, do not particularly have it easy.
Each day, we see, hear and read about the many challenges faced by startups: the early stage funding headwinds, the series A chasm, the battle for technology talent, the ridiculous cost of office space, the extraordinary demands for perks and benefits. The list goes on and on.
What we might fail to realize as technology startups is that we live privileged lives. Our collective problems pale in comparison with the real challenges faced by local communities, underserved neighborhoods and demographics, the homeless and the jobless.
The private sector should be part of the broader civic community in tackling some of our biggest challenges. Specifically the technology sector needs to get more involved in thinking about social impact and solving real world problems that affect billions of lives every day.
Social Impact Now
Social impact cannot be an afterthought. It needs to be interwoven into the very fabric of the technology ecosystem. Every technology company should consider dedicating a fraction of their time, energy, and resources to understand how their technology platform could be extended to address the needs of the broader community.
Every startup should contemplate how their intellectual property could be leveraged beyond building protective moats to also enrich the local neighborhoods, towns, districts, cities, counties, by making them safer, healthier and happier places to live.
A Core Tenet
When we founded CITYDATA.ai, we established the core tenets for the company. One of our core tenets was:
For every new problem CITYDATA.ai takes on in the private sector, we are committed to solving a civic challenge in the public sector.
We believed this policy would ensure that as a company, we stayed grounded in reality, always in touch with the real world, solving real problems that make a positive social impact, continuously contributing to and making progress towards a stronger democracy and the greater good of humanity.
Enter STIR 2016
With this policy in place, we set about looking for the most appropriate programs and avenues for setting our policy into action.
And that's how we discovered STIR, the Startup in Residence Program, organized by the Cities of San Francisco, San Leandro, Oakland and West Sacramento. We were truly fortunate that Jeremy Goldberg and Jay Nath believed in our vision and invited CITYDATA.ai to participate in the STIR 2016 program to solve specific problems faced by local government.
Stay tuned for Part Two, where we detail our phenomenal journey with STIR and highlight the many reasons why we strongly recommend STIR to every startup with a civic bent.