I first met Tim Hamilton, the CEO of Astonish Designs at one of the GeekAustin lunches earlier this year. Tim told me about a tool his company made for the city of Houston, called the E-catalog. The tool provided a public website that anyone could use to access the spending activity of the City of Houston. Due to the growing interest there has been in creating greater government transparency, especially in areas of government finance, this project piqued my interest.

Following the discussions at the In Code We Trust panel at this year's SXSWi, I made arrangements to meet Tim for an interview, to get the whole story.

I transcribed this as the conversation started, so the conversation picks up early -- we had been discussing Drupal (I had just had lunch with Lynn, who spent most of SXSWi in Drupal-related meetings) and this is how we began discussing the E-catalog project...

If you go to any tech events around town, no doubt you've seen Eve Richter -- coordinator for the city's Emerging Technology Program. I recently met with Eve to get some background on the program, the city's other tech related initiatives, the state of biotech in Austin, resources for startups, and other topics.

Lynn Bender: Could you tell me about the City of Austin Emerging Technology Program? As part of the Economic Growth and Redevelopment Services Office, is the focus more on business development, implementation of new technologies, or...?

Eve Richter: The Emerging Technology program is tasked with increasing jobs and investment in the technology sectors. We do that by attracting new companies to the area (in our targeted sectors, including clean energy, digital media, wireless communications, and biotechnology, etc.), and helping existing companies to grow and flourish. Our focus is pretty much entirely on business development, except to the extent that the implementation of new technologies (or adoption of new technologies) helps our companies to thrive. So promoting the use of technologies created here is something we might do. We also focus on improving the environment for technology companies, by focusing on improving the workforce, regulatory environment, access to capital, and marketing the city as a hub for technology development.

Tom Serres on Piryx — uncoiling the long tail of politics

Submitted by Lynn Bender on Sat, 01/03/2009 - 1:00am

  Tom Serres bootstrapped Piryx with his partners Naveed Lalani and Brian Upton -- launching the company with $1k made while waiting tables 3 years ago as a college sophomore.

Flash forward to today, and Piryx already been seed funded, and is currently in talks to close their first series A investment round. Although we'd been communicating online for a while, I finally meet Tom for coffee at Blu a few weeks ago. Tom told me the incredible story of Piryx, and agreed to be our co-host for the GeekAustin E-nauguration Party.

Lynn Bender: Tom, tell me about Piryx.

Tom Serres: First off, Piryx is a non-partisan suite of web tools, offered in a self serve environment. Think Google or Facebook, but designed around the political process. The idea is to offer a portal that empowers citizen candidates, political entities, and social activists with a combination of web tools and social media services to affect change in public policy.

The return of Product Camp Austin

Submitted by Lynn Bender on Fri, 12/12/2008 - 1:00am

  When I found out that Product Camp Austin Winter 09 was on the calendar, I immediately sent a note to the organizer, Paul Young, asking for the details. Take the day off for this event. This is going to be a good one.

Lynn Bender: The first Product Camp Austin was a huge success. You had a good crowd, and folks came away raving about how useful the event was. Given the word of mouth, I expect that you are going to have a bigger crowd for Product Camp Austin Winter 09. Will the venue be larger? Do you anticipate having to cap attendance?

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