A decade ago, joining the words “government” and “startup” was an absurd contradiction. Now, however, “gov tech” or “civic tech” startups as they’ve come to be called, are hallmarks of innovation, pulling in enviable investments from venture capitalists who are demonstrating confidence with dollars. At the heart of the ingenuity are trends like mobility, the cloud and data analytics, all areas where advancements are thriving under entrepreneurial thinking, agile processes and open data. Here are five such startups helping bring government into the 21st century.
Founder: Yo Yoshida
Open data visualization startup Appallicious is best known for its mobility services in disaster response. In 2014 CEO and Founder Yo Yoshida launched the beta version of the Disaster Assessment and Assistance Dashboard in San Francisco. And now, with the endorsement of FEMA, Yoshida is rolling out the interactive dashboard to cities nationwide. Municipalities can easily map their emergency resources and dangers in real time using the dashboard, while citizens can request assistance, first responders can update first aid locations and local businesses can advertise recovery services. Since its launch, Appallicious has overhauled the app with private and public displays, a back-end database for information, and dozens of features that can be customized within the platform’s new content management system. Long term, the freemium mapping platform is envisioned to move beyond disaster resilience and be powerful enough to chart a mixture of internal and external data.
Founders: Oren Ariel, Ronnen Armon, Amnon Landa and Yuval Scarlat
Capriza deciphers the Rubik’s Cube of the old government website and transforms it into a user-friendly mobile app. The service is particularly helpful for staff chained to cantankerous data entry and content management dashboards — especially vexing when fitted to a mobile device. Further credit must be awarded for Capriza’s intuition to cut out the coding, API creation and upgrading. Everything is literally drag and drop. Capriza pairs users to a window with its new app — seen in its mobile view — and the agency’s old site. Features are placed with a click, easily readjusted and published to the site in minutes. With resources for mobile tech talent often in short supply, the platform is positioned to be an affordable alternative to a complete mobile redesign.
Co-founders: Armelle Coquart, Emmanuel Salah and Philippe Salah
For project managers, FileChat might be the app they never knew they needed. Recently funded with $3 million from private investors since its launch in 2013, the New York City startup created an app that allows users to collaborate, comment and vote on files inside popular cloud storage platforms like Dropbox and Google Drive. The creative solution turns file sharing into a social media-like experience, with buttons to “like” files or add comments. Dialog can be live, in the form of a chat, or recorded so team members can read it later. Skeptics of the 2-year-old startup may contend that there are similar features in Dropbox or that collaboration can already be done inside files — for example, within the “Properties” tab on a PC or the “Get Info” tab on a Mac — but FileChat makes the process intuitive and more akin to social apps than the typical storage experience. Still generating its user base, the startup is offering services free for the time being, but plans to create premium options and add other cloud storage providers soon.
Co-founders: Zac Bookman, Nate Levine, Joe Lonsdale and Mike Rosengarten
OpenGov has accomplished what top tier tech firms have struggled to do for years: It’s taken the complexities of government finance and simplified them into easy-to-read charts. The startup has invented a cloud-based platform that enables officials and citizens to analyze budgets historically, by year and into the future. Deceptively basic, the interface breaks finances down by department, and with a click, allows users to drill down into expense categories for deeper analysis of revenues and expenditures. Visually, design and curation is Google-esque, expertly fitting city cost and earning categories into a hierarchy of interactive graphs and charts. Since OpenGov was founded in 2012 it has enjoyed a favorable reception both from investors, who’ve awarded it $22 million to date, and from public-sector customers, which total more than 275 governments across 37 states.
Co-founders: Tiffany Chu, Daniel Getelman, Sam Hashemi and Danny Whalen
Transitmix reworks traditional transportation route planning with a mapping tool that lets planners predict costs and ridership on the fly. The solution is an attempt to replace the pencil-and-paper process of city transportation planners still drawing bus routes with highlighters and printed maps. Equally, the solution unifies data from the bus route planning process inside a single tool. City decision-makers and citizens no longer have to decrypt rows of coordinates in Excel files, traverse Google Earth coordinates or bury themselves in the folds of annotated maps to see differences in route changes and potential costs and ridership. Moreover, the platform crunches a wealth of information — from U.S. census data to internal data — to visualize where routes can best serve targeted demographics.
Jason Shueh is a former staff writer for Government Technology magazine.