OpenGov is more than an exciting startup, it’s also a worthy cause
Why is it so difficult to see how our government spends our money?
That’s the question that OpenGov, the two-year-old, Mountain View-based startup is trying to solve for. After all, what could be more important than transparency to ensure that the precious tax dollars collected by the state are being used with a modicum of financial responsibility? Previously, government transparency has always been a bit of a joke, and even when transparency has been available, it’s never been particularly easy to find or understand.
When ordinary citizens can’t realistically find the information that makes a government more transparent, then it isn’t really all that transparent is it? In an Op-Ed for the Huffington Post, California Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom and OpenGov’s own Zachary Bookman spoke on the concept of the Open Government movement. “For too long, government information has been locked away in agencies, departments, and archaic IT systems,” the two wrote. “Senior administrators often have to request the data they need to do their jobs from system operators. Elected officials, in turn, often have to request data from these administrators. The public remains in the dark, and when data is released, it appears in the form of inaccessible or incomprehensible facts and figures.”
OpenGov’s strategy to increase honesty and efficiency within local U.S. governments is to increase the ease with which citizens can find and understand how money is being spent. With this goal in mind, the startup has created web applications that visualize, analyze and share government data, allowing ordinary people to not only track spending, but also understand it.
“One of the key value props we have is we’re taking their data and making it intelligible,” said Zac Bookman, OpenGov’s co-founder and CEO. “If you hung this 40,000 row Excel spreadsheet online, it’s useful to almost no one.”
Now, with the successful conclusion of a $15 million Series B, it’s looking like OpenGov is picking up steam. We’ve been very excited to be a part of this fundraising, having been an investor in this recent, Andreesen Horrowitz-led round. The choices that venture capitalists make with their investments inevitably show what they value and how they view the world. While OpenGov certainly fits within our investment thesis from a technological perspective, it’s also the enterprise’s worthy goal that caught our interest and fueled our passion for seeing it succeed.
And succeeding it is. OpenGov already has 37 local governments on-board, with 13 more coming to the platform soon. Hopefully, this expansion of OpenGov represents a new step in government efficiency and transparency. By investing in tech companies that can challenge the way the government handles financial responsibility, it is our goal to ensure that innovative companies like OpenGov get the funds they need to keep changing the world.
OpenGov was founded in 2012 by Zac Bookman, Joe Lonsdale, and technologists from Stanford University, who studied government budgeting in the aftermath of the Great Recession. The team observed dedicated public servants struggle against outdated technology that prevented them from accessing timely spending information and communicating their priorities to citizens and elected officials. Believing there was a better way, the team set out to build cloud-based, easy-to-use government performance solutions to power more open, effective, and accountable government. Today over 1,900 public agencies in 48 states form a growing network leveraging OpenGov to achieve better budgeting, improved reporting and operational performance, and comprehensive transparency and open data. OpenGov solutions drive impact by giving governments the right tools and relevant data for more informed decision-making and better outcomes for the public.