Why Civic (Startup)?

Last week, Good Magazine featured the launch of our Civic Startup Accelerator, which prompted a bunch of tweets — mostly supportive, some curious, but one however caught my eye:

Basically it’s the question why a civic startup and not just a traditional one… I have actually gotten this question a couple of times, and it’s nontrivial. Particularly with the staggering level of activity in the consumer web, why take on the often times daunting notion of the civic web?

So I figured I’d ask the people actually doing it. I turned to a few civic entreprenuers who have graciously agreed to be mentors for our Accelerator to describe their motivation and rationale for working in this space:

Ryan Alfred (@ryanalfred), co-founder, BrightScope:

Startups are very personal. Usually successful founders are tackling unsolved problems that matter to them personally. A civic startup is nothing more than a startup founded by entrepreneurs who noticed that our government has some huge issues, and who believe that a startup is a better and more accessible platform than politics to solve these issues.

Steve Ressler (@govloop), founder, GovLoop:

As Tim O’Reilly said “Do something that matters.” Civic startups have big markets, less competition, and huge problems with more meaning (improve lives of citizens VS another fart app).

There is no better time to work in a civic startup — with decreasing budgets and increased government data, government is ripe for disruption and more receptive than ever to new innovative solutions to civic problems.

For anyone else working on a civic startup or initiative, we’d love to hear why you’re up for it. Share your responses in the comments, and don’t forget that the deadline for applications for the inaugural CfA Accelerator is rapidly approached (June 1). Apply now: codeforamerica.org/accelerator

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Stephen Christiansen

Now, don’t go knocking the value of a good fart app… 😉

I have my own startup, which is based on platform for automating digital marketing for small businesses. I have a secondary vision, using the same technical platform, to develop a platform for local community engagement between the electors and the electees. Now, the whole premise of the system depends entirely on the electorate embracing two-way communication with their constituents… but if it works it will provide for a vibrant and active community culture and dialogue.

I hope to have the first iteration launched this summer (July or so) for the local communities surrounding me, simply because I know several of the local politicians and I think I can get their buy in. Grass roots efforts will help this spread if it’s successful.

Why do this? I’m frustrated with the lack of unbiased content. I’m frustrated there’s not one place I can go to discuss issues with members of all parties. I hate one way communication. I’m all for transparency, education, communication, and open dialogue. That’s what I’m hoping to foster.

*Love* Code for America. You guys are AWESOME.