“It takes the world of government contracting and turns it into activity feeds,” chief executive Nate Nash explained.
GovTribe’s three-person team, led by Nash, is comprised of former consultants who were frustrated with existing sources for contracting data. “A lot of the data was presented as data, and it was all very form-based. We’re at the beginning of a generation focused on real-time activity.”
Taking cues from rapidly updated social media newsfeeds, GovTribe hopes to make federal contracting data more easily accessible than the raw data, Nash said. Currently, the app is free to download, but eventually the three-person team hopes to charge users an annual subscription fee of between $50 and $70, Nash said.
GovTribe is part of the “open data” movement — a small group of start-ups whose business models take advantage of federal initiatives to make more data public and increase transparency.
Since President Obama announced the Open Data Initiative in 2009 — emphasizing government transparency — its flagship site, data.gov, has grown from 47 data sets to hundreds of thousands, providing more fodder for entrepreneurs such as Nash.
“Start-ups like mine are starting to see that data as valuable for a product we can sell to customers, as a catalyst for innovation,” Nash said.
For now, Jeanne Holm, data.gov’s evangelist at the General Services Administration, most developers seem focused on finding ways to liberate the data.
A Red Cross app offers a free hurricane survival guide based on government maps, for instance. A group of emergency room doctors in Denver created a free emergency room finder based on federal hospital rating data called iTriage.
“The ability to access the data only started four years ago,” Holm said, noting that business models are still evolving.
“Allowing a download for a few dollars works well, because a lot of people don’t trust the information they’re going to get is really useful or will be maintained [for the subscription fee],” she said, especially when start-ups are still establishing credibility as data sources.
“In many cases, as much as we promote the provisioning of government data, unless they go in and look in the ‘about page’ [users may not be] sure they’re using government data. The start-up has no responsibility to acknowledge it,” Holm said. “We prefer that you acknowledge, but we don’t require you do anything but use it.”