Last year at this time, we introduced our inaugural GovTech 100 list — a group representative of the growing number of viable technology businesses pointing their solutions squarely at government. At the time, we assembled an emerging collection of companies that were increasingly challenging traditional public-sector processes and ushering a new wave of innovation into government. The past year bore out that we were onto something in noting a fundamental shift. Government doesn’t perform its vital functions nor deliver citizen services the same way anymore, and our coverage should reflect that.

We’ve started to devote more reporting resources to the gov tech market. You probably learned about Maury Blackman leaving Accela, for example, or the GovDelivery/Granicus merger, on Expect more stories like that, as we delve deeper into the trends and happenings in the market space, drawing upon our background and expertise with state and local government tech deployments.

We’ll talk to established and emerging companies, customers of those companies, investors and analysts with a perspective on what various moves and shifts in direction may signal for the broader marketplace. The most pertinent question our stories will strive to answer aligns perfectly with the mission of this magazine: How is the cause of innovation in the public sector advanced through the growth and development of the gov tech industry? It’s no longer a question of whether it is or isn’t. We’ve moved on to how.

The 2017 GovTech 100, like the initial effort in 2016, is the culmination of months of research and information-gathering, complemented by hours of interactions with opinion leaders and innovators in the trenches. But this year’s list, unlike 2016’s, is made infinitely richer by an important new partnership that deepens our knowledge base in a significant way.

Government Technology has officially partnered with Crunchbase, TechCrunch’s startup database arm that features rich context on hundreds of thousands of global companies. The expansive site includes thousands of pieces of company data on those firms making inroads into gov tech. Crunchbase’s team of researchers and tools offers insights into investments, competitors, leadership and employee counts, media coverage, and more. It’s a wealth of data that helped inform not just the 2017 GovTech 100, but also will help provide vital, verified context to our reporting going forward. What’s more, through our collaboration, gov tech is now officially an industry category in Crunchbase.

Along with Crunchbase and its expansive market knowledge, we are also leaning on the experience of the Nasdaq Entrepreneurial Center and the San Francisco Mayor’s Office of Civic Innovation — leaders in engaging startup energy in the public sector through their Startup in Residence program, which has expanded to include smaller municipalities nearby.

Attendees of last October’s State of GovTech event got a preview of this new alliance. At the Nasdaq Entrepreneurial Center in San Francisco, we convened public-sector leaders, startup companies interested in working with government, investors and nonprofits to talk about the opportunities represented by the nearly $1 trillion state and local government technology market.

Pioneering gov tech investor Ron Bouganim, founder of the Govtech Fund, explained at the event that his fund was borne out of the refusal of venture capitalists just a few years ago to engage with companies that were focused on government, failing to see its potential or feeling it wasn’t worth the hassle. “Literally, one of the reasons I started the Govtech Fund, I joke to my friends, was out of spite.” But things are changing. Those same investors are starting to co-invest with domain experts like Bouganim as a first step. “You cannot ignore this space,” Bouganim added. “It’s too big.”