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San Diego
Thursday, May 30, 2024

Metropolis IQ Automates Local Government Data Gathering

SAAS: Product Leverages AI to Write Common Reports

SAN DIEGO – Know your customer. It is an admonition Erik Caldwell seems to have taken to heart.

Having spent several years working in local government and economic development, the person behind software startup Metropolis IQ saw how he might meet a government customer’s needs.

He is improving a common process with the help of AI.

Erik Caldwell
Metropolis IQ

His company’s SaaS (Software as a Service) platform produces reports for city and county governments. Bigger jurisdictions might produce such reports in-house, while smaller ones may outsource their compilation, Caldwell said.

The CEO said he would like to deliver his product to rural and suburban governments which have no data capabilities at all.

Economic Data for Budget-Minded Jurisdictions

Small jurisdictions don’t have the funds to hire big-name economic consulting firms, said David Graham, chief innovation officer for the City of Carlsbad.

Metropolis IQ “makes available insights for small or medium organizations that would otherwise be out of reach. …”

David Graham
Chief Innovation Officer
City of Carlsbad

“I think Metropolis IQ is going to be a game-changer for strategic economic development for local governments, consultancies and regional economic development corporations,” said Graham, who is also the city’s director of innovation and director of its economic development department.

Metropolis IQ plans to bring its finished product to market in June. Caldwell said he’s refined the product based on interviews and testing with more than 60 city and workforce agencies. Metropolis IQ has early customers in Carlsbad and the San Francisco Bay Area.

The business has generated revenue of $50,000 in the first months of 2024 and $10,000 in 2023.

Metropolis IQ has completed a $150,000 friends and family funding round, and plans to spend the rest of the year raising seed funding, the CEO said.

The company estimates the government reporting market to be worth $21 billion.

California alone has more than 400 cities and more than 50 counties.

Data Drawn from Disparate Sources

Metropolis IQ relies on data from sources such as the federal census, the Federal Reserve, journal articles and documents on public websites. “A good chunk is public data,” Caldwell said, though Metropolis IQ can also buy proprietary data from other companies.

One common report that it can produce is called CEDS, short for Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy. Local governments must complete the report to apply for certain federal grants. The cost of a CEDS report can range from $30,000 to $50,000.

By applying generative AI and modern data technology to the report writing process, Caldwell said, Metropolis IQ software can complete a finished report in minutes. A consultant might need 30 days to do the same work.

The software generated one recent report on Carlsbad’s innovation economy in 12 minutes. Checking over the report to assure its quality took a day, Caldwell said. Such a report might cost $20,000 to $25,000 to commission.

The Carlsbad report took in factors such as patent activity, which according to Graham can be difficult to determine.

“Metropolis IQ has really keyed in on how to harness AI and big datasets to create valuable insights,” the city official said.

The company’s early focus is on workforce and economic development reports.

However, Caldwell said the software can compile a wider variety of reports.

Reports are also “living, breathing documents,” Caldwell said, with the ability to change every time fresh data is available. Normally a report gets stale shortly after it is issued, Graham said.

Caldwell was a consumer of such reports in a previous job. In the mid-2010s, he ran the economic development department at the city of San Diego, working with documents such as the CEDS report.

Metropolis IQ filed three provisional patents for its technology in March, creating a “moat” to defend the business.

The company’s advisory board includes some familiar names in San Diego business, including Darin Andersen of NXT Robotics, Bill Eigner of Procopio and Dawn Barry, formerly of Illumina and LumaPBC.

Caldwell last worked for another tech company: The Atlas for Cities, a free online community for local government officials and staff. Now part of GovExec, the Atlas lets users browse city case studies, follow trending local government topics and post questions to colleagues.

Caldwell’s co-founders in Metropolis IQ are Josh Shapiro and Kate Spitzer.

Metropolis IQ
FOUNDED: Late 2022
CEO: Erik Caldwell
HEADQUARTERS: San Diego (Del Sur)
BUSINESS: Software startup that produces reports using AI, serving local governments
REVENUE: $50,000 to date in 2024
NOTABLE: The company filed three provisional patents on its technology in March


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