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Trying To Launch A Start-Up? You Might Have To Go Through SF’s Office Of Emerging Tech




People ride Bird shared dockless electric scooters along Venice Beach on August 13, 2018 in Los Angeles, California.
People ride Bird shared dockless electric scooters along Venice Beach on August 13, 2018 in Los Angeles, California.
Mario Tama/Getty Images

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While the mantra of tech start ups is infamously “move fast and break things,” in San Francisco it might be more like “get a permit and do a pilot program.” 

Earlier this week, the president of San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors introduced a bill to create an Office of Emerging Technology (OET), a one-stop permitting shop for any entrepreneurs looking to launch their tech on city property (think ride hailing or e-scooters). 

Companies would have to persuade the OET that their tech provides a public good to get a permit, at which point they’d launch a pilot program, lasting up to a year. Then the OET would re-assess and potentially give the company a permanent permit. 

The idea is to flip the paradigm in which tech forges ahead and cities struggle to catch up with regulations (again, think ride hailing or e-scooters). But critics fear that this new office could put a damper on innovation and that its gatekeeping powers might be abused or influenced by companies trying to keep their rivals out of the market. 

Is this a necessary step to reign in tech start-ups that disregard public safety and privacy? Or will this create a bureaucratic nightmare that stalls the march of progress? 

Guests:

Naomi Kelly, City Administrator for San Francisco; her office oversaw a working group of government agencies, nonprofits and tech companies that made recommendations ahead of the drafting of the legislation

Brad Berens, chief strategy officer at the Center for the Digital Future at USC Annenberg, where he leads the Future of Transportation Project; he’s also the principal consultant for Big Digital Idea, a boutique strategy agency for digital companies