A San Antonio startup has forged a global partnership that will allow these innovators to leverage its award-winning engagement digital tools in communities worldwide.
Arcadis, a leading international design firm focused on infrastructure, sustainable water, buildings, and environmental solutions, announced Monday its partnership with San Antonio-based Irys, a startup focused on improving the quality of life in communities through the use of technology.
The Dutch design company stated they would incorporate Irys’ innovative citizen-driven engagement tools within its own infrastructure, mobility, and building projects to increase community involvement and collaboration and improve decision making in development projects.
“People who live, work, play, in a specific place or city know its needs best. They know what will work and what will not work, and what sort of changes will improve their everyday quality of life, opportunities, and sense of belonging,” stated Stephan Ritter, Chief Innovation Officer at Arcadis.
Irys has pioneered using its modular-based System as a Service (SaaS) digital platforms and engagement tools on any device with an internet connection and web browser. Their SaaS platforms seamlessly collect and manage feedback from residents in communities throughout the lifecycle of development projects, from design and planning to completion.
“Our platform gathers and tracks community feedback on planned development projects, “Irys CEO Beto Altamirano said. “Knowing what residents would like to see in their community as a project unfolds is invaluable for consulting and designing firms. What we provide is a scalable solution for this need.”
Leveraging internet-connected devices and SaaS tools to empower community engagement with better information gathering across complex public sector projects is a mission that propelled co-founders Alberto Altamirano, Alberto Gomez, and Eduardo Bravo to start their company in 2017.
First launched as Cityflag, a government technology startup then focused on helping cities flag and track 311 service requests, the trio received a contract with San Antonio for an app to revamp its 311 system. That app went on to win an award in 2019 as one of the world’s top 50 best innovations for smart cities.
The startup has since rebranded itself as Irys and expanded its mission focus in mid-March, just as the COVID-19 pandemic was triggering lockdowns across the country in 2020.
“We’re moving forward with a strong focus working with private sector entities such as architecture design and development firms,” Altamirano said. “Our platform will help gather valuable public feedback on public development projects. No longer will citizens need to take time off from work to attend public meetings or fill out surveys.
“Our tools make it easier to engage all members of a community for diverse, inclusive input.”
Irys’ connection to the Dutch design firm stems from the startup’s three-month residency in an accelerator program back in 2019.
Arcadis sponsors a Techstars accelerator program based in Amsterdam, The Netherlands, designed to boost startups developing innovative ideas that will shape the future of cities. Irys was chosen as one of 10 companies to participate in the inaugural cohort of the Arcadis City of 2030 accelerator program.
Arcadis has over 25,000 development projects around the world, Altamirano said. Irys will begin by working on development projects run by Arcadis US and Arcadis UK.
“Our partnership will enable us to engage with communities using our tools for outreach, and eventually, we will reach into other parts of the world via Arcadis,” Altamirano said.
Irys received $1.2M in seed funding in July 2020 from early-stage venture capital firm Good Growth Capital with Arcadis and Techstars Ventures’ participation. Investors in the seed round from San Antonio include former U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Secretary Henry Cisneros, Graham Weston, Pat Matthews, Victor Miramontes, and Matthew Starr.
The San Antonio startup currently has 18 employees with plans to hire five to 10 more by the end of 2021. Altamirano said this partnership with Arcadis is “an opportunity to scale our SaaS even faster.”
Irys will launch its community engagement tech services for Arcadis by mid-February. The Irys technology will also be available for other engineering and architecture design companies interested in better ways to solicit and map resident feedback on planned community development projects.
“These [founders] are the ones that will create the future, that will drive the innovations that get us there, and—together with Arcadis and Techstars—that will define the City of 2030,” managing director of the Techstars Arcadis accelerator program David Mendez wrote about the first cohort. “Sustainable development and ensuring future resiliency will require innovation and leveraging technology to solve increasingly critical urban problems.”
The featured image shows the Irys and Arcadis teams, from left: Beto Gomez (Irys COO), Eduardo Bravo (Irys CFO), Trevor Johnson (Arcadis US Senior Resilience Planner), Beto Altamirano (Irys CEO), Carly Foster (Arcadis US Community Resilience Practice Lead), Donna Averion (Arcadis US Proposal Manager) Ertan Akbas (Arcadis Digital Lead for Water Business Line Vice President). Courtesy photo.