The Government Opens Up Its Data

If you are interested in becoming an entrepreneur, sometimes the hardest thing to do is come up with a real idea.  The problem is the idea you come up with needs to solve a real problem, or pain point.  Governments generally are interested in encouraging innovation, despite their flat footedness to actually adopt and internalize innovation within themselves.

Sometimes, entrepreneurs need to think creatively about data.  Justin Massa of Food Genius did just that and now knows more about what people eat than any person on earth.  He took available data and built a value add business around it.

Now you can too.

The General Services Administration, which helps support federal agencies’ day-to-day functions, released yesterday a new API featuring cross-platform social media content from more than 20 government agencies. The API has data from NASA, the Department of Defense, the State Department and others.

Reams of all kinds of data will be publicly available waiting for creative thinkers to utilize to create value.  If you don’t know how to code, try using to manipulate the data and come up with something.  If you get an idea good enough that solves a real problem, try it with some people that have that problem and get feedback on if it’s useful.  If you get positive feedback, go to and find some programmers and build a business.

It is good the government is releasing all this data and making it easier on entrepreneurs.  The city of Chicago has done this the past couple of years, and some good apps that are useful are coming out of it.  CTA Bustracker for instance.

It might be a good idea for private businesses to open up some data to entrepreneurs to let them manipulate and create value out of it.  For example, second by second price and volume information might seem sort of boring, but in the right hands it might become a viable business to business app that people could use to predict and make inferences into the future.

The key is everyone has the same shot at the data. It’s free.  What’s not free is how people creatively think about it, manipulate it and create value from it.  Another tip, just because the data is free doesn’t mean you don’t have to charge for the product you come up with!

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