Sacramento Urban Technology Lab tests new approach to streamline procurement for startups

City invites small companies and teams to develop better, cheaper solutions to sustainable mobility challenges

Today, the City of Sacramento released a Request for Proposals (RFP) to accelerate the City’s progress toward a frictionless, multimodal future. In doing so, we’re testing a new approach that we hope will break down the barriers to entry for local startups to do business with government agencies.

Our hypothesis is that this experiment will broaden the range of potential solutions considered and empower urban tech startups to submit competitive proposals for the City’s consideration.

Here’s how we’re doing it.

Goodbye, traditional RFP. Hello, user-friendly interface.

Procurement is the process by which large organizations purchase goods and services. Government agencies, in particular, have many rules that govern how they can make these purchases to so that taxpayer value is maximized. As an unintentional consequence, however, these rules create unnecessary barriers to entry for startups and small teams who might possess the capabilities to build better, cheaper solutions compared to large incumbent companies with dedicated sales teams.

To make it easier for startups and small teams to propose solutions to the City, we’re participating in this year’s Startup in Residence (STIR) Program. STIR is a globally recognized program that connects government agencies with startups to develop technology products that address civic challenges through a streamlined procurement process. Specifically, STIR’s online application for startup teams provides a simple, intuitive user interface (powered by Screendoor) that empowers civic innovators to propose their solutions without the need to produce a formal proposal document from scratch.

Open challenges vs. assumed solutions

Another barrier to entry for startups can be overly prescriptive requirements that specify a particular—sometimes rigid—solution. City governments are full of talented, smart people who are experts in their fields. So when it comes to procuring solutions to problems, this expertise is often informed by what’s available in the existing market. And so, expertise may hinder the creation of new solutions that have yet to be invented.

Through the STIR Program, the City has identified five challenges we’re interested in exploring through a demonstration partnership with selected startups:

  1. Pedestrian Volume Data Collection: How might we automate the collection of pedestrian data to inform better decision-making regarding the placement of crosswalks and other pedestrian safety features?
  2. Erratic Driving Reduction Strategies: How might we enforce or incentivize safer driving in the absence of law enforcement and traffic calming facilities?
  3. Multimodal Travel Pattern and Parking Data Aggregation: How might we collect and analyze data to understand travel patterns across different modes of transit and use of public parking spaces?
  4. Behavioral Insights for Shared Transit Modes: How might we apply behavioral science research to reduce traffic congestion and expand the use of shared trips?
  5. Electric Vehicle (EV) Charger Data Aggregation and Analytics: How might we capture EV charging data and disseminate findings in a comprehensive form to residents?

We don’t claim to know exactly what the right solutions are and, as a result, we aim to empower innovators and entrepreneurs to propose creative approaches to these challenges.

“Nail it before you scale it”

Since we don’t expect startups and small teams to have fully featured solutions to these challenges, the STIR Program provides the opportunity for startups to participate in a four-month long, unpaid residency to co-develop their proposed solution in partnership with the City.

All great products and services start with the needs of end users and it can be difficult for startups that do not have a lot of experience working in government to understand and recognize the pain points that staff and residents experience. Throughout the residency period, startups will be able to obtain valuable insights to inform the development of their product or service through an agile process that encourages iterative development and continuous feedback from users. Participating startups are expected to produce a Minimum Viable Product (MVP) by the end of the residency period.

If the MVP demonstrates potential, the City has the option to negotiate a full-scale implementation of the solution with the startup.

Did we mention local preference points?

While the STIR Program is open to participation from startups around the world, we have a deep desire to help local startups based in Sacramento launch and grow their companies here. To that end, all applications from local companies and teams who qualify will receive an additional five points in their application score through the City’s Local Business Enterprise (LBE) Preference Requirements.

Apply Now

For more information about about the STIR Program and how to apply, please visit startupinresidence.org.

For more information about the City of Sacramento’s five challenges, please visit https://startupinresidence.org/challenges/city-of-sacramento/.

To go directly to the application or to ask a question, please visit https://cityinnovate.forms.fm/city-of-sacramento/forms/5523.