Geekdom Incubator Program Holds Demo Day for Civic Tech Startups

By Iris Gonzalez
Geekdom staff meet with incubator founders, courtesy image

Aspiring entrepreneurs pitched their startup concept at the virtual Geekdom incubator Demo Day Tuesday night.

Geekdom’s 12-month-long incubator program is designed to help early-stage entrepreneurs launch civically-focused tech startups. The downtown co-working startup community officially launched its two-year pilot in March 2020 to support a total of six teams working on technologies that have a social impact.

Read: Geekdom Launches Incubator Program for Startups Focused on Social Impact

Year 1’s graduating cohort from March 2020 are:

  • Polis, a Bluetooth network-based navigation solution for the San Antonio River Walk,
  • solovaGo, an app that uses crime data to help users evaluate the safety of neighborhoods, and,
  • Pawtify, an application that makes finding a San Antonio Animal Care Service (ACS) pet to adopt much easier.

The incubator is run in partnership with San Antonio’s Office of Innovation and Information Technology Services Department. The San Antonio City Council awarded a $250,000 grant for the pilot two-year incubator program in November 2019.

The three startup teams for both Year 1 and 2 will receive $10,000 and have access to up to $40,000 in funds from a $250,000 Economic Development Incentive Fund grant from the city. Companies participating in this incubator must remain based in San Antonio for at least two years after completing the program.

Geekdom designed the part-time 12-month incubator program for entrepreneurs working at their day jobs or students still attending college. The program includes over 100 hours of professional and business development workshops and a strong mentor network and collaborative partnerships with city departments, said Charles Woodin, Geekdom CEO.

The Year 2 cohort has been refining their businesses since January 2021 and end their participation in the incubator program in December. They include:

  • ADUs Built by You, a digital platform for homeowners to build building-code-compliant Accessory Dwelling Units on their property for a more affordable housing alternative,
  • LocalSA, a software platform that helps local businesses source local suppliers, and,
  • Work In Industry Now (WIIN), an application matching students entering the workforce with employers.

Polis team members Matt Munroe and Colby Doyal met while attending Trinity University, adding Boston College graduate Andre Gomes to the founding team. Their Bluetooth network-based navigation solution helps people looking for businesses on the River Walk.

Not only does it help visitors and residents find their way along the River Walk, the app directs users to hard-to-find businesses on the sub-street level on the river, where Wi-Fi connectivity to conventional navigation apps can be sketchy. Typical navigation apps like Google Maps don’t use Bluetooth beacons, while Waze uses beacons in tunnels for drivers but not for walkers.

“The River Walk becomes instantly accessible for Polis users,” Munson said. “The app provides an engagement platform so users can discover businesses and find events and get directions. The beacon pushes out the notifications, and that can help drive city engagement.”

Pawtify’s founders Emma DeJong and Laura Prochaska met as students in Codeup’s 2018 coding boot camp. They found the Geekdom mentor network helpful as they developed their CRM or customer relationship management platform that can streamline the matching of pet adopters to the most suitable animals.

“We wanted to use our newfound coding skills in a meaningful way,” DeJong said. “I looked at Laura and said, ‘we could do this,’ so  we’re excited at the opportunity to increase adoptions for the city.”

Wayne Siddall, Jennifer Walker, and Emily Rodriguez also met at Codeup while learning to code. The solovaGo mobile safety app idea (solivaga is the Latin word for someone traveling alone) stemmed from their time spent working on their Codeup Capstone project. Users can add real-time feedback to the platform that displays safety data on an interactive map, much like the crowd-sourced Waze navigation app. Clicking the app’s “safe” button alerts contacts upon the user’s arrival.

“We wanted to leverage the use of real-time data to give you the confidence to navigate your neighborhood,” Rodriguez said. “The two of us met with Craig [Hopkins, City of San Antonio chief information officer], and we connected with Geekdom and this incubator program.”

Woodin plans to formally meet with the city in the second quarter to discuss the program’s future.

“Our goal is to follow the companies and support them as they negotiate contracts with the city. We are also streamlining the program and incorporating lessons learned from the first year,” Woodin said. “These teams were much earlier stage than the typical startups in a program, and all three did well, especially considering the impact the past year of the pandemic has had on everyone.” 

The featured image is of Geekdom staff and mentors meeting with incubator founders in a Zoom video call, courtesy image.

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