Something happened to civic tech in 2015. It grew up quickly. And changed its name. What emerged in its place was the GovTech market — broader and more robust than civic tech had been originally defined, a namesake of its own dedicated venture capital fund, and indicative of new opportunities for transformational change in the public sector.
Seen as a market, government technology as a whole is an industry that accounts for $180 billion in state and local government alone, according to analysis by the Center for Digital Government. This new GovTech slice has come into its own, emerging as a stand-alone industry composed of hundreds of startup companies even after no fewer than 23 acquisitions, and having attracted $1 billion in private capital investment.
The editors of Government Technology together with e.Republic Labs, a sister organization focused on civic innovation and new market entrants, have developed the inaugural GovTech100, a listing of the leading 100 companies focused on government as a customer, having developed an innovative or disruptive offering to improve or transform government, or having created new models for delivering services. These companies are active in one or more market segments: administrative, service delivery, intelligent infrastructure and civic tech focus areas.
The companies in the GovTech100 are, on average, 9 years old and together span most of what government does — promising greater productivity, improved workflows, automated processes, mobile-equipped workforces, data-informed decision support, mutual aid, and sharing of facilities and equipment. The open data movement fueled many of the startups with many new transparency-related services offering a hedge against waste, fraud and abuse.
No Unicorns to Be Found
Some candidate companies for this year’s list were acquired by other startups and incumbents alike. Motorola, Autodesk and GovDelivery picked up one each. For its part, Accela bought three companies that would have made the list in their own right — Springbrook (public finance), Civic Insight (building and construction project data) and PublicStuff (service requests).
Significantly, there is not a unicorn in the whole bunch. In fact, taken together, GovTech100 companies represent a cumulative market cap of $1,000,462,835, just over the magical $1 billion threshold for a single company to be regarded as a unicorn startup. According to CB Insights and The New York Times, there are only 144 unicorns alive on the planet today, with cumulative value of $508 billion — their number includes, not surprisingly, Airbnb and Uber.
Industry observers, including Fortune, Forbes and Wired, have expressed disappointment in the much-vaunted unicorns’ seeming unwillingness or inability to IPO and, more importantly, falling short of their potential. What’s more, MarketWatch laments, “The unicorns that can really change the world with their breakthrough technologies are rarely being created. … This is a real tragedy since there have never been more opportunities to help the world (profitably) with new sources of energy, new medical technology, new ways to clean the environment and new ways to help the sick and disabled.”
In the absence of unicorns, scrappy GovTech companies are eschewing mythical imagery in favor of focusing on the work, solving real problems close to the ground and extending the reach of government agencies — all with the potential of having an outsized impact in creating meaningful change in the communities they serve.
This first effort at compiling the GovTech100 reflects hundreds of hours of work to identify, verify and qualify companies using publicly available information, media reports and interviews with parties familiar with the market. We are confident that it is a good list — one that can introduce you to otherwise unknown players that may have a fresh approach to a problem you are trying to solve. That said, we know subsequent iterations of the GovTech100 can be better. We want to hear from you about companies that are helping you do the public’s business in new and better ways. Our crowdsourcing of a full inventory of the GovTech space is already underway at govtech.com/100 — we welcome and value your help.
Until now, there has not been a single place to discover innovative companies in the GovTech market. This year’s GovTech100 is a down payment in that effort. It comes as 41 states are on track to meet their revenue projections and as city revenues have returned to near pre-recession levels — giving them some margin to deal with pent-up demand to make their communities better for the people who live there. At the same time, the expectations of residents are being shaped by their experience in the wider marketplace, with companies such as Amazon, Uber and Apple. It is against that backdrop that GovTech companies offer new capabilities and capacity to help government get stuff done.
As the GovTech market continues to grow and mature, it is important for those working inside government to have a mechanism to keep up with startups that could change the world … or, at least, your community. And that is our purpose in presenting the first annual GovTech100.
Visit govtech.com/100 to view the 100 GovTech firms featured in alphabetical order.
Dustin Haisler is the Chief Innovation Officer of Government Technology's parent company e.Republic. Previously the finance director and later CIO for Manor, Texas, a small city outside Austin, Haisler quickly built a track record and reputation as an early innovator in civic tech. As Chief Innovation Officer, Haisler has a strategic role to help shape the company’s products, services and future direction. Primarily, he leads e.Republic Labs, a market connector created as an ecosystem to educate, accelerate and ultimately scale technology innovation within the public sector. Read his full bio.
Paul W. Taylor, Ph.D., is the editor-at-large of Governing magazine. He also serves as the chief content officer of e.Republic, Governing’s parent organization, as well as senior advisor to the Governing Institute. Prior to joining e.Republic, Taylor served as deputy Washington state CIO and chief of staff of the state Information Services Board (ISB). Dr. Taylor came to public service following decades of work in media, Internet start-ups and academia. He is also among a number of affiliated experts with the non-profit, non-partisan Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF) in Washington, D.C.