After about four years of existence, the gov tech startup UrbanLeap is expanding its scope: Whereas in the past it’s focused on helping local government run pilot projects and try new ideas, the company has now launched a procurement solution to assist with the buying process.
Rich Lechner, UrbanLeap’s VP of strategy, said the solution can handle any kind of procurement for any kind of agency. But the company sees the service as being especially useful for moments when an agency finds itself buying something it’s never had to buy before, or for complicated purchases.
“If you’re trying to procure … shielding for COVID-19 to deploy into your public transit system, this can be a relatively simple solution but it’s a first-of-a-kind that many cities haven’t dealt with before,” Lechner said. “And cities don’t want to have to trial and error or reinvent the wheel; they want to learn from others. So it’s specifically tuned to that class of procurement where it’s complex or first of its kind.”
Toward that end, the procurement solution includes an aspect of content curation from the network of local governments using UrbanLeap. The idea is that if a government needs to buy something it’s never bought before, it can learn from others who have already gone through the process. The focus, therefore, moves from simple publishing of bids to discovery of prior activity.
Arik Bronshtein, the company’s CEO and co-founder, sees the small government market as particularly ripe for this kind of tool. The startup has found that only about one-fifth of cities with fewer than 50,000 residents use procurement software.
But in the COVID-19 pandemic, many of those governments have found themselves with the same unexpected, unprecedented needs as their larger counterparts.
“Most of the small agencies, they don’t have a procurement platform, so we can actually give them a platform that helps them for the first time,” Bronshtein said. “But with some agencies we see that they do have a platform and they just need our system to integrate, so we can help them with this integration and then they can use our platform to build the RFP, get the best solutions and do the evaluation while they continue using their core platform just for the publishing.”
The solution also includes tools for facilitating collaboration between various departments, which can be a sticky problem when local governments need to buy something big or complicated.
“Cities are doing this with emails, text messages, Zoom meetings, trying to bring people together, and a lot of it is not done in an integrated platform where the information is kept together … (or) you can easily merge and reconcile requirements from different departments and keep a good, transparent record of that,” Lechner said.
The solution also includes bid publishing, a feature that finds vendors who are most relevant to the bid and evaluation tools for the bids received.
UrbanLeap started rolling out the solution with early customers in the last quarter of 2020, including Sacramento County, Calif.; the city of Corona, Calif.; and Lone Tree, Colo.
“Our community faces many challenges and we’re committed to acquiring products & services to achieve best possible outcomes,” wrote Austin Good, assistant to the city manager in Lone Tree, in a statement. “Unfortunately, the procurement process can often be slow and cumbersome. Existing tools do little to assist in developing the RFx, reaching relevant vendors, or evaluating proposals in an objective way. UrbanLeap puts the right data in our hands at every step of the process to ensure we procure the very best thing.”
The company doesn’t charge vendors to use the solution, but it does take commissions for the companies that win bids. For government, it charges a subscription fee that varies based on the size of the jurisdiction.
“(Small governments) are in particular need, and their budgets are particularly tight,” Lechner said. “So we’re making it very low-cost on the public-sector side and agency side.”
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