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Monday, October 19, 2009

CitySourced: Changing the World, One Pothole at a Time

Posted By on Mon, Oct 19, 2009 at 6:16 PM

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Blogword Expo in Las Vegas highlights some of the latest trends in online culture, at the forefront of which is Gov 2.0. I didn't even know there was a Gov 2.0 until I met David Kralik, who heads an emerging Bay Area-based company called CitySourced.com. The idea behind the company, to put it simply is, if you see a pothole on your street, take a picture of it, tweet it, and it is sent to the appropriate city department, which then fills the pothole. All of this is possible with the help of a smart phone, and adown-loadable application. According to Kralik, CitySourced is really an effort to get ordinary citizens more involved in their city, and hopefully, improve their community.

The company didn't just do well at the recent TechCrunch50 conference in San Francisco. It finished third in voting out of all the companies there. The conference has essentially become a place where angel investors look for the next big thing and they may have found one in CitySourced. The company, which didn't even exist six weeks before the conference, now has a contract with the City of San Jose and it's iPhone application is used by people in 1900 cities nationwide.


At first you wouldn't think Kralik, who speaks passionately with his arms flaring out into various directions, would ever be involved with anything "new media." He worked with Newt Gingrich on Capitol Hill for years, and identifies himself as a conservative. Digg a little deeper, and you find that he actually also worked at a tech start-up of sorts called American Solutions, founded by the former House Speaker, with one of its main offices on the Peninsula. Essentially, Kralik worked as an internet scout, scouring the Bay Area and California for emerging trends and methods to build online community for conservative causes.

That led him to a Google conference in Southern California where he and a partner began thinking about potholes. Potholes and iPhone apps. Kralik left American Solutions and Gingrich behind, and set about changing government.


The source of much of our problems in city life emerge from things like potholes, or that street light that doesn't work, Kralik

says. Those things make it easier for people to commit crime in many

cases. "Someone is more likely to mug you if the streetlight doesn't

work and they can't be seen," Kralik

says."Part of Gov 2.0 is eliminating problems and possibly cutting down

on crime that comes as a result of that. If graffiti abatement is a $12

million dollar-a-year cost for a city, government may see the problem

as 'another thing to pay for.' CitySourced may take away some of that

overhead. Maybe our software can be used to identify, predict, and even prevent problems."


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Twitter Made it Possible

This "micro-crime solving"

function is possible because of Twitter, which makes its API available

to the public, so that entrepreneurs can create programs and

applications that use Twitter data and functionality. "I think one of

the reasons why twitter adopted so quickly is they amde their API so

open," he said.


The relationship with San Jose, the nation's tenth largest city,

can only be a good thing for the people who live there, he thinks.

"We're trying to actually improve American life. It should not longer

be a 'weird roommate' situation. We would rather that people adopt the

idea that 'It's your city.' The goal is to begin to break down the

barrier between elected officials and citizens. We no longer want that

to be an adversarial relationship. We are out to make a city a better place to live. Shift the burden of identifying problems a little bit to the citizenry and who knows how good we can make it it."

Kralik

showed me the interface for CitySourced on his iPhone, which was a

simple 30-second sequence of taking a picture, clicking in a zip code,

and sending it out. The application is available on iPhone, Blackberry

and Android right now. "Really, mobile phone internet usage has

increased 40 percent in the last year. So people are starting to make

this a part of their daily life."


CitySourced only has 3 employees right now. Kralik

says they hope to hire additional people in the coming months, as they

continue to gain funding, penetrate more cities in the U.S., and develop deals with city governments. "There are some other companies

out there that are trying to develop this concept, but we are a little

further along because we are available on more phones and we actually

allow you to report on a problem in New York, even if you are on vacation in San Francisco. The other ones out there don't have that flexibility."

San

Francisco mayor Gavin Newsom hasn't said whether or not he would bring

the company in on some sort of partnership. "It's pretty well known

he's looking at something very much like this though."

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John Boitnott

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