If there’s a pothole on the street outside your home, a fallen tree, a cracked sidewalk or some other issue in your city, you, as a constituent, can contact your local government to send out the appropriate department to handle it. But local government workers are inundated with communications from their constituents, Seneca Systems Co-founder and CEO Nick DeMonner told TechCrunch. Due to the level of civic engagement, their “hair is on fire” — figuratively, of course.
“Municipalities love [civic engagement] but it’s also terrifying to them because it’s so much for them to handle and they’re not really given the resources to go and handle them,” DeMonner said.
Tressa Feher, chief of staff to Chicago’s 46th Ward alderman, said she can relate to the sentiment DeMonner described to me. She told me her office is indeed inundated with emails, tweets and phone calls from constituents.
When she first started working for Aldmeran James Cappleman, Feher said the constituent management software the federal government uses is “very expensive and not really want we needed at the local level,” she told me. “The things we track and the things they track are very different.”
The 46th Ward, for example, deals with things like potholes, trees that need trimming and other types of direct services to people. This is where Seneca Systems comes in. The company, which just closed a $3.5 million seed round led by Initialized Capital, builds products for local governments.
Its first product, Romulus, is designed to help local governments interact with their constituents, no matter what method of communication they use.
“It’s not particularly sexy. It’s not on the blockchain,” DeMonner said with a chuckle. “But it has really meaningful impact on peoples lives.”
With Romulus, local governments can manage and respond to service requests that come in from every angle — phone, email, text message, social media, etc.
Romulus sells its product on a month-to-month basis to local governments. So far, 24 departments across 16 cities are using Romulus, including local government teams in Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami and Oakland.
Later this quarter, Seneca Systems plans to launch its mobile app to enable field workers and local officials document issues, and request service fulfillments on the go. Down the road, Seneca Systems plans to offer other products geared toward local governments.
“There is all of this movement around things like smart cities and open data,” DeMonner said. “I don’t want to diminish those efforts, but the truth is, cities are under water for a whole bunch of other reasons and they need the basics before they can even start thinking about what it would be like to be a digitally connected smart city.”