Jay Nath is Chief Innovation Officer for the City and County of San Francisco.
In 2012, Code for America launched the first-ever Civic Startup Accelerator, focusing on companies and products that served a broader public purpose. Since then, incubators and accelerators have come online to add to the growing ecosystem of civic startups emerging in the City of San Francisco and nationally. It is in this context, that the City of San Francisco is proud to announce our first Entrepreneurship-in-Residence (EIR) program to help entrepreneurs work directly with government, the largest consumer of products and services in the nation.
This program nests somewhere between an incubator and accelerator, but doesn’t fit neatly into these models. The SF EIR program is about bringing early to mid-stage entrepreneurs into government to work side-by-side officials and city staff dealing with pain points that could give those entrepreneurs insight into how to better market and develop products that serve the public sector. Ultimately, this is about giving world-class entrepreneurs a formal pathway to sitting down with a potential customer to establish better product-market fit.
We are not asking entrepreneurs to build product that they’ll leave behind for the City to maintain or to come in and build something from scratch as part of a “challenge.” Instead, we are asking applicants to apply with ideas and, if possible, actual products that we can match to interested and invested agencies and departments. Over the course of four months, entrepreneurs will have access to certain city staff and mentors from both the public and private sector such as McKinsey, Nokia, NBC Universal, General Electric, Yahoo, Goldman Sachs to help them make the best use of that time to develop and improve products that address public sector opportunities.
This is as much to help entrepreneurs as it is to expand understanding inside City Hall of the value of working with impact-driven entrepreneurs and startups. With an annual budget of over $8 billion, more than 28,000 employees, and more than 50 agencies and departments, it takes time to think differently about how to acquire and sustain lasting tech-enabled products and services for government. We expect great things from the three to five innovative teams that we’ll select through the competitive application process and are excited to learn and co-create solutions with lasting impact, not just in San Francisco, but across the broad public sector market.
Several years ago, Code for America set off on a venture to bring not just new technology to cities across the country, but new thinking and a shift in culture around addressing our greatest civic challenges. The SF EIR program is a testament to the advocacy of Code for America and we hope our program expands and grows across governments in cities and states all over the nation. It is our intent that the San Francisco entrepreneurship-in-residence answers the call from President Obama that “We’ve got to have the brightest minds to help solve our biggest challenges.”
Questions? Comments? Hit us up @codeforamerica.