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Govlaunch, CivStart Partner to Bring New Players to Gov Tech

Govlaunch, the free “innovation wiki” resource for government, has teamed up with the recently formed civic tech startup accelerator CivStart to promote and support new businesses in the gov tech space.

by / June 18, 2020
Shutterstock/Lightspring

An informational resource for government and a civic-tech startup accelerator are now working together to connect public agencies with new technologies.

CivStart, the startup accelerator which launched in July 2019, announced its partnership with Govlaunch, the free, private “innovation wiki” for local governments and businesses, to share details of their tech projects, in a news release earlier this month. The announcement said Govlaunch’s platform will automatically include pages for the startups participating in CivStart’s program and give them a “disruptor” designation, reserved for companies that “disrupt the status quo and fundamentally change the way local governments operate.”

Govlaunch co-founder and CEO James Alfano told Government Technology that he approached CivStart because he saw overlap with his own company’s mission statement: making the gov tech market more accessible to new players and connecting new ideas with governments that need them, despite challenges to procurement and a lack of investment that have historically made tech companies wary of public-sector business. And they’re both interested in diversity.

“We want to bring more diversity to the marketplace, both from the standpoint of bringing in supporting folks who haven’t always been involved in public service or selling to governments, but also increasing the number of sustainable companies led by underrepresented groups,” Alfano said. “We’re featuring all of those companies [participating in CivStart], doing feature pieces, podcasts on some of them. We’re making it easier for our local government community to find them, we’re providing tools for them to share their impacts on existing government partners, and we’re working on new ways within the platform to highlight these folks.”

Govlaunch started in 2016 as a searchable product directory for government employees to see what was available to them. It has since evolved to include government projects and initiatives, a specialized wiki with pre-populated with pages for more than 20,000 cities, towns and county governments in the U.S., Puerto Rico and other territories. It also allows tech vendors to create their own profiles on the site. Alfano said Govlaunch lists information about more than 2,000 government projects and close to 1,000 companies, many of which have multiple products listed.

CivStart, which gives a select companies 24 months of customer development, product development, network building and expert guidance, announced 10 participants in its first cohort last July.

“As we foster technology that creates stronger, healthier, safer and more inclusive communities, Govlaunch provides decision makers with a platform to share best practices and discover what is working for others,” said CivStart CEO and founder Anthony Jamison in a statement. “Mutual understanding is a critical piece of the puzzle, and we are excited to see our startups engage with Govlaunch’s audience of local government innovators.”

Alfano said a primary benefit of the partnership on Govlaunch’s end is growing its directory, because CivStart is finding companies that Govlaunch might have missed.

“We were already doing this through our disruptors program to begin with. What benefits us is, [Govlaunch] has a lot of resources to find e-startups and vet them. We were doing this too, but they have a lot of experience in this area,” he said. “They’ve found a lot of companies that have great models, are really disruptive technologies pushing the barriers in this space. A lot of these companies we’ve never heard of, and more eyeballs in this space is good for us.”

Alfano said Govlaunch has seen steady growth over the past year, with five to 10 new governments claiming their pages every day. The company has expanded to serve seven countries, now including Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, the U.K. and Ireland.

“We’re seeing more and more projects coming in every day, as we get more governments in, and these governments are helping us to crowdsource new solutions and vendors abroad that we had never heard of,” he said. “We’re bringing in new solutions from across the world, and that’s been our goal from day one, to make this a global resource.”

Continuing in the vein of partnerships and collaboration, Alfano said Govlaunch recently submitted a panel proposal to Smart Cities Connect to discuss challenges related to helping startups that aren’t originally from the gov tech space, and helping underrepresented groups therein. The Govlaunch Podcast also just concluded its first 10-episode season.

For its part, CivStart announced this month that it formed a new task force of public, private, nonprofit and academic leaders to run pilot projects to help entrepreneurs from underrepresented groups, and later study the results.

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Andrew Westrope Staff Writer

Andrew Westrope is a staff writer for Government Technology. Before that, he was a reporter and editor at community newspapers for seven years. He has a Bachelor’s degree in physiology from Michigan State University and lives in Northern California.


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