New data service launches in government market

Thursday - 6/6/2013, 6:20am EDT

Commentary By Tom Temin
Federal News Radio

Did you know the federal government pays an average of $5,300 for a non-human primate intended for medical research? That's a monkey to you and me. But agencies are buying fewer monkeys and, instead, breeding more of them in-house. Which means the federal government represents a small but steady market for goods and services related to primate animal husbandry, if that's your thing.

How do I know this? Eric Gillespie told me by way of introducing the fine-grained government market intelligence his new company, Govini, is capable of producing.

Gillespie, who was a founder of Recovery.org back in the early days of the multi-hundred- billion dollar American Reinvestment and Recovery Act (the stimulus bill that didn't), and a major promise of the Obama administration (a promise kept) was that the spending patterns would be transparently available to the public. Gillespie said Govini seeks to bring to the market strengths he thinks are lacking in the two major competitors — Deltek and Bloomberg Government. If Bloomberg brings rich policy understanding and an "editorial overlay," and Deltek brings a strong orientation toward IT sales leads, Gillespie said Govini would bring deep data analytics and market intelligence.

Three converging technologies made Govini possible, Gillespie says. First is big data plumbing, the infrastructure of bandwidth and cloud-based data indexing and related services. Second is analytic tools capable of "reading" unstructured data. And, he noted, a lot of government data exists in PDF and spreadsheets, despite OMB's years of efforts to get agencies to put everything in machine-readable formats. The third technology, PDFs not withstanding, is the large number of data sets available from sources such as Data.gov.

Govini search results, refined using standard Boolean logic, show purchase history and current opportunities over a selectable timeline. They show who has purchased what and from whom, sortable by company, location including congressional district, buying entity and a bunch of other properties. You can also find results by likely contractor industrial category. For example, various categories of health care products and services spending might fall under construction for a VA clinic or distribution for supplies.

My cursory, initial look in Govini data seemed to show considerable depth. Its most potent selling point may be the amount of state and local market data. Its Web interface takes on the dashboard style, not unlike that of the federal Recovery.gov, where each element is a link to deeper data.

Although the White House fervently wants publicly posted data sets to attract app and game developers, professional markets such as federal sales and marketing will always be willing to pay for value-added. Witnesses the durability of Deltek's antecedents FedSources and Input. Govini is priced at $3,600 per seat annually, roughly half the price of a Bgov seat. The full boat federal, state and local is priced at $13,000.

The government market, like all others, is a relationship one. Experience, gumshoe business development, proposal skill and a host of other human factors ultimately make success. You can't run any business totally by the numbers. But the competing data services can certainly make all of the other activities more efficient, all for about the cost of a summer intern.

They've all come a long way since the early Fed Sources pioneering days, when the trick was to track the big federal hardware IDIQs and the items pulled along by the big systems integration contracts. Now the opportunities are as likely to be services as hardware. What's more, even the biggest prime contractors can hardly keep up with the dozens of niche vendors that keep joining the market. For that matter, without a data service to aid them, neither can contracting officers and other source selection people.

A footnote: Govini is based in San Francisco, in the hotbed "SoMa" district a stone's throw from offices of Google, Zynga and Twitter. Deltek is in the contractor heartland of Northern Virginia, while Bloomberg occupies space in the District's policy-legal-lobby zone. Gillespie says the long-term plan is to launch *inis in other vertical markets beyond government.


Tom Temin is host of The Federal Drive, which airs 6-10 a.m. on Federal News Radio (1500AM). This post was originally written for his personal blog, Temin on Tech.