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City of Seattle

April 30, 12:05 PM click here to comment > 3

No talk, all action: launch a startup in 54 hours

This weekend the City of Seattle, King County, and Washington State hosted Startup Weekend GOV here at City Hall, the first Startup Weekend event in the world to focus on using government datasets to build new startups.

During his opening remarks Friday night, Mayor McGinn also announced the Evergreen Apps Challenge, a partnership between Seattle, King County, and Washington State to award over $75,000 in prize money to the top apps in 7 different categories. Apps that are created as part of Startup Weekend GOV will be eligible for the Evergreen Apps Challenge, but it’s open to everyone; prizes will be awarded in early October.

Aside from the focus on local government and the beautiful backdrop of Seattle City Hall, Startup Weekend GOV was a typical Startup Weekend event, best encapsulated by the motto “No talk, all action. Launch a startup in 54 hours.” About 130 attendees gathered Friday night for an overview of the weekend, followed by an open pitch session during which anyone who wanted to could get up in front of the room and make a 60-second pitch for a startup idea, complete with a startup name and the types of staff they would need to make it happen (developers, designers, project managers, etc). After anyone who wanted to had gotten a chance to make a pitch, everyone voted via post-it notes for their favorite ideas, and the top ideas formed up into teams and got to work.

As a government mentor I had the opportunity to talk to the teams throughout the weekend to offer my feedback and suggestions, and it was amazing to see how quickly ideas progressed from pitches to projects to functioning demos. It was also great to see it all happening in and around the lobby of City Hall—there couldn’t be a more perfect venue for bringing citizens together to use government data to create apps for the public good.

Pitches Friday night ranged anywhere from a proposal to streamline government contracts for small businesses to an animated children’s app called “Poop Tracker” that would let you walk along the route of you sewer line between your house and your wastewater processing facility. See here for a list of the 38 ideas that were pitched Friday night, and here for the 10 that made it through to the point of doing presentations Sunday night.

In the end, top honors went to the following:

1st place (tie):

  • WhichBus, which combines trip planning and real-time arrival info in one app, and includes a great Twilio-powered SMS interface that lets you text [starting address] – [ending address] to 206-745-6287 and texts you back a bus itinerary, complete with arrival times.
  • Art Rover, which uses the Office of Arts and Cultural Affairs public art database on, among other sources, to create walking maps of public art for tourists and scavenger hunts for locals.

2nd place:

  • Reporta, a quick & easy way to report issues in your neighborhood to the City in the same data format the City uses.

3rd place:

  • Civic Rally, a cross between Kickstarter and the Neighborhood Matching Fund that lets community members post projects and solicit money and volunteer time from their neighbors to complete them.

Honorable mention:

  • My Spot, a smartphone app that would let you pay for parking, remind you when your time is up, and let you feed the meter remotely.

Team members from WhichBus and Art Rover both won lunch with Mayor McGinn. The Reporta and Civic Rally teams won legal support to help make turn their Startup Weekend projects into businesses, and the My Spot team won a meeting with officials from the Seattle Department of Transportation to discuss the feasibility of turning their idea into an actual product.

If you like the idea of Startup Weekend GOV but you didn’t have a chance to participate, check out for more on the Evergreen Apps Challenge.

For more coverage from Twitter, check out #govdatanw. As always, you can also contact me directly with any questions: or 206-233-2656.

Posted by: Sol Villarreal


Comment from c m geier
Time April 30, 2012 at 12:10 pm

wow, I encourage you to take info already reported again and again about homeless encampment and alcohol abuse and danger at I-5 and 45th ave n, and deal with it. Enterring it on another site does no tmake the problem to go away. I also exhort youto post this on wallyhood blog, so those who are willing to rereport and need resolutions to this problem can begin to again fill up a data base.

Comment from Dave
Time April 30, 2012 at 12:56 pm

Thanks for the great recap Sol and it was great to meet you! Also, FYI – the link for WhichBus ( appears to be broken in the post.

Pingback from Another Way to Start the Conversation | Engine
Time June 13, 2013 at 2:10 pm

[…] this session, there was no shortage of ideas to fuse open data with private sector entrepreneurship, from web and mobile apps that engaged with […]