E.Republic founder Dennis McKenna, who describes his publications as “smart media for government innovation,” is making an investment worth $1 million in a tech startup that he believes is providing a smart, cost-effective tool in an area where government acutely needs innovation.
ArchiveSocial, based in Durham, N.C., stores information posted on social media accounts operated by federal agencies, state agencies, cities, school districts and the like. Governments are increasingly using social media like Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram to communicate with the public and, in virtually all states, that information is considered a public record.
“But right now,” McKenna said, “most governments are either...not keeping a record of it, or they’re doing it in extremely inefficient ways, like printing out their Twitter feed and putting a hard copy in a file.”
McKenna has been involved for several years with San Francisco-based Code For America, a nonprofit that encourages young technologists to use their skills to improve how government operates. While at a Code For America event last year, McKenna was approached by ArchiveSocial founder Anil Chawla. The now-32-year-old entrepreneur had been urged by a mutual business associate to pitch his company to McKenna, because his Folsom-based e.Republic distributed publications to government leaders and convened national conferences attended by thousands each year.
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Unbeknownst to Chawla, McKenna had created a fund, e.Republic Ventures, to invest in “civic tech” companies.
While other companies archive social media accounts, Chawla said, ArchiveSocial’s biggest competitor is inaction. Some public agenices just throw up their hands and do nothing, flouting state and federal records requirements. For less than $5,000 a year, Chawla said, ArchiveSocial can store social media for most government agencies. The company currently has clients in more than 20 states, including the city and county of San Francisco.
“We actually secure the data, so if you had a Tweet or a Facebook comment, and you needed to use it in court, it could actually serve as legal evidence,” Chawla said. “We could prove that it’s an authentic and accurate record….If you ever need to get your data out, which is why you’re archiving in the first place, we can reconstruct and replay that content the way you saw it on the original digital network. So, if it’s Facebook, you’ll see a wall post with comments on it.”
McKenna’s investment combines an infusion of capital with marketing services; it’s the marketing services that have Chawla most excited.
“It’s our mission to get this into the hands of everybody that needs it,” Chawla said. “e.Republic...(has) the reach into our target market.”