For many people, even those who would describe themselves as “startup people”, Govtech isn’t really a sector they know well, or have even heard of. Govtech, however, is one of the most pervasive and important industries on the planet.
So what is Govtech?
Govtech as a sector revolves around the technology that allows governments to perform their necessary functions. From aerospace to law enforcement to health care unless you are living on your own private island you have probably interacted with govtech. Ron Bouganim from the Govtech fund describes it best.
"Govtech startups we invest in build hardware and software tools for governments that are significantly better than existing technologies — built using modern application development practices and technology stacks, inspired from the start by the user’s experience, visually stunning, leverage the cloud, enable seamless transition from fixed to mobile interactions, sold at prices that account for ever-constrained budgets,and without vendor lock-in, endless customizations, training sessions or perpetual maintenance contracts. Through their innovation, govtech startups enable government — local, state, and federal — to become more efficient, more responsive, and better able to serve society." - Ron Bouganim, Partner at the Govtech Fund
Govtech’s desperate need for startups
While Govtech has been around for hundreds of years, its has been riddled with problems that have kept startups away from an industry that spends close to 500 billion dollars each and every year on technology.
Mainly, govtech implementation is slow. Procurement, which is the process governments use to evaluate and purchase new technology, is an extremely painful and long process for companies. Saturated with red-tape, hundred page proposals, and unenthusiastic procurement employees, the government’s process is extremely inefficient and expensive.
This creates a big problem for startups, as a startup’s value lies on their ability to quickly iterate and innovate. Startups in general simply do not have the time or resources to navigate this process. Additionally, entrepreneurs in many cases lose their own enthusiasm when setback by governments favorability to large incumbent companies like Tyler Technologies, Lockheed Martin, or Booz Allen Hamilton.
Government, however, is in drastic need for startups. The government technology space is covered with cases of antiquated technology, ridiculously expensive contracts, and an entire lack of the innovation that startups have been able to accomplish in practically every other industry.
We have to change the govtech environment
Being a sector that affects every single one of our lives it is critical we change the govtech environment to ensure more startups enter and disrupt the space.
First, government leaders must become more enthusiastic to accept technological innovation. Administrators across the world need to become more involved in bringing startups and new technology into their processes. NYC and Toronto are two examples of cities that have been accommodating to new technology. Lync NYC for example provides kiosks with free fiber WiFi to millions of New Yorkers. Ads on the kiosks are also bringing in millions of dollars to the city every year. Sidewalk Labs partnered with the city of Toronto to work on building a smart city from the ground up. Mark43 is proving they can provide modern solutions to Law Enforcement to increase efficiency and beat out more expensive and antiquated systems of the past. Bringing new technology and innovative business models to government works, and startups have proven that under the right conditions they can drastically improve government functions and in turn the people in them.
Simply put, we need more government administrators to replicate the openness of those in NYC and Toronto and begin to take steps toward taking the successes of other industries into government. In addition, it is critical that more venture capitalists and investors act bullish on funding startups in this space. By creating an environment where the government sector is more viable and intriguing for startups we can bring in the best entrepreneurs and technologists around the world.
We have the opportunity to make governments more efficient and innovative thus improving the lives of citizens around the world, so if you’re an entrepreneur, investor, or public servant, definitely take a deeper look at Govtech: the shadowed, antiquated industry that affects all of us.