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CivStart's Challenge & Pitchfest Program

Meet your top challenges with public-sector peers and drive the innovation governments need.

Bring us to your community!

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SEEKING: Innovation-focused leaders

Seeking public-sector leaders with an eye for innovation.

Seeking private-sector leaders who want to be at the forefront of the next leading-edge government technology.

What Challenges Are You Seeking to Solve?

We'll be in touch shortly.

No technical knowledge required. Participants only need a preliminary idea of one or more challenges or priorities and the willingness to consider a pilot project at the end of the program. Unsure if this is you? Reach out to us directly.

The Pitchfest Model

This 3-month peer-learning program powered by CivStart and the National League of Cities (NLC) supports local government participants to advance their innovation needs and meet top challenges with affordable and innovative startup solutions through wraparound support — providing everyone peace of mind and de-risking innovative ideas.

Step 1:
Innovation Education

Educate and support government leaders on cutting-edge technology, innovation processes, and each-other's challenges.

Step 2:
Collaborative Challenge

Identify core challenges across the cohort of local government participants toward a published Challenge Statement.

Step 3:

Collect responses, evaluate and vet potential innovative, cost-effective startups solutions to meet those challenges and compete at an in-person event.

Step 4:
Pilot Launch

Conduct interviews with finalist startups based on your specific needs and begin to address those challenges.



about innovation


with peers


a pilot solution

2024 Challenge & Pitchfest: An Example 

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Thanks to our organizational partners, the National League of Cities and the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation.

Thanks to our prize sponsors, InState Partners, DocuSign, and Government Technology Magazine.

5 Local Govs


The five participating municipalities of Miami-Dade County, Los Altos Hills CA, Richmond VA, Arlington VA, and Houston TX decided to focus

on critical issues faced by their local entrepreneurs and residents. The Challenge asked for startup respondents who did ecosystem-building, increased access to local government resources, supported workforce development, and facilitated data for decision-making. View the full Challenge here.

10 Entrepreneurs


The 10 Startup Finalists chosen by the local government participants were Citibot, EcoMap Technologies, HUUB, Munera Solutions, Polco, Qwally, SimpliCity, Televeda, trellyz, UpSquad.

1 Pitchfest

Held in the Town Square Room at the Kauffman Foundation Building in Kansas City, MO, the Pitchfest was an exciting, one-day event featuring a short panel, 10 rapid-fire pitches, and a networking break before announcing the winners: HUUB, the Grand Prize winner, and SimpliCity, who won the audience-choice award.


The project allowed Raleigh to create a highly engaging process with the community and entrepreneurs to tackle a critical issue facing local government.

Heather McDougall, PhD, Sr. Manager Strategy & Innovation, City of Raleigh, NC

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Program in Detail

Program Cost:

  • $10k/participating government (minimum 3), OR

  • $25k for a single-government focused program

The fees may be offset by a sponsor or philanthropy interested in govtech for impact.

Through a series of workshops with your cohort of fellow government leaders, CivStart will equip you with an understanding, and necessary resources, to embark on challenge-based procurement. In addition to presentations by expert guest speakers, your cohort will collaborate by sharing best practices, lessons learned, and current needs, to ultimately publish a group Challenge Statement. You will then have the opportunity to attend a Pitchfest of entrepreneurs with solutions that meet the challenge. 

We know every government has its own unique needs, so the final phase of the program will allow you to customize the group Challenge Statement for your specific needs and interview selected entrepreneurs for a potential pilot. 

Over the course of this three-month cohort, participants will:

  1. Learn about innovation, challenge-based procurement, and the latest in cutting-edge technology;

  2. Understand your technology challenges in a detailed manner through facilitated, collaborative listening sessions;

  3. Engage with other local government peers to see how they are handling similar challenges;

  4. Discover affordable and innovative solutions to one or more of the challenges identified; and

  5. Deploy a pilot program to meet your challenges. By the end of the program, government staff will also be able to apply this method to other problems facing their communities.

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