Public Services > Central Government

Start-ups backed to transform public sector through GovStart growth programme

David Bicknell Published 03 April 2017

Group of supporters includes Whitehall great and good such as former HMRC CDIO Mark Dearnley, procurement chief Bill Crothers, former and current GDS leaders Mike Bracken and Kevin Cunnington and National Technology advisor Liam Maxwell


A group of the great and good with high level links into Whitehall is trying to attract start-up organisations to help transform the public sector.

The organisation, Public , has created a growth programme, GovStart, to help start-ups do business with the public sector, at a cost of 3% equity in the organisation. It describes itself as bringing together experience from the public sector, technology and finance to help start-ups solve public problems.

Former HMRC chief digital and data officer, Mark Dearnley, who is on the group’s advisory board, says government needs help from start-ups across a range of areas from cyber security and data compliance through cloud brokerage, robotic automation, machine learning to cloud based resilience, legacy modernisation and customer experience integration.

Dearnley described GovStart as a “great way to help start-ups support government on addressing these challenges.”

Dearnley is joined on the group’s advisory board by Mustafa Suleyman, founder  of Google DeepMind, Siim Sikkut, chief technology officer of Estonia, Phaedra Croussos, former tech transformation commissioner for the US Government, politician Lord Paddy Ashdown, and Bill Crothers, former  UK chief procurement officer, and former Head of Crown Commercial Service.

A number of expert GovStart speakers are listed on the Public website. They include Eileen Burbidge from Passion Capital, Dearnley, Crothers, former Government Digital Service (GDS) director general Mike Bracken, National Technology Advisory Liam Maxwell, former government CTO Andy Beale, DWP CDIO Mayank Prakash, and current GDS director general Kevin Cunnington. Other speakers with a specialism in local government include Geoff Connell, CIO at Norfolk County Council, London Grid for Learning chief executive  John Jackson and Camden councillor Theo Blackwell.

Public says its role is to is help technology start-ups transform public services, providing capital, networks, insight and support. It says the global Govtech market is worth £320bn, but start-ups struggle to access it.

The group is led by former-deputy head of the No.10 policy unit, Daniel Korski, and venture investor, Alexander de Carvalho, with the Public team saying it will build an individual programme for every start-up joining GovStart depending on their product, market, knowledge gaps and time commitment. GovStart says it will provide funding of up to £20k per team, and says it will accept ten companies.

Some of the challenges it argues it can help start-ups overcome are:

  • Strategy:  identifying public sector problems and trends, demystifying the government sales cycle and fitting product to the public sector.
  • Channels:  having a dedicated person on staff to help identify decision makers, budget holders and support engagement with the extensive and international Public network.
  • Standards:  maintaining regulatory compliance (including GDPR), using government data responsibly and ensuring cyber protection.
  • Execution:  writing successful bids, pitching to the public sector and integrating with legacy systems

Discussing Korski's involvement in the project, a Cabinet Office spokesperson said, "Mr Korski sought and received the permission of the Cabinet Office regarding this consultancy. In considering his application we must balance the integrity of government with the right of those who have left public service to continue their careers. Details of the advice will be published online in due course, in the usual way."

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