One of the most promising Gov 2.0 companies is SeeClickFix, which has won numerous awards for its mobile platform where citizens report non-emergency issues such as potholes and graffiti. I recently talked to CEO, Ben Berkowitz, about some big news happening with the company.
The newest version of the SeeClickFix iPhone app was released in the app store today (Tuesday) with features for citizens and governments unseen in any civic reporting app to date. Most importantly for DC and San Francisco residents we are fully connected to their 311 Systems.Other features include the ability to start and save reports off-line.
1 - Now that you got the funding, what are you hoping to do with the money?
We will be hiring a mobile engineer and another ruby developer full time as well as a product tester.
We will also be hiring a media client relationship manager as well as government sales and support staff.
We will be hiring another community manager. SCF is also ramping up its internship program this Semester.
2 - What does the news mean for government clients? Citizens using the app?
For the general user community: Today we put into production a much improved version of the iPhone app. Blackberry and Android are soon to follow with substantial updates. In general you will see a faster more user friendly SeeClickFix with more rapid deployment of features. We are also close to releasing a feature that will help citizens connect to their neighbors more easily. We will be working closer with CRM vendors like CitiWorks, Basic Gov and others to provide connections to their cities as well as building out more features for our government dashboard clients. We are looking for government clients who are interested in open automated telephone and text reporting services as well.
We will also be improving our map and text widgets for our government clients and media partners.
Most importantly: download the new SeeClickFix iPhone app and you'll have a taste of the type of product we will be delivering in the future.
3 - What was your experience talking to VCs and investors about the government sector? What is the awareness of Gov 2.0? Questions/concerns they had about government?
We were fortunate in that we had many in bound requests from VC's. We only had serious conversations with those that had an understanding of Internet scale platforms and an interest in the social value created by SeeClickFix as well as the fiscal returns. Omidyar donates to many non-profits in the space such as Sunlight Foundation, Code For America and Ushahidi. They had certainly done their homework when it came to investing in the space. Tim Oreilly is a board member at Alpha Tech, and though this is their first investment in the space, they are well versed in the players and the potential market. The main concern with government was the cost of the sales process and the slow timelines. SeeClickFix has demonstrated that it can overcome these hurtles through citizen's pulling on their government to use the platform as well as low costs to entry and easy on-ramps to implementation.
4 - I'd love to hear what your conversations are like with government agencies right now. What issues excite them about the concept? What issues do they struggle with?
For the most parts governments have gotten over the transparency concerns. There is still some concern about lack of control over the issues that are reported. They are excited by the fact that we do the hard work of getting citizens to communicate with them via the web and mobile as it substantially reduces costs in government customer service. Our clients have found that responding publicly to citizen concerns carries good favor with their constituents and enables more engagement. Many of them are excited to use the platform to encourage citizens to assist in fixing issues as well.
5 - What's your current favorite SeeClickFix story of how its being used by agencies and citizens?
That's a tough one. There are so many. I'll give you the most recent. We have always felt that old media is a tremendous asset in transparency and accountability in the new media world. The best example to date: WRAL, a local television station in Raleigh, NC has purchased the SeeClickFix Pro accounts for all City Council members in Raleigh as well as the Mayor and SeeClickFix Plus for City hall. In turn they will get the benefit of a widget on their site filled with civic participation and real government feedback that creates interesting, unbiased and honest content for their readers.
Ask me another time for my top ten favorite SeeClickFix stories. I'll tell you about the user that painted the crosswalk themselves or a user that salted a neighbor's walk when another user let them know that the owner of the house in question's (Unshoveled Walk) mother had just passed.