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Esper Raises $8M for Digital Policymaking Platform

The funding is among the latest signs of growth for government-centric subscription software. Esper’s platform allows a single collaboration point for policymakers, potentially removing friction from the process.

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Austin-based Esper, whose cloud-based technology helps state governments digitally centralize policymaking, has raised $8 million in a Series A funding round.

The startup said the round was led by Cota Capital with participation from 8VC, Gaingels and Stand Together Ventures Lab. Esper, which is about three years old, has raised $14 million in funding so far.

Esper is trying to stand out in the increasingly crowded field of government technology by offering a single, unified platform via which officials can construct and revise policy proposals, according to Maleka Momand, the firm’s CEO and co-founder.

“Governments are creating thousands of policies every single year,” she said. “And policymaking is spread out among a lot of different systems like Word, SharePoint and Excel.”

Those processes may be digital, she said, but it can still result in a messier policymaking journey than is necessary, given all the disparate technological and software tools involved.

“It’s a really disconnected process, and kind of Frankenstein-ed together,” Momand said. “It results in high institutional costs and slows things down and makes [policymaking] opaque for people and business owners.”

Esper’s technology, by contrasts, enables the people working on policy to work via one collaborative platform. That matters because, according to her data, the average policy has 20 stakeholders collaborating on it.

“It’s not Word or Excel inside Esper,” she said, “but Esper’s own platform.”

The company charges government clients a subscription fee to use the tool — yet another sign of the growth of subscription software among state and local governments for a variety of uses.

Esper has signed up more than a dozen clients so far for the platform.

Most are at the state level, which Momand called the company’s “sweet spot” because of the willingness of state CIOs to be “super open” to new technology. Esper has at least one federal client but she acknowledged that expansion at that level can be tough because there is a relatively higher barrier to entry to federal agencies when it comes to new technology.

The new funding will largely go toward helping Esper scale, along with hiring in such areas as sales and engineering, she said. The company employs about 26 people and is actively recruiting for remote positions. Esper, she added, is gaining traction on the West and East coasts, and will continue to focus on gaining more state government clients.

The company also is looking to add new features to its platform. That includes a citizen engagement tool that could further inform and guide policymakers. Momand said that part of the platform should be ready to launch within 12 months.

Editor's note: This story has been updated to clarify Maleka Momand's outlook on expanding the company's federal business.
Thad Rueter writes about the business of government technology. He covered local and state governments for newspapers in the Chicago area and Florida, as well as e-commerce, digital payments and related topics for various publications. He lives in Wisconsin.