DURHAM – For the past 12 weeks, the six startups in this year’s Innovate Durham cohort have been busy testing their products and services with city and county departments. And on Tuesday evening at the Hayti Heritage Center in Durham, they’ll get to present their use cases to a live audience.
The startups are tackling everything from sustainability to crisis response to improving workflow.
Innovate Durham, which is now in its third year, gives entrepreneurs access to city and county facilities and resources so that they can test their products and services for use among Durham’s civic departments. Participants were able to get feedback and assistance from staff and experts.
Durham County Strategic Initiatives Analyst Eric Marsh, who helps lead the program, says the Innovate Durham team believes that this year’s cohort is the best yet.
“Each company brings something unique to the table,” Marsh says. “What remained true for each of them was their commitment to the shared vision of each of their pilots and their drive to do whatever it took to make it happen—be it relationship building, buying sensors or hiring an additional back-end developer to meet a deadline.”
Innovate Durham received 28 applications from companies who wanted to join this year’s cohort. City and county staff ultimately chose six companies from the mix.
Here’s a brief look at the cohort, along with the departments they were assigned to work with on testing their products:
- AC AnalytiX, an air conditioning/refrigeration warning and monitoring system. Assigned department: County General Services.
- B.combs, a platform that aggregates activities and events, automates processes and provides metrics for teachers and administrators. Assigned department: Durham Public Schools.
- Don’t Waste Durham, a startup that’s building technology, infrastructure and logistics for reusable food and beverage packaging. Assigned department: City Solid Waste.
- NeedsList, a crisis response registry that allows communities to find supplies, volunteers and funding resources in an emergency. Assigned department: City/County Emergency Management.
- ProcessMaker, a startup with automated workflow software. Assigned department: County Information Services & Technology.
- Reaszon, a skill assessment that provides an unbiased measure of a person’s critical reasoning abilities. Assigned department: City Human Resources.
While the program is designed to provide a testing ground for startups to develop use cases for their products, it also serves as a way for entrepreneurs to develop relationships with departmental staff and officials that could continue after they complete the program.
Both parties share a desire to infuse new technologies into Durham’s processes and services. Marsh says this allows Innovate Durham to “tap into the DNA of our community and do so confident of the outcomes that may emerge.”
“Each year we go into the cohort selection phase not knowing what we will find, what startups will apply or what city/county departments will open themselves to the experience,” Marsh added. “But, at the same time, deep down we know exactly what we will find—intellectual prowess, unquenchable desires for a better way to do out work and people who have a heart for Durham.”