- Startup accelerator CivStart launched last week to help companies develop technology that can impact state and local governments, with guidance from mentors in both the private and public sectors.
- The first cohort consists of 10 businesses that will engage in a 24-month product development program. The businesses will connect with state and local government leaders who can provide guidance to ensure the products "don't get made in a vacuum" and will effectively serve communities, especially underserved and vulnerable populations.
- The 10 companies are:
- Civis Analytics, which helps governments use personal-level data to make smarter, faster decisions with real results
- CityGrows, a local government workflow automation platform
- GovInvest, which develops software to analyze and visualize agencies' retirement programs, benefits and union contracts
- Kwema, which makes discreet wearables to connect people in physical danger with immediate help
- Orbital Insight, a geospatial data company leveraging satellite, drone and mobile location data sources
- Circuit, which offers fleets of all-electric vehicles for free, on-demand rides in downtown areas
- Whyline, which develops software to solve business and government queuing bottlenecks
- ProcureNow, a procurement solution to aid governments with making better decisions, simplifying the procurement process
- Citibot, a civic change and communication tool for citizens and governments
- Gruntify, a data-collection product that blends mobile, mapping and cloud technologies
Many accelerator programs exist to help startup businesses gain traction in the competitive tech field. But few focus on products and services specifically for local governments; Startup in Residence and URBAN-X are two other city solutions-focused accelerators. CivStart touts itself as different from other accelerators because it involves public sector leaders from the start to ensure startups are on the right track to meet governmental needs.
CivStart aims to bridge the gap between the civic technology industry and state and local governments, according to CivStart Co-Founder and Chief Growth Officer Anthony Jamison. "These communities of dedicated technologists and public servants have been too isolated from each other when they could be accomplishing incredible things by working together," he said in a statement.
The chosen businesses are at different levels of development, ranging from early stages to already being more established in the market. Some of the startups focus on improving internal government operations and processes while others target citizen-facing services.
Serving government markets can be trickier than creating products and solutions for private companies. Navigating different levels of bureaucracy and understanding governmental needs and limitations when responding to requests for proposals can be difficult for young companies and their employees who don't have significant experience in that area. Securing contracts with government entities also can be difficult. CivStart will reach out to local leaders to facilitate introductions and meetings with cohort companies.
These challenges often are more pronounced for business owners of color. The difficulty for diverse businesses to break into the government space caused the organizers of an 18-month inclusive procurement challenge to publish a guide with best practices earlier this year. In that same vein, CivStart aimed to gather diverse startup founders with unique perspectives, expertise and backgrounds for its cohort.