October 11, 2012 By Sarah Rich
To help turbocharge civic startups — companies that develop tech-focused products specifically for local governments — the Code for America fellowship program earlier this year launched its own accelerator program.
“The purpose is to truly accelerate — to find companies in what we call the civic technology space,” said Ron Bouganim, the director of Code for America’s accelerator program. “That’s the intersection of technology and government.”
Code for America representatives selected top companies from hundreds that applied to participate. While some of the selected companies have not yet been publicly announced, the companies are slated to participate in a demo day during the end of October, for the purpose of highlighting the work they’ve done in the accelerator program. The end goal is to attract potential investors.
Each company will receive the financial boost in the form of a $25,000 grant, and will be given office space in San Francisco, with the expectation that they will focus on building products that would benefit local governments. The four-month program, which started in August, is also helping the entrepreneurs receive mentorship.
Marci Harris, CEO of Popvox – a company that helps streamline communications sent by constituents to Congress – is serving as a mentor for the program and has already begun dispensing her expertise.
“What we’re seeing is a lot of people all over the country with really good ideas of ways to provide services, information, transparency, cost efficiency, savings — everything that everyone says they want in government,” Harris said.
Other mentors participating in the program include San Francisco Chief Innovation Officer Jay Nath, Chicago CTO John Tolva and Socrata CEO Kevin Merritt, to name a few.
Measured Voice, an Internet communications consultancy for the private and public sectors, was selected to participate in the accelerator program this year. The company had prior experience working with the feds and state and local governments on social media guidelines. The company developed social media and guidelines for USA.gov, and has worked with Missouri on the social media features on MO.gov, the state’s website.
As part of the accelerator program, Measured Voice launched a new platform in beta specifically for government users so they can develop social media messages for their departments or agencies. The platform is designed to assist with adhering to social media guidelines, scheduling and other factors.
Jed Sundwall, co-founder of Measured Voice, said governments need broader support, and that Code for America is a good start.
“There are plenty of governments that might not be able to afford developers or even have the staff to host apps and things like that, so they need access to good software that’s built specifically for government,” Sundwall said. “What Code for America is trying to do is build an ecosystem of good 21st-century software companies that are making products that are good for government.”
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