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A New Push to Get Local Governments to Buy Local

Cities are pledging to buy more from small and minority-owned businesses. Paola Santana is helping them.

Paola Santana

Paola Santana

Photographer: Ariel Martini

When Paola Santana received a Fulbright scholarship a decade ago, she moved from the Dominican Republic to Washington, D.C., to earn a masters degree in government procurement law. Upon graduation, she anticipated fixing dysfunctional government systems by working in government. Instead, she ended up starting two Silicon Valley startups meant to remedy government shortcomings from the outside in.

Santana launched her latest venture, Social Glass, in San Francisco in 2017 to build software for government workers that makes it easier for them to do their jobs. Its current focus is an online marketplace called Glass Commerce that government buyers use to shop for products ranging from N95 masks to laptops sourced from businesses that meet criteria such as being locally-owned or woman-owned. It also makes it easier for business owners with no contracting expertise to sell to state and local governments. That can seem like a daunting task for anyone not familiar with the ways of procurement.