Grok Interactive Software Developer Jacob Ernst works at his desk. Photo by Scott Ball.
Registration for the third CivTechSA residency program runs until March 13th. Credit: Scott Ball / San Antonio Report

For the third year, the City of San Antonio and Geekdom are calling on the tech community to help solve a set of challenges that residents, businesses, visitors, and City departments encounter every day.

CivTechSA, a partnership program between the City’s Office of Innovation and Geekdom, opened applications for its 2020 residency program on Monday and introduced this year’s five challenges.

The City and Geekdom are seeking three startups to help tackle these challenges, which range from detecting distracted drivers to creating a mobile one-stop shop for residents to access City services.

Registration for the four-month residency program is open until March 13. Interested companies can learn about the program here.

This year’s challenges are problems City staff believes can be solved by the tech sector, said Brian Dillard, Chief Innovation Officer for the City.

Selected startups will work closely with the City, Geekdom, and CivTechSA over the course of the residency, which will conclude with “Demo Day,” giving the residents a chance to showcase their solutions. The City departments will then have the option to purchase the solutions.

Last year’s CivTechSA residency program saw success with Outreach Grid, which took on a Department of Human Services-issued challenge, and with Rise Civic Consulting, which worked with the Department of Neighborhood and Housing Services, said Janice Riley, programs director at Geekdom and CivTechSA staff member.

Irvine, California-based company Outreach Grid developed an app to help agencies coordinate efforts in aiding the city’s homeless, while local firm Rise Civic Consulting created a website to better search for affordable multifamily housing.

A question-and-answer session about the program will be held Feb. 11 at 6 p.m. at the Geekdom Event Centre, 131 Soledad St. Interested parties can register to attend the session here.

Outreach Grid is now working with other cities and municipalities to customize the product to their needs, said Tiffany Pang, co-founder and CEO of Outreach Grid. The business has similar products in seven states.

The civic challenges also include the following:

  • Developing a tool that calculates the carbon footprint of renovation projects and suggests ways to make existing or older homes more energy-efficient
  • Creating a tool to automate the collection of waste ticket data
  • Create a contamination detection tool that will identify and capture dumped content from garbage and recycling containers

The startups can be headquartered anywhere but must be present for several local presentations, Riley said. Startups also must be officially established businesses, not student groups or unorganized entrepreneurs, Riley added.

Startups will not be paid during the residency. City departments will have the chance to purchase a solution on Demo Day, which takes place in September. City departments can spend up to $50,000 on a contract before they are required to follow the traditional, competitive solicitation process.

“It is a full, 16-week commitment to develop something useful that focuses on a need,” Riley said. “The startups will be working with the City, Geekdom, and CivTechSA to build out [a project] to its full potential.”

The committee that will select the three startups, made up of both City staff members and non-staff members, is anticipating the highest number of applications ever for the program this year, said Eddie Johnson III, innovation specialist for the City.

“Feasibility is something that would really make a candidate stand out,” Johnson said. “It’s only a 16-week residency, so we are looking for sustainable solutions that can be scaled out.”

The selected three startups will be announced in April and begin their residency in May.

Lindsey Carnett covers the environment, science and utilities for the San Antonio Report. A native San Antonian, she graduated from Texas A&M University in 2016 with a degree in telecommunication media...