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Grants for Startups Making Government More Transparent

City Hall in New York
City Hall in New YorkPhotograph by Marcaux/Getty Images

Six months ago we wrote about a startup called OpenCounter that’s trying to make it easier for entrepreneurs to get all the local permits and paperwork necessary to start a business. The company was supported by the nonprofit Code for America, which recruits talented programmers to write software for local governments. OpenCounter used Santa Cruz, Calif., as its laboratory. Today the startup got $450,000 from the Knight Foundation to expand its program to other cities.

The idea behind OpenCounter is to walk would-be business owners through the tedious local permitting process. Instead of sending someone who wants to open a coffee shop to a half-dozen different City Hall offices to get a business license, food permits, zoning sign-offs for renovations, and the like, OpenCounter consolidates all the information about requirements and fees on one website. This will let people get that information and, ideally, send their applications and payments even when municipal offices are closed.