New companies find niche in government procurement data

October 13, 2013

For many contractors, big data has become an emerging market, a new area in which they can sell technology and services that help federal agencies manage chunks of information too huge for typical computer programs.

But only recently have these contractors found that big data can be equally useful in their own work. New companies have emerged that provide analytics around government spending data, meant to help contractors identify upcoming opportunities, the most competitive prices and top competitors.

SmartProcure, which is based in Florida, opened to contractors earlier this year, said Jeff Rubenstein, the company’s founder and chief executive. It operates as a searchable database of government procurement information, allowing users to find a whole range of past deals, from how much Jefferson City, Mo., paid for its printers to the most recent contract won by McLean-based Science Applications International Corp.

The idea brings together two of Rubenstein’s experiences: running a software company and, as a reserve officer, purchasing equipment for a police department.

“Most cities actually buy the same or very similar stuff,” Rubenstein said. “Every police department in every city is buying guns and ammunition and vests.”

But most have little idea what neighboring and similar jurisdictions paid or what vendors they used — information that might help them get a better price, he said.

Rubenstein founded SmartProcure in late 2011, but spent significant time developing technology that would allow agencies to simply hand over their data — without doing any formatting. Then, the company contacted cities and agencies around the country to collect their buying data.

While agencies who submit their data receive free access to SmartProcure, private companies pay a subscription fee that varies based on the number of licenses, said Rubenstein.

Today, the database includes about 2,200 agencies — mostly cities and states but also several hundred federal agencies — and has a paying vendor count in the thousands, said Rubenstein.

Govini, which opened in May, also provides analytics meant to help companies win work.

Eric Gillespie, Govini’s founder, said the site is up to nearly 1,500 users, including some of the largest contractors.

Now, Govini is finding new ways to analyze its data, including mashing together government procurement information with other databases. “The government is publishing more and more [data] all the time,” he said.

He credited Govini with helping customers make sense of that information. In a recent project, the site analyzed BlackBerry’s market share.

“What we found was the market was already thinking about it in the same way we were,” he said. “They were already longing for a way to think about benchmarks and analytics in a competitive landscape, but they just didn’t have the mechanism.”

SmartProcure and Govini aren’t the first to help contractors find work; companies such as Herndon-based Deltek specialize in providing this type of research. (Deltek acquired dueling competitors Input and FedSources to build its database of upcoming competitions).

But Deltek, too, is embracing the big data push. Last week, it announced a partnership that will give Deltek customers access to SmartProcure’s database.

The deal “gives our users the ability to see precisely how to competitively price and market their products and services,” said Schalene Dagutis of Deltek in the announcement.

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