Soon after we launched the Code for America (CfA) fellowship, we realized that to accomplish the kind of change we were seeking not only would government have to change but also the civic tech ecosystem. There needed to be more innovation, more dynamism, more entrepreneurship. City Hall needs disruption from the outside as well. So taking from the precedent set in other industries (the consumer web, healthcare, clean tech, social, etc) — we decided to build a startup accelerator, focused on disrupting civic space.
For the past few months, we have been researching various formats and desired outcomes for the program — I think we talked to at least a dozen other accelerators, tons of startups, and a bunch of investors and entrepreneurs… (We wanted to make sure we knew what we were doing.)
Today, we’re pleased to share some exciting news: we’re now officially accepting applications for the Code for America Accelerator.
This first-of-its-kind, four-month program will “turbo-charge” select civic startups by providing them a springboard to amplify market awareness of their product, additional funding (a $25K seed grant), business mentoring specific to the Gov 2.0 space, and introductions to a broad network of civic leaders and potential investors.
What’s interesting about the civic space is that there’s real activity happening in cities across the country (e.g. Chicago, Philadelphia, Boston, NYC), so we’ve built the program to accomodate those teams’ local expertise and connections, while hooking them up with the best of San Francisco and Silicon Valley. Every month, accepted teams will attend week-long "retreats" in SF packed with trainings, talks, and networking events; for the rest of the time, teams can work out of our offices, or wherever else they might need to be. Throughout the program, our network of advisors and mentors will be "on call" to help.
Applications will be accepted starting today until June 1: http://codeforamerica.org/accelerator
None of this would be possible without the strong team we’ve recruited to lead this new program. We’re thrilled to have brought on board experienced telecommunications and consumer software entrepreneur Ron Bouganim as the director of the Accelerator. Ron has served as co-founder or exec team member on multiple successful startups, including CCI (sold to British Telecom), Trymedia (sold to Macrovision), Razz, and most recently, Echo. He is also an active angel investor, advisor to dozens of startups, and was a mentor to our inaugural 2011 class of fellows. I’ve had the privilege to work with Ron for over a year now, and I can say that his experience and insight is only matched by his wit and good humor — and that’s saying something. We’re thrilled to have him run this important new initiative.
Ron will have the benefit of a terrific board of advisors: Caterina Fake (co-founder of Flickr and Pinwheel), Peter Schwartz (founder of the Global Business Network), Ron Conway, (partner at SV Angel), and Aneesh Chopra (former CTO of the United States), who had this to say:
"We’ve seen incredible advances in technology platforms over the past decade that have lowered entry barriers for new life-enriching products and services, but not for many of our local, state, or regional governments that are constrained by legacy investments in outdated, closed software. Given heightened attention to government spending, there’s not only the need, but an urgency to engage with new, disruptive startups."
We know, however, that this hard work. (What important work isnt?) That’s why we’ve pulled together a broad network of innovators inside government and out to support our startups teams. We’re pleased to have the financial support from Google and the Kauffman Foundation, the endorsement of cities such as Philadelphia and San Francisco, and the backing from an all-star set of industry, civic, and venture capital mentors, including Jeff Clavier, Bryce Roberts, Ted Rheingold, Marci Harris, and Manish Shah. Plus, the startups will benefit from the real-world experience of proven civic entrepreneurs such as Ryan and Mike Alfred of BrightScope, Ben Berkowitz of SeeClickFix, and Steve Ressler of GovLoop, among others.
For a a full list of mentors, as well as more insight into the program, check out codeforamerica.org/accelerator.
The first class will kick off this August, and the deadline for applications is June 1. Apply now.
(An important aside: Many thanks go to Angel Kittiyachavalit, for the gorgeous design of the Accelerator website, and so to the host of fellows and staff that helped edit and enhance it. This was truly — and pleasantly — a team effort.)