A weekly column profiling companies and personalities.
What: Socrata, Seattle
Who: Kevin Merritt, 43, founder and CEO
Mission: Help public agencies disseminate data in comprehensible formats that support open government.
Trinity: Merritt said Barack Obama’s presidency has led to “a fundamental mood shift” toward transparency, which has trickled down to local jurisdictions. He said his customers are represented in three important interest groups: average citizens seeking facts about their hometown; analysts and journalists who seek to draw conclusions; and programmers who feed data into machines to solve a puzzle.
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Information floe: “The government is going to put all of its data online,” Merritt said. “What is available now is just the tip of the iceberg.”
Financials: The early-stage company plans to get revenue from subscriptions. It now has about 10 clients, but Merritt predicts it could achieve profitability by late 2010.
All data is local: Merritt’s goal is to identify the next big business opportunity generated by governmental digital largesse. Previous examples include the GPS category, which was created by access to satellite data, and the weather-mapping industry.
Tax messaging: Merritt, comparing the private and public sector, says government people are more collaborative. “They can tap into each other to build an application that works for everyone, sharing ideas and talking to each other,” he said. “This lets the IT people allocate their resources in other areas. And if governmental agencies pool their resources, the taxpayers will save money.”
Truth, justice: “A lot of businesses make stuff that helps people waste time,” Merritt said. “But we are doing a good thing. We want to create sustainable businesses and advance democracy.”
— Charles Bermant