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Exclusive interview: Chicago native George Burciaga takes his smart technology global


When he explains it he still sounds amazed. George Burciaga’s idea, to put smart technology at street level, not only turned into something real through his company elevate DIGITAL, but it got enough traction to shape the smart cities movement, and now, a recent acquisition by CIVIQ Smartscapes means his idea is about to go global.

Through elevate DIGITAL, Burciaga and his team have spent the last five years building out a robust software platform for street-level, interactive smart technology and collecting vital intelligence along with it about how many people stop and connect, how frequently they do so, how long they interact, what types of apps they use, and more.

Before anyone thought people would engage at street level, Burciaga says elevate was creating the opportunity on Michigan Avenue.

“We were doing this before anybody thought it would work,” Burciaga said.

Now, as part of CIVIQ Smartscapes, Burciaga and his team plan to take their years of knowledge and experience, pair it with CIVIQ’s smart city expertise and take advantage of the larger, more established company’s global profile to further their original mission.

In the life of elevate DIGITAL, Burciaga raised about $14 million, focusing his work on taking interactive technology to airports, city streets, hospitals, and campuses. Now, as CIVIQ Smartscapes, his work will focus on business with public sector, municipal-based organizations across the world.

While Burciaga has bosses for the first time in many years, he expects only synergy as the two companies are a compatible fit, both focused on building smart and connected technology to transform the way cities work for citizens and municipalities.

“Elevate was a small Chicago firm that is now turning into a larger smart and connected firm focusing on cities with a global perspective and a global potential,” Burciaga said.

Burciaga’s office remains in Chicago and his team remains intact. Now, though, they can dream bigger. Burciaga says deals are in the works in London, Istanbul, New York City, and Chicago. He expects the acquisition to expand his original product offering and accelerate his impact within the world of smart cities.

Elevate pioneered the ability to let passersby connect with the cities they live in or visit. The platform gives passersby the chance to tap an interactive smart screen and find information about entertainment, local government contacts, public transit, and things to do. They can take selfies and post them to social media or email them to friends. They can even interact with the screen, connect it to their phone and continue browsing after walking away.

Burciaga has been a near lifelong entrepreneur, finding ways to make money as a child, then incorporating several real businesses as an adult, where he had his first taste of entrepreneurial success. When it came time to consider selling elevate DIGITAL, Burciaga thought about impact. His technology aims to change the way cities communicate with their residents and vice versa.
“While I know I made an impact in elevate, it wasn’t big enough,” Burciaga said. “CIVIQ allows us to win, allows us to prove that my intent and purpose was for something really important and that is to really and truly change the way people live in cities.”

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