Last week at the Web 2.0 Expo, I gave a talk on The Opportunity for Civic Startups. I was filling in for Code for America‘s Jen Pahlka, and the presentation itself is an hybrid of a version I did at the t=0 Entrepreneurship Festival at MIT a few weeks ago, a version Jen did at Future of Web Apps earlier this year and a version that Andrew McLaughlin has been giving. Here are my slides.
I broke it down into two main sections: (1) trends that are setting the stage for civic startups, and (2) models/approaches that civic startups are following. Unfortunately, the timing of the speaker notes on slideshare doesn’t match the slides, so the notes are in off by a few slides, but you can get the idea.
One of my favorite threads in this story is “the rise of the civic hacker” — folks who use their coding & product development superpowers to make cities work better, almost always from outside of official channels. The “civic hacker ethic”, if you will, is about making shit, and it represents a pretty new way of getting civically engaged — less about arguing policy or politics and more about building something helpful. What’s even cooler is that there are now a solid handful of civic hackers who have parlayed a passion project on the side into a real business or career: Dan O’Neill & Adrian Holovaty with Everyblock, Harper Reed (transit hacker and now Obama campaign CTO), Jon Wegener of Exit Strategy NYC, Joshua Tauber (GovTrack & Pop Vox), Ben Berkowitz of SeeClickFix and many more.
And there’s more where that came from. I believe that we’re just at the beginning of a big wave of civic startups (here’s looking at you, Code for America 2011 graduates), and I am looking forward to continuing to follow them, help them, and learn from them.