A new website may help drive down government procurement costs and make it easier for startups to sell their goods and services.
The website, called Open Procure, launched earlier this month and is the latest side project of Alan Mond, CEO and co-founder of Munirent, the inter-jurisdictional equipment sharing service. Mond says the website is an experiment that he hopes will start conversations about procurement and ultimately prove beneficial for government and startups alike.
The website is simply a list of procurement thresholds for local and state government agencies nationwide. As of two weeks after launch, the website features thresholds for 59 agencies, many of which provide links to the original data sources. Users can see that in Boston, for instance, the city's discretionary procurement threshold is $5,000 and the formal threshold is $25,000. So any startup wanting to sell goods or services to Boston -- but avoid a public competitive bid process -- can see that they need to keep their cost under $25,000. If they want to avoid competition altogether, they need to keep it under $5,000.
The website also creates a broader discussion around threshold inconsistency. In Philadelphia, for instance, the discretionary threshold is $32,000, compared to Boston's $5,000, which means Philadelphia can procure without taking multiple bids on considerably larger projects. This is useful information for businesses, Mond pointed out, but also a conversation starter for the public sector. Do these disparities between different states, cities and counties exist for a good reason, or are they decided somewhat arbitrarily and left in the municipal code to rot?
The website originated from Mond's own collection of the data. After a conversation with Kenny Cunanan, a contributor to the site's development, he realized that collecting the data was a lot of work and that others might appreciate him sharing the data.
"Sometimes they're very nice and they put the information on the city's procurement section of their website, but a lot of times they don't and it's deep down in the municipal code so you have to go through it and figure out the limits," Mond explained. "We're exposing all that."
Though Mond and his co-creators began the website through their own data collection and research, (co-founders include Cunahan, MuniRent Co-Founder and CEO Julien Vanier, Accela Technical Evangelist Mark Headd, product designer Ryan Wold, and data journalist Carl V. Lewis) Mond said he hopes to grow the project through the public's data contributions.
"If anyone that's interested in contributing and being part of the project, it's very easy to contribute," Mond explained. "All you have to do is go to the website and add an agency that they know about."
Through GitHub, users can contribute data. If they don't know how to use GitHub or don't want to make an account, however, they can also email Mond directly, he said, and he can add the information to the database directly.