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Mayor Liccardo Announces Innovation Competition to Address Pressing City Challenges

The third year of the Mayor’s “Unleash Your Geek” contest will call on startups to innovate technology solutions for civic challenges

Post Date:12/11/2019 11:30 AM

San José, CA – Mayor Sam Liccardo today announced the launch of “Unleash Your Geek 2020” – an annual challenge that enables City Hall to collaborate with outside innovators to address some of San José’s most critical civic problems. This year, Mayor Liccardo will provide $100,000 in seed funding to accelerate the development of effective, sustainable, and community-focused solutions.

 “‘Unleash Your Geek’ embraces the role of cities as laboratories to test and demonstrate technologies with civic impact, and to enable those innovations to scale,” said Mayor Liccardo. “I look forward to seeing the creative applications that will emerge from participating entrepreneurs—such as deploying drones for search and rescue operations or AI for real-time interpretation services for Spanish-speaking residents—that will advance public safety, equitable housing, and climate action in San José.”

With the support of City Innovate’s Startup in Residence (STIR) program, City of San José departments will partner with startup companies to create technology that will provide solutions to urgent civic challenges. These challenges include: 

  • Drones for Firefighters to enhance emergency response, Fire Department

  • Automated scanning of rental listing websites to reduce discrimination against Housing Voucher Tenants, Housing Department

  • Real-time interpretation tools to make community meetings more inclusive for Limited and non-English Speaking Residents, Office of Immigrant Affairs

  • Improved, automated Vietnamese and Spanish language translation for the city’s digital interfaces, beginning with the recycling website, Environmental Services Department

  • Real-time translation for emergency responders to communicate with Limited and non-English Speaking Residents during crises, Office of Emergency Management

“In my experience, it is always better to drive change than be driven by change,” said Dave Sykes, City Manager of the City of San José. “These types of pilots provide the City with the opportunity to quickly understand how we might adopt technology and leverage partnerships to drive innovative service delivery for our residents.” 

Over a period of four to six months, the participating startups will work in-tandem with City staff to design, prototype, and deploy their products in San José. Unleash Your Geek 2020 will culminate in a “Demo Day” in summer 2020, where residents will have the opportunity to view the prototypes and see how they will benefit their community. 

“‘Unleash Your Geek 2020’ is an opportunity for the Office of Immigrant Affairs to partner with startups to build a better real-time communications tool for our Limited and non-English Speaking Residents,” said Zulma Maciel, Assistant to the City Manager and Director of the Office of Immigrant Affairs. “As San José works to become the most the most welcoming and inclusive city in the US, we want to ensure that every resident, regardless of the language they speak, feels like they can participate in public meetings in a way that is effective and friendly.”

Mayor Liccardo first launched the Unleash Your Geek initiative in May 2016 with the belief that harnessing the intellectual power of the community would create innovative ways for the City of San José to better serve its residents. 

“Unleash Your Geek is part of our larger effort to cultivate a vibrant startup ecosystem in San Jose,” said Shireen Santosham, Chief Innovation Officer to Mayor Sam Liccardo. “We’re working to make it as simple as possible for startups to partner with City Hall and scale their products locally.”

The City of San José encourages local startups to participate in the Unleash Your Geek 2020 program by applying at Companies can choose one of the five civic challenges, and if selected, work closely with City staff to create a prototype solution. Through the program’s collaborative framework and streamlined procurement process, startups have the opportunity to gain a deep understanding of the civic challenges identified and form a permanent contract with the City.

Watch the San José Unleash Your Geek 2020 video announcement here.

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About the City of San José: 

With more than one million residents, San José is one of the most diverse large cities in the United States and is Northern California’s largest city and the 10th largest city in the nation. San José’s transformation into a global innovation center has resulted in one of the largest concentrations of technology companies and expertise in the world. In 2011, the City adopted Envision San José 2040, a long-term growth plan that sets forth a vision and a comprehensive road map to guide the City’s anticipated growth through the year 2040.

About STIR

Startup in Residence (STIR) connects startups with government agencies to develop technology products that solve real civic challenges through a 16-week program. Run by City Innovate, STIR is now in 31 cities across the US and has worked with nearly 50 companies. See all the 2018 STIR team partnerships here. To learn more about Startup in Residence visit their website.

Media Contact
Rachel Davis, Office of Mayor Sam Liccardo, 408.535.4857 or

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