A cloud-based way for lawmakers to share with the public
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They are from Silicon Valley, they are certified "cool" by Gartner, Inc., they are in 44 states and now they have their sights on the federal space.

OpenGov — venture capital-backed and fast-growing — offers cloud-based software-as-a-service for better managing government finances. And they offer a way for public officials to share with the public they represent because the company is built around the same open data concepts embraced by the Obama administration and Congress.

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"We provide easier ways to access the data within an agency, or across multiple agencies," says Nate Levine, one of the company's co-founders. "We make government more efficient since management has more insight into the numbers. And we also offer the opportunity to make government more open."

In just three years since its inception, the company has seen its software embraced by some 500 counties, cities, school districts and special districts in 44 states. That kind of success, coupled with the cloud-based approach and intuitive interface, were among the reasons that Gartner named them as one of the "Cool Vendors in Government" earlier this year and the World Economic Forum recognized them on the elite list of "Technology Pioneers."

All of this sounds familiar to inside-the-Beltway types. The administration launched its Open Data Initiative two years ago to foster more visibility into government data. It did so, in part, to stimulate more private-sector innovation around public data.

Congress got in on the open data movement with passage of the DATA (Digital Accountability and Transparency Act) Act in 2014 to hasten the federal movement toward open, standardized data that can be published online.

Already, the McKinsey consulting firm estimates that open data is driving more than $1.1 trillion in economic value. New entrants like OpenGov look to drive even more value.

The biggest and best example of OpenGov at the state level is the Buckeye State, with its Ohiocheckbook.com — an effort to ultimately combine state spending data along with that of 4,000 localities, the first 114 of which recently went live. That project runs on the OpenGov platform.

Now on to the federal space.

"We want to bring the same value to the federal space, both in the administration and on Capitol Hill. Currently there is no efficient way for a deputy secretary of the OMB [Office of Management and Budget] or in a large federal department to oversee and understand all of the budget activities of the agencies," Levine explains. "We can help them analyze historical trends, manage daily operations and plan for the future. We believe that is of value to federal managers as well as members of Congress who have oversight responsibilities."

Out of its requisite industrial-cool office space in Silicon Valley, the 70 employees of OpenGov are focused on simultaneously growing the business, improving its product and expanding their own horizons.

"Our timing was right, and the product has provided real value," Levine understates. "Now we're building a network of users around the country, sharing ideas and best practices, and constantly refining the product to fit the vision of 21st-century government."

Levine says the community is already growing.

"People want to network with other people facing the same challenges," he says. "In our case, financial managers and public managers are finding each other, finding data-driven answers to government challenges."

"That's exactly what we set out to do," he continued, "to enable government to be open, to be data-driven, to have its own national or even global network of practitioners, and ultimately to be better."

That's an admirable goal, and one that, if accomplished, will pay handsome returns both to taxpayers and investors.

Bond is a former under secretary of Commerce for technology and a former CEO of the trade association TechAmerica. Today he is president and CEO of Bond & Associates, a technology and healthcare lobbying firm with offices in Washington and Silicon Valley.