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Code for America Announces 2013 Accelerator Class

BY Sam Roudman | Thursday, July 25 2013

Code for America on Wednesday announced latest cohort for its accelerator program, a four-month boot camp for startups working around the nexus of technology and government.

CfA's interim executive director, Abhi Nemani, says the nonprofit isn't trying to build companies. It's trying to build a civic technology “ecosystem.” Supporting the ecosystem means encouraging ideas in civic technology all the way from tadpole to frog. To develop and conceive new ideas, CfA’s fellowship teams techies with cities to help solve metropolitan problems. Successful fellowship projects then can spend six months in the CfA Incubator during which an idea can be developed into a business plan. For civic tech startups (both CfA incubated and otherwise) ready to scale into the big pond, there’s the accelerator.

“I’m seeing an increased focus and energy around harder problems,” says Nemani of this year’s applicants. “I think people are starting to take this more seriously.”

CfA received 190 applications for what would eventually be five spots in the accelerator. The accelerator companies, from four different states across the U.S., will travel to CfA headquarters in San Francisco one week a month for four months to work with CfA’s rolodex of mentors to develop their business model, marketing plan, and investment pitch. Accelerator start-ups get into contact with potential investors as well as the government officials they’ll need to know in order to sell their services.

Last year’s cohort featured companies like Captricity, which has both government and private industry clients, as well as Recovers, which supports grassroots, sometimes non-governmental disaster recovery for communities.

“This year we got a little bit more clear in terms of our principles and selection criteria,” says Nemani.

This year the accelerator’s focus has tightened onto companies working directly to fix government problems. SmartProcure, for instance, provides massive amounts of information on procurement deals at all levels of government, with the goal of helping government officials make better decisions, and helping businesses find hidden opportunities.

“It’s enabling future innovation,” says Nemani. “If you take on a process problem, you’re helping clear the way for future tools.”

Another 2013 accelerator company, ArchiveSocial, provides an easy way for government agencies to store their social media and keep in compliance with archiving regulations. Family Assessment Form Web and StreetCred Software streamline processes for two very different groups of government employees. The former helps social workers standardize family assessments and service planning, the latter helps police prioritize their arrest warrants. The final accelerator company, OpenCounter, was started by 2012 CfA fellows working in Santa Cruz, California, before moving through the CfA incubator. The company provides software to make it easier for people to apply for a business permit.

The accelerator companies will start their whirlwind tour of the CfA ecosystem this next month.

“The goal of the accelerator is to turbo charge their businesses,” says Nemani.