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Entrepreneurs vs Big Government: Open Gov Winners Lend a Hand

Two start-ups attempt to change the relationship between government and entrepreneurs.

On June 24, the Knight Foundation announced the winners to its Knight News Challenge on Open Gov. Launched in February, the challenge aimed to encourage innovators to come up with solutions that would enable journalists to do their jobs better and empower citizens to contribute to community progress.

Two of the eight winning projects hold special promise for entrepreneurs. Once aims to make it easier to open a business. The other is an attempt to smooth the process of competing for government contracts and make it more transparent.

Awarded total of $910,000, OpenCounter and are starting to change the way that entrepreneurs and governments deal with each other. 


One of the more frustrating parts of launching and running a new business is navigating the multiple layers of government regulations and permit requirements. OpenCounter aims to simplify this process on the city government level. OpenCounter provides local governments with open source software they can use to build a streamlined, easy-to-use interface for entrepreneurs that are just getting going. The company then "collects and sorts data on existing regulations while providing running totals of the costs and time involved in setting up shop," according to the press release.

The project, which was developed in Santa Cruz, Calif., in 2012 by Code for America fellows Peter Koht and Joel Mahoney, will receive $450,000 from the Knight Foundation to finance expansion into additional communities.

Winning a government contract can be transformational for a small businesses. However, the procurement process is daunting, complicated, and time consuming. That's where comes in. Its procurement software, called Screendoor, tries to simplify the posting of requests for proposals and bring more transparency to the government contract bidding process.

The tool, which was built by White House Presidential Innovation Fellows Clay Johnson and Adam Becker, has already proven itself on the federal level. The $460,000 award from the Knight Foundation will be used to expand the software to roll out the software to state and municipal governments, with the goal of "reduc[ing] costs and ensur[ing] that the most qualified teams get the job."

Last updated: Jun 25, 2013


Jana Kasperkevic is a graduate of Baruch College, City University of New York, where she earned a bachelors degree in Journalism and Political Science. She covers start-ups, small businesses, and entrepreneurship for Inc. Her work has appeared in The Village Voice, InvestmentNews, Business Insider, and Houston Chronicle, among others. She lives in Brooklyn.

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