Name a sector in the startup world, and DC’s all over it. We have people dabbling in drones, the foodie scene, non-profits, medicine, politics, and more. Still though, it’s with absolute certainty that I can say that startup life is tough. Finding the space, guts, and capital to find your footing in the business world is no small task, and the entrepreneurs, dreamers, and fearless go-getters need all the help they can get. Luckily, as a leading US city, DC is also innovative in how it helps give promising ideas the boost they need. I’m talking specifically about one of the city’s latest programs: STiR, the Startup in Residence program.
The STiR program was born where a lot of great ideas come to life: on the West Coast (San Francisco, if we’re being particular). DC, in true innovator fashion, will be the leading hub of the East Coast’s version of the project. The program is meant to help drive relationships between government agencies and startups in order to develop tech-based solutions to challenges that cities across the United States find themselves facing. In a press release, San Francisco mayor, Edwin Lee, spoke to the program’s great potential:
“The Startup in Residence program is a model for civic innovation and regional collaboration. We have seen the program flourish in the Bay Area and we know that we can replicate that success across the nation. We are excited to give entrepreneurs in Washington, D.C., and other cities on the East Coast more opportunities to partner with local governments. Together, we will find unique new solutions to help our residents.”
The opportunity for startups is thrilling to say the least, and the potential for improvements within the city is even greater. On the West Coast, some successes have included worthy ideas for streamlining the foster-care application processes, a mobile solution for early education, and tools to help take note of damage after earthquake catastrophes.
Muriel Bowser, the District’s own mayor, is equally as excited as the West Coast in terms of the possibilities for progress. As quoted on State Scoop, Bowser said:
“As we continue to make Washington, DC the capital of inclusive innovation, we are thrilled to bring this innovative effort to DC and lead efforts on the East Coast. This initiative supports my administration’s vision to find innovative ways to improve services and tackle our biggest challenges through technology.”
The program works to benefit both cities and startups. Each STiR program will take place over the course of 16 weeks, where the focus is allowing entrepreneurs and knowledgable parties to hone in on worthy problems and develop potential solutions. After the 16 weeks are up, the city is free to use the technology from the startup to apply to the pre-determined issue, and the startup is free to take the ideas developed and offer the newfound services to other cities in need.
DC’s chief technology officer, Archana Vemulapalli, will manage the program as it comes to life on the East Coast. Speaking about her talks and pointers from San Francisco’s Chief Innovation Officer, Jay Nath, Vemulapalli is optimistic:
“I am a big fan of taking something that works and expanding it as opposed to just building it from scratch. As Jay and I got talking about it , I said that we want to do this but we don’t want to go in and reinvent the wheel. You’ve done it. You have the battle scars. You know what works and what doesn’t work, so I asked how we could formalize that partnership and be the lead on the East Coast to champion this.”
What ideas will this program formulate to improve the inner workings of the city we know and love? Time will tell, but my bet is on the fact that they will be good ones…