From Route Fifty's Coverage at SXSW
A Mayoral 'Shark Tank' Leads to Seed Money for EntrepreneursStart
Seven innovative start-ups got to pitch their civic tech as the next big thing to a panel of mayors and tech experts at SXSW. At stake? $25,000 in start up funding.
The technology judges included Steve Case, best known for co-founding of America Online, along with leaders in civic technology from Code for America, 18F and Amazon Web Services. They were joined in their questioning by a group of mayors that included Denver’s Michael Hancock, West Sacramento’s Christopher Cabaldon, Oklahoma City’s Mick Cornett and Orlando’s Buddy Dyer.
Out of more than 50 applicants, check out the seven finalists that the panels weighed in on...
1st Place Winner: RideAlong
Meredith Hancock, the co-founder and COO of RideAlong, has been working with the Seattle Police Department to facilitate safer interactions between police and the community. The app provides to provide” first responders with the information they need to make the right decisions when interacting with citizens with mental health issues.
The founders recognized that interactions between first responders and those with mental health issues and the criminal justice system are a tremendous issue across the country. Hancock pointed out it’s one that’s costing $27.8 billion annually, as well as creating deadly results: 25 percent of those killed during police interactions had known mental health issues.
Their software integrates into the 911 center, and provides officers with key information about people with mental illness at the scene—and then adds support for the responding official, ranging from tailored de-escalation techniques to personalized service referral options.
RideAlong has been piloting their technology with the Seattle Police Department, and are launching patrol-wide next month. They are hoping to conduct 4 additional pilots across the country, and expect to be in 28-plus jurisdictions by 2021.
Find out more at http://www.getridealong.com/
2nd Place: Roadbotics
Roadbotics is a tech company that thinks it can help with an issue that challenges every mayor—potholes. Roadbotics is as simple as putting a smartphone or other device up in the front windshield of a vehicle. It can provide continuous monitoring of the road’s surface in front of a vehicle, and provide geolocation reports of potholes, cracks, vegetation, and other disruptions in the road’s surface. The application can also be used for other time-consuming transportation and infrastructure issues, like inventorying signs throughout a city.
Roadbotics is well on their way through proof of concept. It has been tested in Pittsburgh, and currently undergoing product tests in Contra Costa County, California, and the Port Authority of Allegheny County, Pennsylvania. With a pending pilot with the US Postal Service—the largest civilian vehicle fleet in the world—and outreach ongoing to cities across the country, Roadbotics may be in your hometown soon.
Find out more at www.roadbotics.com
3rd Place: Smarter Sorting
Smarter sorting is an Austin startup that wants to help cities better sort hazardous household waste, providing an easy way to divert dangerous chemicals from incineration and boosting reuse of products. Using a scanner and intelligent software, founders Chris Ripley and Charlie Vallely believe they can save municipalities $1.4 billion in costs through using their system and divert 300,000 tons of hazardous waste to reuse by non-profits and other organizations.
This is a solution that should not only save money, but help the environment by diverting hazardous chemicals from incineration. While many cities already have these diversion programs, with thousands of dangerous household products, it’s hard for humans to remember them all.
Find out more at www.smartersorting.com.
Citygrows is a workflow and transparency platform that helps local government employees develop chains of operation and share them not just internally, but with stakeholders and constituents. CityGrows hopes to make government interactions “as easy as tracking a package online or ordering a pizza,” with people internally and externally able to track progress at every step. Their open source platform allows individuals across the government and constituents to track requests throughout the process.
Citygrows is already collaborating with the cities of Santa Monica and Los Angeles. At no upfront cost (they are planning to make money off of transactions for services), they believe they are priced right for any government.
Find out more at https://citygro.ws/
Finalist: Libraries Without Borders
This Washington, D.C.-based startup is looking to build "IdeaSeed4Laurdromats," a chance to turn the local laundromat into a library access point. They say that providing access to wifi in spaces where people gather and spend time isn’t enough—they want to turn places people linger into learning opportunities. Executive Director Allister Chang described it as similar to what librarians have been doing for years: “Working with community members to curate the right content.”
By putting a digital platform called an Ideasbox in these areas where people gather, educational
information and peer-to-peer learning and content that works between wash/dry cycles. At a planned $200 per kit, it’s an affordable platform for cities to distribute.
Check out the demo at http://demo.ideascube.org/en/
CityFlag’s team is looking to make 3-1-1 interactive. Their application is a social platform for 3-1-1 services that works as an “Urban feed,” where people can capture problems, comment, vote, and share on social media. Government can talk back, as well, and interact with citizens. “You can also highlight good things that government does ... which is important, as well,” explained CEO and co-founder Alberto Altamirano.
There is a gamification aspect, as well, which provides badges of recognition going from “volunteer” to “community representative,” and even potentially prizes in the way of coupons or civic recognition.
CityFlag plans to start with civic groups and build adoption of the application. Some panelists had questions about equity in response, and some had concerns about the gamification aspect.
Chris Cabaldon, mayor of West Sacramento, California, remarked, “With gamification, do you worry about people competing with each other to find as many potholes, broken fences, etc., as possible ... you’re inviting my worst nightmare.”
The app has had success, though. The founders won a MacArthur Foundation Grant for their work, and has begun product implementation with San Antonio and Mexico City.
More about CityFlag at www.cityflag.co
- Start Over
JustFix.nyc is a non-profit looking to build out its New York City-centric tenant support app across the country. Filing complaints with the city and landlords is a complex business. According to co-founder and executive director Dan Kass, 90 percent of residents do so without legal representation, compared with 90 percent of landlords that do have lawyers.
In New York City, they saw a real need to support residents through the system. “Our non-profit organization provides tenants with the tools to fight for themselves,” explained Kass, through helping them gather evidence, finding the right city agencies, template complaint letters, and more, right from their phone or computer. Users can print out their case and use it as evidence. JustFix.nyc is integrated with 3-1-1 in New York City, and will link tenants with advocacy groups and others that can provide support.
For more on JustFix.nyc and its plans to build out nationwide, visit www.justfix.nyc.