Government Technology

e.Republic expands model to venture capitalism, funds first startup

Government media and events company e.Republic is expanding its business operations to include funding civic-focused startups, in hopes of leveraging its Rolodex of government officials to help serve as a channel for sales and marketing to those ventures it supports.

e.Republic’s first beneficiary of the new strategy is ArchiveSocial, a social media archiving service that targets government agencies to help meet records retention policies. The company also makes the archives searchable to the public, as it has done for cities like North Carolina and Austin.

“Too often, new companies with great solutions to public-sector problems don’t have the resources, know-how and reach to truly scale,” e.Republic CEO Dennis McKenna said in a press release announcing the $1 million round of funding that includes capital and marketing services. “We’re launching e.Republic Ventures to help companies with exciting public-sector solutions overcome these hurdles and win in the government market.”

According McKenna, on the e.Republic Labs website, e.Republic Ventures is “an accelerator to assist select early-stage companies go to market with their game-changing solutions.”

e.Republic was founded 30 years ago by McKenna and operates a number of media properties, including Government Technology and Governing, as well as the research and consulting services operations Center for Digital Government. It also hosts numerous local events annually that connect government officials with sponsoring vendors.

The announcement of the direction corresponded with the appointment of Dustin Haisler as e.Republic chief innovation officer and head of e.Republic Labs. Haisler joined eRepublic in April.

Given that the challenge for most early-stage government and civic-focused startups is gaining credibility within government and then breaking through procurement red tape, e.Republic’s new direction should prove useful and lucrative for those companies it supports.

Who determines government’s ‘Best of the Web?’

Government Technology announced its list of 2011 Best of the Web Award Winners today, and I’m completely confused as to how they came to these conclusions.

According to the post, it’s judged by a “panel of experts on a wide range of categories, including site accessibility, innovation, cost-savings, ease of use and exceptional service to the public,” but nowhere does it specifically articulate what the criteria was, how the process was conducted or who the judges were. Even the press release omits this information.

As someone who follows government technology closely and has beneath-the-surface insight into the business of the industry, I know that NICUSA manages all of the top 5 state winners and is also a partner with Government Technology in other areas.

I’m not saying there’s a correlation, but the skeptic in me questions the validity of a ‘Best of the Web’ contest when there’s such a close relationship between a vendor and a media company without any transparency in the judging process. Case in point, there’s a “Innovation Nation Resources” underwritten by NICUSA in the sidebar on the same page.

NICUSA does great work creating fantastic government Websites with a business model that can be very attractive to government, especially in these financial times, however, I’d like better insight into why these were chosen over others. Contests and awards such as these have serious business implications on other government entities pursuing Web operations strategy, and if there’s not better disclosure, we’re led to believe this service is a superior option to others.

In the future, I hope Government Technology does a better job of providing insight into how they choose the best of the Web, or we will continue to be confused.

If you were choosing the ‘Best of the Government Web,’ what criteria would you use and how would you score and rank these?