Captricity: Why We’re Coding for America

Captricity is one of the seven civic startups in the inaugural class of the CfA Accelerator.

I was sure my little dream of starting a side-project, small business were going to die.

Looking at a multicolor zoning map and trying to make sense of the regulatory leagalease, I was getting no where close to a list of permits I would need. Trying to salvage hope, I started asking simple questions. But there were no answers from the planning department’s FAQ; in fact, I think it only confused me more. Then I saw Open Counter for the City of Santa Cruz, Calif., built by Code for America Fellows. It’s simple, beautifully designed, and easy to use. And it answers my questions even before they came up in my mind (if only I was aiming to start up in Santa Cruz…). That’s why I’m coding for America, because that’s the way it should be, for everyone, everywhere.

When Captricity was accepted to the CfA Accelerator program, we were all excited. We provide a service to extract machine-readable, digital data from paper forms; and everyone knows there’s a lot a paper still in government. The procurement cycle is difficult, to say the least. Years of real and perceived misappropriations of public funds have caused government agencies to erect enormous barriers to acquiring and using new technologies.

The Accelerator program is unique, truly first of its kind, and startling ambitious in that it aims to help startups navigate not only procurement, but also the many other peculiarities around working with government. The secret that CfA knows, and we have learned, is this: the caliber and motivation of most, if not all, public employees is truly inspiring. These are people who truly want to make interacting with government simple and easy for every citizen. They are functionaries who wish more technology tools were genuinely suited to meet their needs. And, they’re often driven by a deeper drive to serve the needs of citizens.

As it turns out, we share that sense of purpose. Captricity has developed a tool that public employees can use to unlock data, often a first step to making any interaction with the government simpler and improved. As a company, we’re coding for America because such tools are in short supply. Because every city needs an Open Counter to help folks start businesses, and because public disclosures have no teeth if the information isn’t consumable by journalists, activists, and others to actually use.

Questions? Comments? Hit us up @codeforamerica.

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