Accela CEO Maury Blackman talks about his company's aggressive pursuit of new technologies and acquisitions as it broadens its reach with civic tech solutions for government services.
It’s difficult to put a label on a cloud company like Accela. Over the years its digital services have tackled an ever-expanding list of government challenges. Solutions range from land management to legislation to licensing. They cover water distribution, transit and civic engagement. As part of its move to be the all-in-one vendor for city needs, Accela has pursued partnerships or outright acquisitions of other companies — large and small.
In March, Accela reported a partnership with DocuSign to add electronic signatures into its Civic Platform for legislative management. And in the last two years, the company has acquired nine new ventures while enlarging its customer base to 2,200-plus city, county and state customers. Government Technology has placed Accela on its inaugural GovTech100 list of notable companies for its work and has honored CEO Maury Blackman as one of its Top 25 Doers, Dreamers and Drivers of 2016.
In January, Blackman spoke with Government Technology about how the company continues to diversify offerings and retool government services.
Government Technology: What were the most significant milestones for Accela in 2015?
Accela CEO Maury Blackman: Undeniably, 2015 was a monumental year for Accela. In February , we closed another funding round that has brought us north of $233 million invested in the business. We’re using this latest round to continue growing the Accela family through acquisitions and partnerships, while investing in building an even stronger Civic Platform.
Building on six announced acquisitions in 2014 (Decade Software, Government Outreach, Kinsail, Envista, IQM2, GeoTMS), we established our productivity and civic engagement platform as unparalleled in the industry, adding Springbrook Software, SoftRight and PublicStuff in Spring 2015. We’re now laser-focused on efficiently integrating these stellar technologies into the core infrastructure of the Accela Civic Platform.
In October, we unveiled Civic Platform 8.0, offering a responsive and carefully crafted user interface that reinvents the way government workers interact with residents and meet their daily goals. In 2015, Accela’s customer base grew significantly to more than 2,200 local and state government customers worldwide. Across all product lines, we celebrated more than 2,000 cities and counties going live on the Civic Platform, and we continued partnering with organizations and businesses that share our vision of making government more efficient and effective for residents.
GT: How is Accela helping cities accelerate their civic tech and gov tech initiatives in 2016?
Blackman: For more than 15 years, Accela has been the industry leader in designing and delivering productivity and civic engagement software to help government agencies be their best.
Today, citizens are savvy to how services should be delivered, and expect a consistently convenient, openly transparent view into their local government. While government agencies struggle to do more with less, our mission has never been more critical. Accela provides a robust, cloud-based platform of productivity and civic engagement resources for governments of any size to offer their citizens. These resources and technology solutions provide transparent information and access to open data to realize profound change in how citizens interact and engage with their local government.
This past year, we unveiled several partnerships that will help cities ramp up their civic and gov tech initiatives this year. The most notable, in California, is the Northern and Central California SunShot Alliance. Accela formed this alliance with PG&E, SolarCity, Qado Energy and the City of Livermore to speed up solar permitting and increase solar adoption within the Bay Area by enabling the construction and interconnection of rooftop solar systems in one day or less. Since formation, more cities are joining the alliance, which shows the power of change and efficiency possible when industry-leading technology aligns with motivated municipalities.
GT: Since Accela was founded in 1999, you’ve had an opportunity to develop and direct some of the civic tech movement’s growth. What drives you to cultivate the movement now and how would you like to see it impact cities in the next two to three years?
Blackman: Over the years, much of the focus of our business has been about creating streamlined processes and efficiencies for government agencies. We’re now seeing a very distinct shift in demand for not only technologies that improve intra-office processes, but also apps and software that create lines of communication between governments and citizens. This shift keeps me up at night, in the best way possible.
I’m motivated by the prospect of citizen engagement becoming a true reality across cities. It’s the reason Accela has spent so much of the past year acquiring companies and strengthening our product offerings for citizen interaction. This is the future, and we are driven to continue having a hand in shaping and accelerating comprehensive civic engagement.
A key component to us being impactful in the lives of residents and cities is our ability to understand our customers’ needs and deliver solutions that put the information and access directly into their hands, when and where they want it. To do this, we maintain tight communication with our customers through every medium possible in order to continue adapting our solutions to best meet their needs. Our customers today directly impact the sales success and customer growth of our business tomorrow.
In government, the industry is inherently risk-averse — meaning everyone talks to everyone before they make decisions. Our business succeeds on the references of our current customers, and through open discourse and communication with our customer base, we are ensuring that we will continue to deliver products and services that will direct the future growth of civic tech.