Startup Government Challenge Festival

challenge-cup

Handup, is a “tech startup with a social mission” according to their website. The startup partners with homeless organizations in San Francisco to deliver resources to homeless and at risk people in the community.  They also walked away with $150,000 in seed funding after winning The Challenge Cup Festival hosted by the incubator 1776dc.

The Challenge Cup: Startup Government, hosted by 1776dc, brought together government employees and 64 startup companies to showcase how startups could aid government. These startups were competing with each other to win the cup, which awarded the startup seed funding and provided entrepreneur guidance. The event was sponsored by the Consumer Electronics Association and held at the US Chamber of Commerce.

Dan Tangherlini, administrator of the U.S. General Services Administration, and Cathy Lanier, Chief of Police for the District of Columbia, both noted the need for innovation, but said startups must approach their pitches with policy in mind. This disconnect indicates a larger issue at the nexus of technology and government:  Technology moves at exponential speeds, while the regulatory and policy frameworks are designed to move slowly.  The challenge lays in reconciling the two.

Others pointed out  that federal agencies tend to be risk averse, while startups are inherently risky, moving quickly and iterating different solutions to a problem.

Jessica Rosenworcel, commissioner of the Federal Communications Commission, put forth the example of “sandboxes” in software development — experimental parts of an application that allow developers to play with different solutions to problems and see which one is most successful without disrupting service.  Rosenworcel mentioned that agencies should adopt this model as a compromise to their risk-averse tendencies.

The event ended with advice from government employees on the panel to startups: Technology is never enough to solve a problem; startups need to help agencies think through how they would scale their ideas in order to see them adopted.

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