April marked the first anniversary of TallyVoting; it also marked the end of an year spent prototyping and fundraising with my awesome co-founder, Harlan Hill. That year was, sadly, unsuccessful.

Spinning tires on sales

Governments move slowly compared to regular industry; compared to the tech sector government moves glacially slow. Selling stuff—not just technology—to government requires sourcing leads, submitting proposals & counter-proposals, securing external certification, periods for official & public comments, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg of process.

This is wholly incompatible with the rapid pace of development, deployment, and validation in the tech sector. Traction is measured in days, weeks, and months in tech. The process of selling to government takes year(s) and requires large up-front and over-time expenditures of capital and personnel.

That long sales cycle doesn’t give a small bootstrapped startup a chance to demonstrate the potential of their concept and technology. (Unsurprisingly, the already-giant vendors with a stronghold on the market are more than able to handle this long cycle. They’re also more interested in profits than improvements and innovation.) It also doesn’t give the little startups the opportunity to show traction and product-market fit. From an investment perspective, that startup is just smoke in the air rather than solid, demonstrated sales. No matter how well you communicate the market potential and demonstrate your product, the long, uncertain process of working with and selling to government is understandably just too great a risk for investors.

We need more speed

The openness, review, and accountability in the process of selling to government is a worthwhile thing: it allows the public to review what the government is doing on their behalf (and with their tax dollars). However, that process is also—to a degree—an obstruction to innovation.

Technology moves much, much faster that government, and if government wants to take advantage of the all the potential and innovation happening in technology, then it needs to find a new middle ground between the ‘wild west’ of the market in the tech sector and the sluggish, innovation-stifling ways of old.