10 entrepreneurs changing the way government works

I recently began reading The Power of Social Innovation: How Civic Entrepreneurs Ignite Community Networks for Good and felt compelled to highlight more people building business models around better government. The role of business and the entrepreneurial spirit as it relates to government is at times under-played or discredited (sometimes, rightfully so), but it’s the backbone of a democratic society.

Consider this the first in a series. For starters, here are 10 entrepreneurs changing the way government works:

Goldy Kamali


What we do:

FedScoop is a New Media and Events company serving key decision makers in the government IT community. We bring C-level executives from the federal government and IT community together via VIP events, video interviews and articles and blogs to collaborate, exchange best practices and identify ways to work together to solve common goals.

Richard White


What we do:

UserVoice helps all types of organizations involved in government reach out to their constituents. Here are a few examples:

Political Campaigns – Inform your platform; uncover grassroots interest.

Civic Engagement – Leveraging the wisdom of the crowd to improve government.

Internal Brainstorming – Tap the collective knowledge inside your organization to improve government.

Michael Riedijk

  • CEO, DotGov
  • Founded: November 2009
  • @dotgovcom
  • Open gov motto: Put your government in your pocket

What we do:

DotGov, Inc., is developing a mobile platform that will dramatically change how citizens interact with their local government. DotGov combines the power of Mobile Devices with Social Media and Open Data. It provides citizens with tools to directly interact with their city and benefit from all information and services local governments offer in an unprecedented way.

Conor White-Sullivan & Aaron Soules

  • CEO/Co-founder (left)/CTO/Co-founder (right), Localocracy
  • Founded: September 2008
  • @Localocracy
  • Open gov motto: All politics is Local

What we do:

Localocracy partners with local government and media to help citizens learn about local issues and influence their community. We confirm that participants are registered voters in the community and provide a space where they can ask questions, vote on issues, and rank the best reasons for supporting their side.

Kevin Merritt


What we do:

Socrata is a socially enriched data-sharing platform optimized for data comprehension by non-technically trained audiences, without excluding technical audiences. Socrata empowers organizations to transform their data assets into hubs for social and civic engagement and interaction, on their own websites and also in mainstream media websites and social media sites.

Ben Berkowitz


What we do:

SeeClickFix is an international tool enabled in 83 languages that allows citizens to report non-emergency issues such as potholes, graffiti or a littered parks to those accountable for the public space including local governments and community groups. SeeClickFix is available via the web where you can post issues and have your neighbors comment or vote on their resolution. Anybody can receive alerts via easy to create free-formed geographical alerting areas that we call watch areas. Also, If you have a blackberry, android or iPhone you can download our app and report a problem in your community with your gps location and a photo. 40% of the issues on SeeClickFix have already been fixed. From Argentina to Philadelphia citizens are using SeeClickFix to improve their communities.

Kurt Daradics


What we do:

FreedomSpeaks is a technology company focused on delivering interactive civic engagement platforms. Our mission is to transform civic engagement.

Our Core Values are shaping our culture and defining the character of our company, guiding how we behave and make decisions:

Stewardship: Building a heritage for future generations, acting with an owner mentality, and meeting our commitments to all internal and external stakeholders.
Best People: Attracting and developing the best talent for our business, stretching our people and developing a “can do” attitude.
Integrity: Inspiring trust by taking responsibility, acting ethically, and encouraging honest and open debate.

We deliver an interlocking product suite that includes:

  • FreedomSpeaks.com (The first non-partisan political social network & largest database of politicians)
  • FreedomSpeaks Pro (Lobby in a box SaaS product)
  • CitySourced (Mobile civic engagement platform)

Alan W. Silberberg

  • Co-Founder, You2Gov
  • Founded: April 2008
  • @You2Gov
  • Open gov motto: Don’t Be Afraid

What we do:

Path-breaking Gov 2.0 company that innovates and creates Government 2.0 + 3.0 Technology using custom Joomla based Social Networking/ SCRM and Advocacy. Consulting to Federal, State, Local Governments; International Corporations on: best media use; technology weaving to create maximum impact websites, tools, videos and conversations at highest strategic level.

Zubin Wadia


What we do:

CiviGuard is the world’s most advanced civilian emergency communications platform. It promotes contextual messaging over information saturation. CiviGuard is location-aware, smartphone optimized and cloud-based – making near real-time civilian outreach during a crisis, a reality.

About Luke Fretwell

Luke Fretwell is the founder of GovFresh. He is also co-founder and CEO of ProudCity. Connect with him on Twitter and LinkedIn or email at luke@govfresh.com.

11 Responses

  1. What I see here are a lot of folks, mainly geek males, only one woman and one person of colour, who have gotten consulting gigs, basically, to make widgets.

    There is a fake shroud of democracy and transparency over all this coding, but it isn’t serving the people.

    I see 10 people hustling their wares to government like they were selling office water coolers. They are an insular bunch and it’s not clear how they serve the public interest at all.

    Each one of these people is explaining their mission in jargonistic insider speak that talks about the tech, but not *what the tech really does, and the outcome of its application on people*.

    Except for Localocracy, none explain what they really DO other than meet their own internal goals. Even Localocracy is disturbing in that it looks like a bid to replace local voting by becoming meta to it, and manipulative of it.

    I challenge you, since you claim to be working for the people and the government, to explain what you’re about and why anybody should bother with your tools, which seem merely a way to get yourself a gig and/or smuggle in your leftist agendas.

  2. @Prokofy,

    Sorry to hear our platform disturbs you, but I’ll happily accept your challenge.

    Local issues matter to many people, and are issues have direct experience with and can really do something about. But often it can be incredibly difficult for regular citizens to find good (balanced, relevant, factual) information about these issues or have any voice themselves.

    When you face it, most people don’t have time to go to a six hour town meeting just to talk for 30 seconds, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have something valuable to contribute.

    Your right, seeing what other people in your community are thinking about issues can have a profound impact on the turnout and results of local elections–that’s the point.

    But this isn’t about replacing voting, (did videoconferencing replace long distance travel? Many thought it would but it has done just the opposite). If anything, we believe having an easier way to get a quick summary of the issues in your community and where people stand will encourage more people to get involved.

    Our belief is that citizens should be the ones who shape the dialog around politics–not special interests or talking heads, and that better information and more participation can create a better democracy.

    Hope that helps, I can’t do much about being a geeky male though,

    That said the lack of diversity is a good point. Wondering, do you think it is a feature of the gov-tech space, or just a feature of this list?

    Thanks,

    Conor
    CEO/Co-Founder Localocracy

  3. Hi Luke,

    You should check-out Peak Democracy.
    The Company has hosted over 400 online public comment forums
    with the order and decorum of government public hearings.

    The Company’s clients include
    large municipalities such as Salt Lake City,
    leading edge cities such as Palo Alto,
    small towns such as Lake Oswego OR,
    spacious counties such as Washoe County NV, and
    public works agencies such as the Beltline in Atlanta.

    So consider adding the following to your list:

    Robert Vogel
    – Co-founder, Peak Democracy
    – Founded: December 2007
    – @PeakDemocracy
    – Open gov motto:
    Helping government leaders make more informed decisions,
    and thereby deliberate in ways that can improve public trust in government.

  4. Hi Luke,

    You should check-out Peak Democracy.
    The Company has hosted over 400 online public comment forums
    with the order and decorum of government public hearings.

    The Company’s clients include
    large municipalities such as Salt Lake City,
    leading edge cities such as Palo Alto,
    small towns such as Lake Oswego OR,
    spacious counties such as Washoe County NV, and
    public works agencies such as the Beltline in Atlanta.

    So consider adding the following to your list:

    Robert Vogel
    – Co-founder, Peak Democracy
    – Founded: December 2007
    – @PeakDemocracy
    – Open gov motto:
    Helping government leaders make more informed decisions,
    and thereby deliberate in ways that can improve public trust in government.

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