OpenGov, a Redwood City, Ca., company whose software helps local governments keep transparent financial records, has been picking up speed in a variety of ways, and cofounder and CEO Zac Bookman traces some of that momentum to the election of Donald Trump as U.S. president.
“We had the best Q1 in company history. It’s typically a quiet quarter, and we blew the top off” our internal projections, says Bookman. He adds that OpenGov has seen a 20 percent surge in job applicants, as well.
It’s easy to see why cities may be growing more focused transparency than in recent years. In just one small example of how things have changed under the new administration, the White House announced earlier this month that it will no longer disclose the logs of those who visit, a meaningful shift in stance compared with the Obama Administration, which disclosed more than 6 million related records.
White House communications director Michael Dubke told reporters that the decision owes to the “grave national security risks and privacy concerns of the hundreds of thousands of visitors annually.” (The previous administration also redacted some records on a case-by-case basis.)
The Trump Administration has also removed the “Open Government” section from the White House website, and, more recently, Walter Shaub, director of the Office of Government Ethics, which advises federal agencies on how to ensure that employees comply with federal ethics laws, very publicly complained about the lack of transparency into potential conflicts of interest arising across the executive branch.
To hear Bookman tell it, local governments are largely moving in the opposite direction, partly in reaction to the White House moves, but also because it’s easier than ever to make publicly available data seeable and searchable. In fact, according to the five-year-old, 120-person company, there are now 1,400 public agencies across 47 states using OpenGov’s software, which helps governments create budgets, perform analytics, and allow residents to see what is spending being spent and where.
Indeed, Bookman suggests that a third reason that city and state governments are embracing its services is peer pressure; when a neighboring city employs the technology and others “see them achieving so much more with so much less,” they feel more obliged to do something.
One of the biggest municipalities to embrace OpenGov’s technology to date is the city of Boston, which earlier this year created Analyze Boston, a open data portal built on OpenGov that enables it to publish an abundance of open data sets and make them available to residents. Other local governments include Omaha, Neb.; Kenton County, K.Y.; and Ohio, where every local government in the state is using the platform.
But OpenGov claims to be signing up a new customer every two days. And it says that owes to its its three offerings, which include: budgeting software that aims to slice in half the time it typically takes to build a budget; an operational performance management suite that helps local governments benchmark their performance against other cities; and a newer, open data service that enables cities and states to turn their data into narratives for public and internal consumption, as well as connect their budget and performance data with Census data, FBI crime data, and financial data from thousands of other counties and cities.
The biggest governments are signing up first for its open data product, says Zachman, while smaller governments are signing up for management reporting and business intelligence.
He says in both cases, getting OpenGov’s customers up and running takes an average of just two days. (He credits a training program that OpenGov has designed for government employees for enabling his own team to get in and out quickly.)
We ask Zachman — who has already raised $47 million for OpenGov and will announce a Series C round this year — if governments in so-called blue states and red states are distinct in any way. We ask if they use different products or whether their attitude toward the company itself is discernibly different.
They are, admittedly, stupid questions. They’re also questions that Zachman, who calls OpenGov “apolitical,” has seemingly fielded in the past.
Volunteering that OpenGov’s customer base is “showing a near even split between red and blue,” he says he finds that “on a person gut level, conservatives are drawn to the message of efficiency and of cutting waste and fraud and abuse.”
As for liberals? “They’re drawn to the innovation and tech and progressive element,” says Zachman without missing a beat.