Ben Berkowitz

SeeClickFix raises $1.4 million to grow its 311 platform

SeeClickFixSeeClickFix announced today it raised an additional $1.4 million in investment to expand its 311 offering aimed at making it easier for city residents to report non-emergency issues and allow governments to quickly respond and resolve these in an open and public manner.

Previous investors Omidyar Network and O’Reilly AlphaTech Ventures contributed to the new round along with new investors New Elm Street Ventures, Connecticut Innovations and LaunchCapital.

According to the announcement, SeeClickFix has 25 employees with plans to double over the next year.

SeeClickFix was founded in 2008 and, in January 2011, received its first major round of funding at $1.5 million.

“Our citizen and government users have the same goal—to resolve problems and improve neighborhoods,” said SeeClickFix CEO Ben Berkowitz announcing the new investment. “This funding will allow SeeClickFix to accelerate development and adoption of the next generation of request management—improving communication and communities throughout the world.”

“The SeeClickFix platform has demonstrated significant, tangible social impact,” said Omidyar Network’s Stacy Donohue in the release. “The team has created a scalable, low-cost way to turn citizen concerns and frustration into participation and engagement while strengthening community bonds.”

Is AOL-Huffington Post making a gov 2.0 play?

Huffington Post Media Group, owned by AOL, announced it has purchased civic platform Localocracy for “under $1 million,” according to AllThingsD.

According to the site, founded in 2009, Localocracy is an “online town common where registered voters using real names can weigh in on local issues.” It appears the platform is no longer accessible, but the press release announcing the acquisition gives some insight into how it might be integrated into Huffington Post:

At HPMG, founders White-Sullivan and Soules will build on their innovative approach to enhancing local democracy while leveraging HPMG’s powerful online community platform to engage its large and networked audience. Also joining the Group from Localocracy is Jay Boice, who will be instrumental in building new technologies to support enhanced online community interaction.

The Localocracy purchase may be the first sign that AOL and Huffington Post are eying government 2.0 technologies to build on their ecosystem of active users and leverage content in new ways to engage them in a more civic-minded manner.

Huffington Post founder Arianna Huffington discussed government 2.0 at FedScoop’s FedTalks 2010 (video below), where she emphasized local and the power of civic technology. It’s clear from her talk she’s interested in and gets transparency, open government and the concept of government as a platform.

At FedTalks, Huffington praised crowdsourcing 311 platform SeeClickFix, and late last year, her site honored founder Ben Berkowitz as a Greatest Person of the Day. Given the Localocracy acquisition and Huffington’s interest in this area, it wouldn’t come as a surprise if SeeClickFix is next on her list. SeeClickFix’s focus on local and social, providing technology that leverages the crowd to help government prioritize service requests, make it a natural fit for Huffington Post (or perhaps even AOL’s hyper-local news platform Patch, as O’Reilly Media’s Alex Howard suggested related to the Localocracy acquisition).

From her FedTalks speech:

“As I found myself pessimistic, like many of us, about the crisis and the confidence, about the crisis in government, about the demonization of government, I look around and see the incredible unleashing of creativity, innovation and caring, and that’s where I see the promise, and that’s where I see the hope.”

For those watching for the new new thing in gov 2.0, AOL and Huffington Post might just be it.

Video:

Integrated, Open, Inspiring – Let’s Do It SF!

Let's Do It SF!

The San Francisco’s City Attorney’s Office (where I work) has launched an anti-blight initiative that wraps consumer tech, city services and a local-global approach to volunteerism in a multi-channel social media package. The “Let’s Do It SF” campaign aims to provide people who live and work in San Francisco with City Attorney-sponsored hands-on training in using the free SeeClickFix mobile app to report graffiti vandalism and illegal dumping, while highlighting core city services and volunteer opportunities.

“What we are doing in San Francisco with the Let’s Do It SF! initiative, along with the use of smart phone technology, will enhance neighborhood beautification and show the power of collective civic action,” said City Attorney Dennis Herrera.

San Francisco is one of three cities – with DC and Boston – to fully embrace Open311, a standardized application programing interface (API) developed in cooperation with the NY non-profit OpenPlans. SeeClickFix has also been a core participant in the standardization effort (see the development wiki). Open311 allows consumer-focused apps like SeeClickFix to interface directly with the City’s issue ticketing system, creating both efficiencies and new resources from the developer community. The City’s 311 department highlights several apps developed using Open311, and the Let’s Do It SF site features an interactive citywide map of blight issues reported to the non-emergency call center.

Let’s Do It SF also uses SeeClickFix’s “watch area” feature to highlight individual supervisor districts in synch with Department of Public Works-sponsored Clean Team volunteer events in those districts. SCF customized their map widgets for the initiative to highlight issue reporting categories that map to Open311.

“The civic tech initiatives in SF are starting to get some real use through apps connecting with 311,” said SeeClickFix CEO Ben Berkowitz. “We’re excited about Let’s Do It SF! because it enables citizens to fix some of the concerns they are voicing through these apps on their own. It’s time for citizens to use online tools to improve communities offline … we’re sure your Farmville crops will still be there when you return.”

The anti-waste campaign “Let’s Do It” began in 2008 when a small group of Estonians organized volunteers to geo-map all of the illegal dumping in their country – and, in one amazing day of action with 50,000 participants, cleaned it all. The San Francisco Let’s Do It initiative urges local volunteers to also sign up for the North American portion of World Cleanup 2012, in which the original Estonian organizers aim to clean up 100 countries with similar massive mapping campaign and single-day actions.

The City Attorney’s Office teamed up with 311, DPW and SF Environment to bring together a host of City and partner services and public awareness resources in Let’s Do It SF. These include:

311 services on the Web, Facebook and a range of mobile apps;

DPW’s “Don’t Leave It On the Sidewalk” campaign;

SF Environment’s EcoFinder and SFRecycles;

Recology’s RecycleMyJunk; and

DPW’s Clean Team volunteer program.

“Public Works encourages the public to learn more about free and low cost resources for the collection of unwanted items and to also get involved through our community service volunteer programs,” said DPW Director Ed Reiskin.

Let’s Do It SF emphasizes true Gov 2.0 spirit in its development and collaborative multi-agency approach to taking on issues of blight in San Francisco neighborhoods. It includes a robust social media element, including:

Let’s Do It SF on Facebook;

Streaming tweets from Let’s Do It SF and from DPW Deputy Director Mohammed “Mr. Clean SF” Nuru;

Open-source Web development and Creative Commons licensing; and

Flickr photos from the Let’s Do It World pool.

SeeClickFix gets $1.5M investment from Omidyar Network, O’Reilly AlphaTech Ventures

SeeClickFixCitizen reporting platform start-up SeeClickFix announced last week it has raised equity investment from Omidyar Network and O’Reilly AlphaTech Ventures. According to the Wall Street Journal total investment was $1.5M.

The funding is Omidyar Network’s first government transparency for-profit investment and OATV’s first Gov 2.0 investment, which “reflects both organizations’ belief that technology can scale programs that foster meaningful engagement among citizens, their local government and others in the community,” according to the official press release.

“The funding … will enable us to continue to capture the market we are helping to create. Capital will be used to enhance the existing SeeClickFix smartphone and web platforms as well as increase sales and support to our current and future media partners, government clients and users,” said SeeClickFix CEO Ben Berkowitz.

No word on whether investors will use the SeeClickFix platform to openly report issues it has with how well the company is progressing. (joke)

Berkowitz discussed feature updates in a video interview with the Wall Street Journal:

10 entrepreneurs changing the way government works

I recently began reading The Power of Social Innovation: How Civic Entrepreneurs Ignite Community Networks for Good and felt compelled to highlight more people building business models around better government. The role of business and the entrepreneurial spirit as it relates to government is at times under-played or discredited (sometimes, rightfully so), but it’s the backbone of a democratic society.

Consider this the first in a series. For starters, here are 10 entrepreneurs changing the way government works:

Goldy Kamali


What we do:

FedScoop is a New Media and Events company serving key decision makers in the government IT community. We bring C-level executives from the federal government and IT community together via VIP events, video interviews and articles and blogs to collaborate, exchange best practices and identify ways to work together to solve common goals.

Richard White


What we do:

UserVoice helps all types of organizations involved in government reach out to their constituents. Here are a few examples:

Political Campaigns – Inform your platform; uncover grassroots interest.

Civic Engagement – Leveraging the wisdom of the crowd to improve government.

Internal Brainstorming – Tap the collective knowledge inside your organization to improve government.

Michael Riedijk

  • CEO, DotGov
  • Founded: November 2009
  • @dotgovcom
  • Open gov motto: Put your government in your pocket

What we do:

DotGov, Inc., is developing a mobile platform that will dramatically change how citizens interact with their local government. DotGov combines the power of Mobile Devices with Social Media and Open Data. It provides citizens with tools to directly interact with their city and benefit from all information and services local governments offer in an unprecedented way.

Conor White-Sullivan & Aaron Soules

  • CEO/Co-founder (left)/CTO/Co-founder (right), Localocracy
  • Founded: September 2008
  • @Localocracy
  • Open gov motto: All politics is Local

What we do:

Localocracy partners with local government and media to help citizens learn about local issues and influence their community. We confirm that participants are registered voters in the community and provide a space where they can ask questions, vote on issues, and rank the best reasons for supporting their side.

Kevin Merritt


What we do:

Socrata is a socially enriched data-sharing platform optimized for data comprehension by non-technically trained audiences, without excluding technical audiences. Socrata empowers organizations to transform their data assets into hubs for social and civic engagement and interaction, on their own websites and also in mainstream media websites and social media sites.

Ben Berkowitz


What we do:

SeeClickFix is an international tool enabled in 83 languages that allows citizens to report non-emergency issues such as potholes, graffiti or a littered parks to those accountable for the public space including local governments and community groups. SeeClickFix is available via the web where you can post issues and have your neighbors comment or vote on their resolution. Anybody can receive alerts via easy to create free-formed geographical alerting areas that we call watch areas. Also, If you have a blackberry, android or iPhone you can download our app and report a problem in your community with your gps location and a photo. 40% of the issues on SeeClickFix have already been fixed. From Argentina to Philadelphia citizens are using SeeClickFix to improve their communities.

Kurt Daradics


What we do:

FreedomSpeaks is a technology company focused on delivering interactive civic engagement platforms. Our mission is to transform civic engagement.

Our Core Values are shaping our culture and defining the character of our company, guiding how we behave and make decisions:

Stewardship: Building a heritage for future generations, acting with an owner mentality, and meeting our commitments to all internal and external stakeholders.
Best People: Attracting and developing the best talent for our business, stretching our people and developing a “can do” attitude.
Integrity: Inspiring trust by taking responsibility, acting ethically, and encouraging honest and open debate.

We deliver an interlocking product suite that includes:

  • FreedomSpeaks.com (The first non-partisan political social network & largest database of politicians)
  • FreedomSpeaks Pro (Lobby in a box SaaS product)
  • CitySourced (Mobile civic engagement platform)

Alan W. Silberberg

  • Co-Founder, You2Gov
  • Founded: April 2008
  • @You2Gov
  • Open gov motto: Don’t Be Afraid

What we do:

Path-breaking Gov 2.0 company that innovates and creates Government 2.0 + 3.0 Technology using custom Joomla based Social Networking/ SCRM and Advocacy. Consulting to Federal, State, Local Governments; International Corporations on: best media use; technology weaving to create maximum impact websites, tools, videos and conversations at highest strategic level.

Zubin Wadia


What we do:

CiviGuard is the world’s most advanced civilian emergency communications platform. It promotes contextual messaging over information saturation. CiviGuard is location-aware, smartphone optimized and cloud-based – making near real-time civilian outreach during a crisis, a reality.

Get the 311 with SeeClickFix

SeeClickFix lets citizens report public works issues such as potholes, graffiti, and wayward trash directly from their iPhones, the SeeClickFix Website or other sites using its embeddable widget. Citizens can create watch lists to follow what’s being reported in a particular area, comment and vote up or down other issue reports and get ‘Civic Points’ for their participation. Governments can use the service as a 311 work order management system and media outlets can integrate the reporting widget and map into their Websites for enhanced reader interaction.

The service is free to use for reporting and monitoring issues. Upgrade versions include SeeClickFix Pro, available for $38 a month, SeeClickFix Plus, a mobile version that lets users customize the application with logo and theming, and SeeClickFix Connect that includes CRM integration.

Houston, Philadelphia, Tuscon, New Haven, City of Bainbridge Island and City of Manor are some of the municipalities using SeeClickFix. Participating news outlets include the New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle, Miami Herald, Boston.com and Philadelphia Inquirer.

SeeClickFix demo:


Founder and CEO Ben Berkowitz’s Gov 2.0 Expo demo: