Gary Kovacs is the new chief executive officer of Accela, a provider of cloud-based government productivity solutions.
Kovacs’ past experiences leading large enterprise technology companies include serving as CEO and managing director of the consumer and enterprise security software provider AVG Technologies; CEO of Mozilla where he led development of the Firefox web browser launch and its expansion to more than 500 million users worldwide; and senior executive leadership roles at SAP (Sybase), Adobe (Macromedia), Zi and IBM.
We asked him to share his perspective on various aspects of the government technology landscape, and where he sees Accela’s role in all this.
What do you see as the biggest technology challenge for governments?
We’re seeing governments need to quickly adapt to the rate of technological change and the shift in resident and business demand.
Technology is evolving at an exponential rate, not a linear rate, particularly as citizens interact with best-in-class technology in their lives every day, and increasingly demand the same from their government technology interactions. The ability for residents and businesses to react, praise, and critique government and elected officials is instantaneous now. Government and officials now must react quickly when their constituents are frustrated, or do not feel their interactions with agencies are simple, or meaningful enough.
These interactions and evolving technologies are accelerating the pace of necessary technological change within government. Harnessing this pace of change is challenging for even those with unlimited resources, which no one has. Implementation of technology solutions is a huge challenge.
I am focused on ensuring all of our solutions fit the demands and needs of our various customers and the communities they represent. I’m proud to be joining a team that already has unique domain expertise and a proven record of working with governments to leverage the best available technology and improve the delivery of services and thereby further community and economic development.
You previously worked with Mozilla, a free and open source project. How will your experience there impact the technology direction of Accela, and where do you see opportunities for open source contributions?
Open source technologies are an undeniable catalyst for new solutions, advanced tools, fresh thinking and transparency.
I joined Accela to help drive the next shift in government innovation, and as a company, Accela welcomes the growth of open source in government and is always looking for new opportunities to support this growth.
We’re encouraged by initiatives like California’s open source platform Code California, the federal government’s open source platforms through digital innovation groups like 18F and the U.S. Digital Service, and the work by local civic technologists at non-profits like Code for America, a group that has contributed many open source apps and tools to local governments.
These activities serve as a guiding light for how open source collaboration between government agencies and industry partners can solve real challenges facing cities and states throughout the country.
New industries are beginning to disrupt the economics of cities. What have governments done to regulate these new technologies?
Cities all across the country are navigating emerging regulatory challenges — from ride sharing registration in New York City to e-scooters in San Francisco, to cannabis regulation in towns coast to coast.
The 2018 election saw more states modify cannabis laws. With growing demand for recreational cannabis, and more cannabis businesses operating in legal markets, how are governments regulating this new industry?
Our country is increasingly going green — 10 states and Washington, D.C., already have recreational cannabis on the books. And more states are considering cannabis legalization in the nearterm. Local and state governments are scrambling to figure out how to regulate the product and collect cannabis revenue.
Earlier this year, we launched an out-of-the-box cannabis licensing product to make it easy for local and state leaders to keep up with this complicated emerging market. The cannabis solution follows Accela’s effort to help officials in Denver and California successfully launch their permitting systems ahead of schedule. Our experience in cannabis and looking at the market’s growth pushed us to develop an easy-to-use and easy-to-deploy solution for cannabis regulation and licensing.
What compelled you to join a government-focused technology company?
The focus on government and the delivery of government services has been at the forefront of our national dialogue over the past few years. I believe governments are at an inflection point with technology, and I became increasingly interested in exploring how the $400 billion government technology market could help government operate more efficiently. Governments worldwide have an opportunity right now to step up, embrace technology, and further improve their communities.
Accela offers a unique combination of software-as-a-service (SaaS) products, a loyal and growing customer base, and tremendous growth opportunities in the United States and internationally. This is an exciting time to join the company, and I look forward to partnering with our investors, leadership team, and all of our employees to help lead Accela on its mission to provide the best possible solutions for our customers and the residents and businesses they serve.
What will you focus on in your new role?
We will continue our focus on customer success — strategically allocating financial and human resources to support our customers now and into the future, as well as ensuring continual innovation as the leading provider of cloud-based solutions for government. A happy customer is of top importance to me. While we are investing in our core — a growing global team, research and development, strategic partnerships — we are also investing in our own SaaS transformation to ensure our government customers can benefit from all SaaS has to offer, especially our speed to deployment.
What excites you the most about the government technology space?
Broadly, government technology allows our public entities to better serve residents and businesses.
Accela is selling, implementing and supporting solutions that streamline transactions between governments and their residents and businesses. In short, Accela powers governments, so they are empowered to deliver important public services more efficiently and with greater transparency. I am thrilled to join an organization that already has a strong leadership team in place. From security to cloud, and customer success to marketing, the whole team is committed this mission.