The open data movement is fueled by governments releasing the mountains of data it generates in the form of useable datasets and APIs that can then be monetized by entrepreneurs. Once the datasets are released, the government entity gets out of the way and lets the innovation happen. The results can be ventures that impact our daily lives like The Weather Channel (utilizing GPS data) or PlotWatt, a local startup that helps manage energy consumption.
The truly exciting opportunity for entrepreneurs is that the open data movement is still in its infancy and we're only starting to realize the potential to have a positive citizen and monetary impact by utilizing government data.
Competition Fuels Entrepreneurs
After a half day of brainstorming at the Datajam in April, various teams emerged and three were selected to participate in a 30-day accelerator, leading up to Datapalooza. The three teams were:
The Parking Initiative team developed an application that makes it easier to visit downtown and urban areas by identifying parking opportunities and relevant information (prices, payment method, etc) based on the user's desired final destination.
The energy efficiency team's product provides real time water monitoring data in an effort to democratize water analytics.
BetaVersity designs spaces, communities, and tools that encourage collaboration, entrepreneurship, and inventiveness. These collaborative workspaces help students and educators develop solutions to the world's challenges.To do that, they'll utilize open data from universities and industry associations.
I had a chance to sit down with the winning team, the Parking Initiative, and talk to them about their experience.
"We saw a parking problem that needed to be addressed, we found a way to use government data, and got a lot of help and validation from the community to help create a solution," said King White, one of the team's initial members. And even though none of their team members would have identified themselves as entrepreneurs before Datapalooza, it's clear that they all would now. They'll continue building on their success by implementing a solution in the Triangle and move on to other markets where parking is a similar pain point.
One of the unique aspects of NC Datapalooza was that it was a truly community event, engaging and bringing together parts of the ecosystem we don't see together quite enough. There were new entrepreneurs (2 of the 3 final teams were mostly new to the startup scene), experienced entrepreneurs and investors, mentors and support groups (Blackstone Entrepreneurs Network), larger corporations (Blue Cross Blue Shield of NC), universities and state and city government, of course.
Triangle Emerging As An Open Data Hub
While the City of Raleigh was the first to pass an Open Data Resolution early in 2012, Cary followed closely behind and Durham seems to be on its way to following suit. Coupled with access to state government data, the Triangle is emerging as hub for open data, as validated by the NC Datapalooza teams. If entrepreneurs continue to take advantage of the opportunities created by open data, there's no telling where the movement could go, and the Triangle could be in the middle of it all.
Credit: Photos by Deron Tse at Tangerine Pictography