Citizen engagement platform SeeClickFix announced June 30 that it has raised $1.6 million in new funding. The funding — led by Elm Street Ventures and joined by O'Reilly AlphaTech Ventures, Omidyar Network, Connecticut Innovations and LaunchCapital — is expected to double the size of the 25-employee company within the next year.
And this is not only a sign of maturity for the company, but also a good sign for local government, said Dustin Haisler, chief innovation officer at e.Republic, parent company of Government Technology.
“The thing that impressed me about what they did is they didn’t go out and raise $15 million. They raised a reasonable amount based on their size that they needed to scale up in the market. So it was a wise investment,” Haisler said. “I think the fact that they’re focusing on cities is a good sign as well. You don’t see them going after states or the federal government. They’re really focused on where a lot of the movement and traction happens — local government.”
That SeeClickFix has been around since 2008 and building steadily since then likely bodes well for its future, he said. The new round of investment is expected to launch SeeClickFix firmly out of the startup phase.
“I think this means SeeClickFix can invest more in the platform and these complex integrations with 311 systems,” Haisler said. “Funding is great to go and refine and mature your product. The good thing for governments is they’re investing back in their product.”
And that's exactly what the company is planning to do. With already more than 200 participating governments around the nation, the new funding will allow SeeClickFix to expand its role in citizen engagement, said Tucker Severson, SeeClickFix director of marketing.
“Over the last few years, it’s become clear that focusing on tools for municipalities to deal with these citizen-submitted issues has this compounding effect where it makes the government’s life easier, along with increasing the amount of transparency and communication,” Severson said. “While at first we were a network for citizens to report problems, the clear value for us these days is building tools that actually make the city officials’ lives easier.”
Since first launching the platform in 2008, Severson explained that SeeClickFix has been pulled further into government workflows. The service began as strictly a device for reporting problems, but now they’re developing more citizen-to-citizen functionality and enabling discussion around ideas that aren’t necessarily problems, Severson said.
“What happens is, you start reporting a problem in your neighborhood and there’s public communication around that problem; you start to discover your neighbors are also engaging in this same network, and then you start to see things that don’t quite fit the mold,” he explained. “So the city doesn’t quite know what to do with them, but we’re not going to discourage that because it seems very valuable.”
In some cases, SeeClickFix users maintained conversations about issues in their communities that continued for several years and eventually turned into completed projects. An unsafe pedestrian crossing in New Haven, Conn., was first reported in 2008, and by 2014, the city had designed and constructed new pedestrian crossings to fix the problem.
That it took six years to install a crosswalk at a dangerous intersection is not the grandest of victories, but without SeeClickFix, there’s an argument that it might never have caught the city’s attention at all.
In 2011, citizens of New Haven started talking about how peculiar it was that there was no dog park near Wooster Square, where many dog owners can be found walking. In less than six months, construction on a new dog park had begun.
SeeClickFix CEO Ben Berkowitz noted in a press release that the company’s goal goes beyond fixing things that are broken, but becoming more deeply involved in how people want to see their communities change.
“Our citizen and government users have the same goal — to resolve problems and improve neighborhoods,” Berkowitz said. “This funding will allow SeeClickFix to accelerate development and adoption of the next generation of request management — improving communication and communities throughout the world."