Six Years and $23 Million Later, mySidewalk CEO Steps Down

Nick Bowden has left the company he started, and Chief Operating Officer Stephen Hardy is taking his place.

by / December 6, 2016
Outgoing chief executive officer Nick Bowden, left, and incoming CEO Stephen Hardy, right. Photos courtesy of mySidewalk

After founding the company, seeing it through six years of maturation and helping to raise more than $23 million in investment, the chief executive officer of mySidewalk is stepping down.

The incoming CEO, former Chief Operating Officer Stephen Hardy, emphasized stability as he took on the job in the wake of founder Nick Bowden. There is plenty of growth potential, he said, in what mySidewalk is already doing — bringing data sets together and making them actionable for government.

“The mission of the company doesn’t change at all,” Hardy said. “The fundamental thing we’re doing here is trying to help cities make better decisions with data.”

Bowden, who started the company in 2010 under the name MindMixer, left mySidewalk just before Thanksgiving. After nurturing the company through thousands of meetings with city officials and seeing it through its fundraising rounds, Bowden said the company seems able to function on its own — though he will still serve as an adviser to the board.

“I felt like the company was in a good place," he said. "I’m really proud of what we accomplished and I felt like it was a good chance to turn the reins over."

As of his departure, the company has about 180 clients, more than 100 of which are cities. MySidewalk pulls from a city’s own data, along with national open data sources and other sets to perform analytics and deliver insights to municipalities.

Hardy sees plenty of opportunity to keep working on that core service, growing the amount of data available and improving the information cities can pull from it. For example, there are some data sets that many jurisdictions keep track of — separately. That includes things like crime, permitting and citizen satisfaction data.

“Those are data sets we’re proactively going out and acquiring and knitting into a national layer,” Hardy said.

Then there’s the company’s “recipes” project. In crowdsourced fashion, mySidewalk customers come up with data set mashups that can be used to get specific insights and then share them with each other. That means it’s easy to order up a map that shows which floodplains have high concentrations of vulnerable populations, for example.

“You don’t have to know which data sets to look for, you don’t have to know how to use them," he said. "You just have to look at our recipes."

There’s also some potential for customer growth. Most of the company’s clients are cities, but there aren’t many counties on board and it hasn’t yet signed on with any states.

As mySidewalk searches for growth, Bowden has started a new company — in Kansas City, Mo., along with mySidewalk — called Better Planning. Although Bowden shrugs off the moniker of “company.”

It’s more like his vehicle for pursuing his interests in technology and cities.

“I’ve spent the last 10 years working in this space across three companies. I have tons of notes,” he said. “I’ve probably talked to 2,000 different cities. I feel like I have a chance to finally write and publish some of that. It’s kind of less of a company and more of a chance to write about this space.”

So far, that’s taken the form of blog posts. On the Better Planning website, Bowden has already written about job automation, driving statistics and the logistics chain. He thinks he might crank out one or two posts a week while raising his 1-year-old child and doing some consulting on the side.

“I’m looking forward to bouncing around a little bit," he said, "and catching up with some people who I think are doing some cool work."

Ben Miller Staff Writer

Ben Miller is the business beat staff writer for Government Technology. His reporting experience includes breaking news, business, community features and technical subjects. He holds a Bachelor’s degree in journalism from the Reynolds School of Journalism at the University of Nevada, Reno, and lives in Sacramento, Calif.