The chances that you have ever heard about Irys is very slim, a SaaS tech company that works with engineering companies, cities and military bases on enhancing public institutions efficiency and improving community engagement. The company today has announced that they had rasied $1.2 million in seed round. Apparently this funding round has been led by Good Growth Capital with the help of City Rise Ventures, Techstars Ventues and Arcadis.
Irys acts as a platform which lets users to flag urban issues (311 services) such as street maintenance, property destruction, damaged lights, lack of street lights, smashed windows, stray animals to their corresponding local agencies through smartphone app. The way this works is by letting the user to take a picture of the problem, it will immediately geolocated the file and will go straight to the dashboard as soon as the user submits it. The dashboard is a CRM used by governments where they obtain their input and, through artificial intelligence, they are able to classify the images, retrieve the data and send it to the correct agency.
For instance, if a person notices a pothole, it will go to public works, when it’s a broken water pipe, it’s going to waterworks, if it’s a stray animal, it will be sent to animal care.
“What we’re attempting to do is bridge the contact gap,” says Irys co-founder and CEO Beto Altamirano, who earned a spot in the Social Entrepreneurs under 30 in 2018. “The question here is that rather than being proactive. Governments are reactive. They will respond to the issues as they are introduced to them.
Research shows that challenges to city infrastructure are willing to increase in the future. As per reports by the United Nations, about 55% of the world’s population currently lives in urban areas, which is projected to grow to 68% by 2050.
Irys primarily works in small and medium-sized towns and cities, with costs increasing based on the scale of the population. In small (5,000-50,000 people) and medium-sized cities (50,000-300,000 people) the price will be around $15,000-$25,000 per year, and for big cities (500,000-7 million people) will be around $95,000-$150,000 per year.
Currently, the company operates in 15 cities, and in its native San Antonio, it has 35,000 users who have made over 80,000 requests.
San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg states Irys is a natural San Antonio story.
“The main goal of the company has expanded since it was established as a creative civic tech firm, but the community-oriented, service-oriented emphasis stays firmly in place,” said Mayor Nirenberg. “We are happy to claim that these ground-breaking Latino entrepreneurs are our own.”
Irys has also began offering its services to military bases (such as the U.S. Air Force Joint Base San Antonio) and business districts where engineering companies, prior to creating something of a public interest, can allow users to see these reports and provide input.
Altamirano, whose parents were from Mexico but grew up in south Texas, was originally interested in public service around the age of 18 when his dad was deported back to Mexico.
“It was a terrifying incident which really negatively impacted me, when I saw how much policy and politics can influence people’s lives,” Altamirano says.
He graduated from UT Austin in 2013, and spent his studies in the Foreign Relations Committee, chaired by then-Senator John Kerry, and began working at The White House at the Office of the United States Trade Representative.
The Latino business owner says he got the inspiration for this business from his time spent working in the White House on social media and digital advocacy, and he saw how the constituents interacted online.
“I wondered, ‘Imagine that we could take the idea of using social media in a very casual environment, then formalisze it in one place where users can interact explicitly with the government,'” Altamirano says.