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5 Ways Open Government Data Can Inspire Startup Innovation

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When trying to build a successful startup, it's easy to become so absorbed in your day-to-day profit making so that you neglect the bigger picture. And before long, you've fallen out of touch with your target audience and its ever-changing needs.

Capitalizing on big data could spur the innovation your startup needs to reconnect with consumers and intelligently build a product or service they'll love.

Although aggregating massive amounts of information might sound like a grueling, expensive endeavor, there's a good chance a government agency has already dedicated resources to gathering some of the information you're seeking.

You don't have to fork over thousands of dollars to start investing in data collection because most of the important information is available for free. is the home of the U.S. government's open data site, offering hundreds of thousands of data sets. Plus, the information is easy to digest, credible, search enabled and, best of all, completely free.

The number of opportunities created by free data is astounding. Just take a look at Open Data 500, a review of U.S. companies using government data to innovate and solve problems. Companies involved in fields ranging from health care to climate modeling have already tapped into the potential from open government data.

Whatever your industry may be, this data can help you accomplish a variety of goals:

Related: How Small Businesses Can Embrace Big Data

1. Delivering a personal touch.

You can use open data to connect more directly with the needs and desires of your consumer base. Predictive data can reveal buying habits so you can deliver your product or service in a way that makes customers feel like individuals rather than members of a herd.

You can also use data to cross- or upsell customers, as Amazon does when it makes friendly suggestions based on consumers' previous buying behavior.

2. Solving problems.

A lack of information can impede efficiency and, in turn, raise costs and limit growth. But by integrating data from the vast open network, you can make an industry less resistant to progress.

CityScan, a Chicago-based software company, uses government and 3-D visual data to help organizations manage assets, keep up with local regulations and help with safety concerns.

It's easy when digging into data to draw distinctions between different populations or to assess trends that tell a bigger story. Whatever your startup's mission, the opportunities this information can provide are bountiful.

3. Creating benchmarking solutions.

Are you operating as efficiently as possible? Data collection can help you evaluate internal processes and productivity. Startups tend to get stuck in cycles of selling and speeding toward making a profit. It can be difficult to hit the pause button or deviate from the daily grind, but it's important to make data analysis a habit so you can operate and grow the company intelligently.

Related: The Sharing Economy Holds Promise for More Goods to Be Offered at Near Zero Marginal Cost

4. Expanding your offerings.

Carefully selected data isn't just a valuable resource for your primary business objective. You can also use it to generate a secondary strand for your business.

You could mine the data to conduct research and then sell your insights to other companies as Gartner does with its tech data, providing customized research to IT clients to help them become industry leaders.

5. Informing new product ideas.

Free government data can also serve as the impetus or foundation for new products or services. Selected data can provide the perfect insight into consumer problem areas so you can create tailored solutions. For example, Fluid has developed a personalized shopping app, using data such as product information, consumer sales history and user reviews to offer shoppers customized advice as they browse.

Large data aggregations also have the potential to disrupt new industries. When the U.S. government made weather and GPS data available to the public, it powered a billion-dollar industry.

Unlocking the insights buried within open government data can help you transform your product, company or even industry. Don't be afraid to break away from the day-to-day to investigate this information. It might just spark an idea that ignites meaningful change in the world.

Related: 4 Tips for Pursuing Government Contracts

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