Princeton professor Alan Binder with an important reminder that the financial crisis of 2008-9 isn’t over yet and that we can’t forget what what we needed to fix. (The New York Times)
Microsoft is in talks to back private takeover of Dell. With PC and Windows sales slumping, this deal is mostly just buying time. (DealBook)
Speaking of which, search is now happening on mobile 25% of the time. (searchengineland)
Regulators to companies: you can’t fire your employees for dissing you on social media. (The New York Times)
Despite the publishing industry’s challenges, words are a growth market. (Fast Company)
Mozilla makes a smartphone. (BBC)
Last Thursday (January 17) The White House’s Presidential Innovation Fellows program, along with the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), launched RFP-EZ after several months of development.
RFP-EZ is an experimental project that attempts to tackle an important challenge: make small business contracting easier, particularly for tech companies, and allow the federal government to “quickly source low-cost, high-impact information technology solutions.” In the simplest sense, RFP-EZ creates an online marketplace for the government to buy professional services from small businesses in tech.
To many, government procurement is often first associated with defense contractors such as Lockheed Martin and Boeing, who take on billions of dollars in contracts every year from agencies such as the Department of Defense. But small businesses do their part as well, having received federal contracts totaling over $90 billion in 2011. In fact, the U.S. government aims to award 23% of all contract dollars to small businesses each year (though this goal is one they have missed for six years straight).
Nevertheless, the RFP-EZ project was born because many tech start-up and high-growth companies found the procurement process too complex, too long, and full of too many legal regulations. The combination of a cumbersome process and start-ups’ inaction has led to many companies missing out on business from literally the largest customer in the world.
By streamlining the process, RFP-EZ is creating a new opportunity for the federal government to access great new technology products and solutions at competitive prices. Thus, our government achieves the elusive: saving taxpayer dollars while improving its services to citizenry. And by gaining access to one of the largest marketplaces in the world, start-up tech companies help fuel job growth in turn.
Overall, the RFP-EZ project has put on a commendable display of government transparency. For one, they’ve uploaded working, in-development applications of RFP-EZ on GitHub, a site for groups and individuals to share code and work online with one another. The Presidential Fellows are offering those who are interested to view progress, or even “hack along” to help with coding. As the Presidential Innovation Fellows blog points out, the development of RFP-EZ is “probably the first open source enterprise procurement app.”
Here’s a more in-depth look at how RFP-EZ works.
RFP-EZ, currently in beta, has a simple landing page with two main options separately targeting small businesses and government agencies.
Small businesses can browse projects; as of the writing of this post, there are four projects listed, each with bids due by February 4. All four are from the SBA: for instance, one contract is for upgrading the SBA’s website to making data from the Small Business Investment Company (SBIC) program searchable. Each project description provides background, scope, requirements, milestones, constraints, and timeline and deadlines, evaluation criteria and an appendix. All pertinent information is laid out for start-ups to peruse.
A Q&A section at the bottom suggests that there can be some interaction between companies and the SBA while the bidding period is open.
Meanwhile, government agencies can announce projects, receive and review bids, and browse tech business that have created online profiles on the RFP-EZ platform. Currently, projects in RFP-EZ qualify for these simpler procurement procedures because the contracts are valued between $3,000 and $150,000.
The White House’s Presidential Innovation Fellows program was launched in the spring of 2012, followed by the inaugural class being announced in August. Its mission is to “pair top innovators from the private sector, non-profits, and academia with top innovators in government to collaborate on solutions that aim to deliver significant results in six months.”
In addition to RFP-EZ, the Presidential Innovation Fellows program is developing projects called MyGov, Open Data Initiatives, Blue Button for America and The 20% Initiative.
The House proposes that, in exchange for authorizing a three-month debt limit increase, Congress’ pay should be withheld if no budget is passed by April 15. Ignoring whether or not this is allowed under the 27th Amendment, and ignoring the politics of the proposal - penalizing our senators and representatives for not doing their job sounds about right. (Reuters)
The Financial times announces that it planned to move to a digital-first strategy. For a paper that prided itself on being one of the first to institute a paywall, and one of the first to be successful with it, I’m surprised this didn’t happen sooner. It also suggests that Pearson isn’t ready to sell the FT quite yet. (The Guardian)
Apple stock has dropped 30% since September, and investors are bracing for the company to report on Wednesday its first loss since 2003. (Bloomberg)
Mexico’s economy looks good. (Quartz)
Cornell NYC Tech: “…not just a school, it is an ‘educational start-up,’ students are ‘deliverables’ and companies seeking access to those students or their professors can choose from a ‘suite of products’ by which to get it.” (The New York Times)