Here’s an idea that I want you to take and run with. Successful execution will make this country a better place.
I want you to start a government contractor, based in San Francisco. You’ll bid on those massive IT projects like Healthcare.gov, although you might have to start at the city or state level first.
You won’t be a normal government contractor though: you’ll have free lunches, a nice open air office, Macbook Pros and big external monitors. The startup works.
Here’s the important part: your goal is to to underbid the other contractors, sometimes severely, while shipping better software. How will you be able to do this?
- Start with a modern software stack
- Hire better people. You’ll be able to compete with top startups for talent, because your startup work environment combined with the mission of making this country a better place will be a powerful call.
- Intentionally commoditize your re-usable components and release them as open source
- Most importantly, you’ll operate on a different set of incentives than most contractors, who aim to increase the cost of each project
The first order effect: the American people will get better and cheaper software on the contracts you win and build.
The second order effect is more interesting. You don’t have to win every project in order to drive down price and increase quality. You don’t even have to bid. You just need to maintain the credible threat that you can bid, win and deliver.
Better, cheaper software for the American people. Come on. Try it.
A few other thoughts:
- The hardest part will be understanding the world of contractors and getting your first set of contracts. Hiring and generating press (which will further pressure existing contractors) should be (relatively) easy.
- Another cool thing you should do is fund a lab to sponsor non-government funded government-related work. Hire the best computer scientists and data nerds to improve the government from the outside.
- You will need a relatively large chunk of change to get started, but you should be able to raise donations from Silicon Valley’s wealthy. Start it as a non-profit or an intentionally unprofitable corporation. It should be self-funding once you win your first contracts.