Local government partnerships with the business community are often perceived as deals and contracts with large, established corporations. Yet as startup scenes flourish in cities across the U.S., these partnerships are increasingly bringing together local governments and small, emerging startups in the civic innovation space. The result is a win for both sectors: cities are exposed to nimble technologies and creative ideas, and young companies get an opportunity to test and refine their products while serving the public interest.
For a long time, startups with an eye towards improving the public sector were hard to come by. As recently as September, the Silicon Valley accelerator Y Combinator issued a “request for startups” that identified government software as one of the sectors from which it would like to hear more pitches. “Very few startups write software for government. But the government is a very large customer with very bad software,” Y Combinator’s RfS said. “In addition to better software for existing processes, we’re also interested in how the Internet can enable new categories, like crowdfunding for social services.”
As startup scenes flourish, partnerships are increasingly bringing together local governments and small, emerging startups in the civic innovation space.
Yet this particular brand of public-private collaboration has been gaining momentum in recent months. Last summer, Code for America’s Accelerator announced its third class of civic tech-focused companies, which receive funding and networking support through the program. This past September saw the launch of the $23 million GovTech Fund, the first venture capital fund of its kind dedicated to boosting startups working on technologies designed for use by governments. And as more and more local governments hire chief innovation officers, set up innovation teams, and establish innovation offices, there’s a growing sense of enthusiasm within government for new ideas and technologies.
Integral to these partnerships are the startup founders themselves. Coming in with various amounts of government experience, these entrepreneurs are working full-speed in the hopes of spreading adoption of a solution they believe will help government work better. To get a better sense of the challenges and opportunities these entrepreneurs face, we spoke with founders of three civic tech-focused startups: MeWe, Opportunity Space, and Changing Environments. Each Wednesday for the next three weeks, we’ll publish these interviews in Q&A format on our site. We hope their stories will help shine light on the exciting potential of public-private collaboration to transform the way government serves its citizens.
Meet the Entrepreneur Who’s Streamlining Government Inspections
A Q&A with Manik Suri, co-founder and CEO of MeWe