Amazon Web Services last week launched a new accelerator to assist government technology startups overcome common challenges and share their experiences selling to government customers.
Called AWS GovTechStart, the accelerator was run as a pilot project over the last several months, an Amazon executive told StateScoop. It offers early-stage companies promotional credits for AWS, access to the cloud provider’s technical and government-policy experts and introductions to other civic tech companies.
GovTechStart was modeled after EdStart, an AWS business accelerator focused on the education sector, said Kim Majerus, the leader of AWS’s education, state and local government business in the U.S. Majerus told StateScoop the response from companies that participated in EdStart was “loud and clear.”
“What we were hearing from our customers was that they needed better access,” she said. “They’re startups, they’re limited with resources, they tend to be building in a silo, so they’re looking for other tech founders, and they’re really looking for Amazon’s support, to help them move closer to the mission and improve the mission to support the citizen.”
The 20 startups involved in GovTechStart so far include a public safety communications company called NG911 Services, an augmented-reality communications startup called Qwake Technologies and Prefix Health Technologies, which aims to streamline human services and health care benefits. In their early stages of development, these companies are often looking for expertise from those who’ve been in government or who have experience working with the public sector to solve difficult problems, Majerus said.
Nimesh Patel, Prefix’s chief executive, told StateScoop that companies like his, which seeks to make it easier for the “aid-seeking population” to obtain health benefits, sometimes need help overcoming common challenges.
“I think govtech needs to go from a very closed-loop system to an open-loop system,” Patel said. “Every other industry, we ask the consumers what they want and we build products for that. In the govtech space, there are your residents who are your consumers — they should be asked, and it needs to be an open-loop system so that informs some of the innovation that happens in this space.”
Patel said his company, which has been in development for two years, gained its first client in early 2020, a non-governmental organization called Wildfire that works to stop poverty and homelessness. That deal included collaboration with the City of Phoenix and eventually support from AWS, Patel said.
Beyond helping startups like his, Patel said he thinks the new accelerator could prevent local governments from duplicating efforts.
“Every jurisdiction has its own decision-making and that leads to inefficiency and duplication,” he said. “I think there’s efficiencies to be gained by making that system an open loop. I think a platform like AWS GovTechStart could help in that because of their name, their brand, their reach.”