British Columbia Startup-in-Residence Program
I had the opportunity to attend Demo Day for the inaugural cohort of BC STIR companies in Vancouver. If you’re not familiar with STIR it stands for Startup in Residence program originally conceived in San Francisco as a means of transforming government through entrepreneurship. STIR is a 16-week residency program designed to create effective and impactful public-private partnerships.
Resident companies work closely with their government sponsor departments to co-develop a solution that addresses the specific requirements of each department and its mission. The goal is to develop customized tools that fit their unique problems, along with an opportunity for startups to learn how to provide products that can be easily adapted and scaled in a cost-effective and resource-efficient way.
Five BC tech companies formed the first BC STIR cohort: Arkit, Big Bang Analytics, Design + Environment / App-Scoop, Latero Labs, and Purpose Five. Each startup was paired with a government department and was tasked with co-developing a technological solution to a real-world problem encountered by each department.
The demos showed creative solutions that addressed challenges such as finding placement locations for children under the care of the Ministry of Children and Family Development. Latero Labs solution turned a process, that usually takes hours or even days to complete, into a 10 to 15-minute digital process.
Another innovative solution was delivered to the Ministry of Education by Big Bang Analytics, which developed a tool enabling school district staff across the province to have easy and flexible access to a comprehensive aggregate dataset of student educational performance. District administrators can compare their district’s educational performance to the provincial baseline, and identify at-risk students. A range of filters provide the ability to drill down on data points and ultimately result in the development of personalized student programs to ensure each at-risk student has access to programs and information that could enhance their chance of success in the education system.
I was impressed with the immediate real-world benefit of this residency program, and it was encouraging to hear both the public and private partners in the project rave about the opportunity to collaborate. STIR demonstrates that government can act quickly to solve issues when its staff members are empowered to work with innovative and nimble startup companies in the private sector. I look forward to future iterations of this program and the impact it will have on our community.
The Province of British Columbia is the first Canadian government sector organization to utilize the STIR methodology, and I look forward to the day when other regions adopt the principles of this program to solve their real-world challenges with innovative public-private partnerships. Government could use the injection of Startup Thinking, and the startups could use the experience and credibility a government partnership brings.