1 November 2017
How did you get your idea/concept?
A shared frustration and an ambitious vision. Daniel and I started Public because we were both frustrated by the rate at which innovative technology was being adopted by government and also because we were frustrated that startups (and the great engineering and entrepreneurial talent that they harbour) were not focussing enough attention on solving public sector problems. We set out to reduce the opacity around the public sector driven by a belief that technology-driven innovation can solve many of the most immediate and pertinent needs of our society.
What is unique about your idea/concept?
At Public, we have built capability at a number of different levels to both differentiate and de-risk our approach to helping startups transform the public sector. We have a growth programme, GovStart (www.public.io/govstart) which aims to provide companies with the tools, skills and opportunities they need to gain traction within the public sector. We also invest in companies that don’t come through our programme. We also have a research arm, a policy innovation arm and internal technical capability (our CTO was the former VP of engineering at Thomson Reuters). I’m most proud of the team we have built around us and whom we rely upon every day.
How do you distinguish yourself from competitors?
Government technology is a nascent space and we would welcome more money, more interest, more excitement and more competition. At the moment, I feel like we’re doing some of the heavy lifting to grow the ecosystem into what it surely needs to be. I hope that our efforts we drive competition in the market as companies begin to see the public sector realizing that it can only meet its ambitious goals through the adoption and proactive procurement of technology.
Why would start-ups be interested in your GovTech report?
Our report is the first comprehensive report on the state of the UK GovTech market. It provides a strong overview of the various routes to market for private sector businesses as well as highlighting some of the very real traction that SMEs have been achieving in the space. The Public 100 list that we included in the report should also provide some context around the current landscape of SMEs providing technology solutions to the government.
What is the single most important decision you made that contributed to its success?
To hire an outstanding team who I respect and who I can trust to work autonomously on delivering our shared goals.
What are some of the biggest lessons that have impacted the way you work?
I have learned a lot from working closely with engineering teams. Spending short periods of time trying to solve problems and allowing time to reflect in between, is far more effective for me than to spend three to four hours toggling between distractions.
What is the best advice you received, and that you still follow?
Don’t confuse being busy with making progress.
If you had one piece of great advice to someone just starting out, what would it be?
Make sure you are passionate about what you’re trying to do. If you’re not, the naysayers, those who are risk averse and the untold setbacks you will likely face will hold you back. Stick to your vision and find someone who believes in you and who will back you to deliver that vision.
What business owner or entrepreneur do you admire most?
At the moment, I am very impressed with the visionary leadership that Jeff Bezos at Amazon is exhibiting. It’s impressive to watch early interviews and see how he had grasped the future of retail and how it would be transformed by technology. It’s also hard not to be in awe of the scale of technological change that Elon Musk has presided over: SpaceX, Tesla, HyperLoop. To have such vision and to then ruthlessly deliver on that vision is an amazing skill to have and requires enormous sacrifice and risk appetite.