The Last Big Undisrupted Market: The Opportunity for Civic Startups

Nick Grossman (Union Square Ventures)
Strategy & Business Models
Location: Conference Room D Level:
Tags: startups
Average rating: ****.
(4.00, 1 rating)

If being a government contractor sounds like the absolute antithesis of your career goals or your aspirations for your startup, you’re forgiven. So much of the culture of the web stands in stark contrast to our notions of what it’s like to work with the government, including its bloated requirements, decidedly non-agile development methods, and a lack of respect for good interfaces and user experience. And much of that perception is justified. But there’s a lot that’s quietly changing, often in small pockets of innovation, but growing each day, and there’s increasingly an opportunity for web 2.0 teams to make a real impact on the $166B government technology market. Remember, the government market is 30% of our GDP.

This session will outline three demographic trends that make change in the sector inevitable, describe the changing environment that is opening up a formerly insular system, and then get real about how hard it really still is to work in a government context. We’ll hear stories from such companies as Azavea, OpenPlans, SeeClickFix, and GroundCrew. Then we’ll return to the sunny side of the street and talk about how you can disrupt this market from the inside or the outside, and why it might actually be worth it.

Think about it this way: the Internet is going to disrupt every sector at some point. It’s just taken its time getting to a sector where it’s failure that drives innovation instead of competition. More importantly, it’s not just money but also glory that awaits those who find better ways to serve the institution that is designed, however inefficiently for now, to serve us all.

Photo of Nick Grossman

Nick Grossman

Union Square Ventures

Nick is a General Manager at Union Square Ventures, where he invests in new web and mobile platforms, works with USV portfolio companies, and leads USV’s efforts on public policy and regulatory issues that impact open innovation the health of the web.

Previously, he led an incubator for technology and media businesses at OpenPlans, which, among other things, pioneered the open311 web standard, founded the largest open source project in the public transit space, and built NYC’s real-time bus data platform.

Nick has present and past academic affiliations at the Berkman Center for Internet Society at Harvard Law School and at the MIT Media Lab, and is on the advisory boards of the Data & Society Institute, the Data-Smart City Solutions initiative at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government, the Tumml urban ventures accelerator, Living Cities, and Code for America. He has a degree in Urban Studies from Stanford University and learned everything he knows about technology from people on the internet and by using view:source. He grew up in Brooklyn and now lives outside of Boston with his wife and two kids.

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