SeeClickFix's CEO and co-founder looks back at a decade in the gov tech space as the company launches an overhaul of its signature citizen engagement app.
In 2009, the Apple iPhone was only a year and a half old and the App Store had been in existence for less than a year. The Android OS had only been out for a few months and was available on just a single system, the Google smartphone (otherwise known as the T-Mobile G1). The world of mobile was a vastly different place than it is today, but among the pack of the initial mobile apps was one that enabled people to report issues in their community directly from their phones. This was the beginning of SeeClickFix.
The company was born out of frustration. As CEO and co-founder Ben Berkowitz explained, “There was literally graffiti on my neighbor's building that I was trying to get removed.”
In the process of trying to resolve the graffiti issue, Berkowitz and his co-founders, Kam Lasater, Jeff Blasius and Miles Lasater, all realized there was a larger issue at hand: citizen-to-government communication.
That opportune moment, driven by the democratization of technology and the rise of mobile-as-a-platform, gave way to the rise of the new citizen-powered reporting that was pioneered by SeeClickFix.
Berkowitz also recognized that even after an issue was reported, “there was no public feedback loop or clear way to figure out who was accountable for what.” To solve this issue, SeeClickFix took a radical approach and, as Berkowitz describes it, they “layered on an added level of transparency and accountability that allowed citizens to speak with one voice and for government to speak directly to a group of citizens.”
Over the years, new capabilities were added, such as SeeClickFix Work, enabling government agencies to also better communicate internally and manage citizen-reported issues. Berkowitz explained that cities like Detroit have taken full advantage of both the internal and external applications of SeeClickFix to unlock new efficiencies. “In Detroit, SeeClickFix is the mobile application for the citizen and the majority of service requests are being reported through the mobile application,” he said. “But [Detroit] also takes phone calls that come in and logs them inside of the SeeClickFix CRM.”
Ten years later, SeeClickFix has resolved over 4 million individual issues, approximately 90 percent of all reported issues on their platform. What’s the secret to this amazing resolution ratio? Berkowitz attributes it to two things: First, he says it’s critical to be “aware of where people are going to talk about issues and being humble enough to meet them there.” Second, it’s important to “magnify the positive feedback loops that happen in a government service transaction, even the small things like getting a pothole fixed.”
As a fitting 10-year tribute to their first debut is the launch today of SeeClickFix 5.0, a major overhaul of their iOS application that includes a substantial redesign and new logic around grouping duplicate requests. In addition, the new app can now leverage metadata from individual reported photos to provide more accurate reporting for government agencies to streamline agency response.
Reaching the 10-year mark is a major milestone for any company, and even more notable in the rapidly growing government technology space. Berkowitz explained that success in gov tech means “you have to really love this … and build a culture of people who want to dedicate their lives to, or some portion of their lives, to meaningful work.” Ten years in, it’s evident that the SeeClickFix team is doing just that.
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