Platforms Could Be The Next Phase of Civic Tech


There is a lot of interest floating around the civic technology space from hackathons to non-profit incubators, to newly minted VC funds. Civic startups themselves are also pushing for a piece of this new industry. For some prime movers however, they’re already looking at phase 2.0 – and that looks increasingly like a new take on the government services platform.

If you say “government services platform” to veteran state CIOs they think of their clunky, expensive systems that are always in need of repair or upgrade – think Oracle, SAP, SharePoint. However, the new government services platform looks more like an iPhone app than Lotus.

Accela, one of the earliest players in the civic startup space first came to market with a licensing and permitting software application that sought to bring much of that work online, making it easier for both land management officials and the private sector. Last year, Accela saw one of the biggest funding rounds to date for a civic startup – a $40 million round led by Bregal Sagemount, a New York-based growth equity fund, along with prior investors. That investment dwarfs the newly launched $23 million GovTech Fund which is making venture style investments in civic startups.

Since then the company has been on an buy and build spree with acquisitions like IQM2, a New York-based provider of legislative solutions, which has allowed the company to build a government services platform that goes right at competitors like Grancius, SeeClickFix, or Mindmixer.

The latest acquisition, Government Outreach, a Pleasanton, California-based provider of citizen relationship management (CRM), was announced last week. “We now have solutions for legislative management, and Government Outreach brings in a CRM solution that building a core services platform for government services, that will allow officials to manage a two-way conversation with their constituents,” explains Rob Cassetti, Accela, in an interview with CivSource. “We’re working through an integration phase with each of these pieces, but ultimately it will allow state and local officials to handle business process issues from end to end.”

“We think a platform is the next phase in government service delivery,” he adds noting the evolution from custom solutions to systems integrators to more agnostic services platforms that bring in and streamline legacy systems. The platform allows users to choose services on an ala carte basis based around in-house needs. New customers can use best practices templates to be up and running in 3-6 months.

“We are also working with other application providers like OpenCounter within our applications ecosystem. These are partner applications that work alongside the Accela services on the platform so customers can expand what they do within the platform,” Cassetti adds. CivSource previously reported on the launch of OpenCounter Zoning Check, a new service from the startup, which came out of the Code for America accelerator program with additional backing from the Knight Foundation.

The Accela story is worth watching for both for companies and potential consumers of civic technology. The technology brings a number of services together for state and local officials and the financing partnerships behind that offering are also notable –private equity, non-profits and bootstrapping are all in the mix. In adjacent sectors like the companies lining up around the Internet of Things (IoT) startups like Blue Pillar are also looking at a platform play for facilities management. It’s early to call, but the way players are lining up now could shape the next phase for this nascent sector of startup land.