David Cameron's ex-adviser Daniel Korski launches major govtech venture to back tech startups, public.io, backed by Robin and Saul Klein, Jon Moulton and more

Lynsey Barber
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Govtech is go: Public is seeking to help tech startups work with government (Source: Getty)

A former top adviser to David Cameron has launched a new venture designed to help startups work with government to improve technology in the public sector.

Daniel Korski, who left Number 10 after the Brexit vote, has backing from high-profile names in the tech industry for the venture, called Public, with venture capital investor and son of the heir to the Heineken fortune Alexander De Carvalho.

Investors include venture capitalists Robin and Saul Klein, private equity boss Jon Moulton, LV= chairman Mark Austen, Sir Thomas Agnew, a businessman and non-executive board member at the ministry of justice, and Passion Capital partner Stefan Glaenzer.

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Public will combine different aspects of the venture funding and tech accelerator model to help startups navigate wanting to work with government.

"We probably can't build the next Google but we could build the next Palantir," Korski told City A.M. of the long-term goal of the company, referring to the billion-dollar valued US data analytics firm which works with many government agencies.

"Why shouldn't the the UK be at the forefront of delivering those services? There's an opportunity now [with the Brexit vote] rarely afforded to a fully functioning Western democracy to rethink the entire under wiring of the state," he said.

The firm is starting off with the launch of a startup scheme, GovStart, a six month programme which will teach up to 10 firms how best to work with the public sector, including central government, the NHS, local government and charities, providing technology such as cyber security, cloud services, machine learning, analytics and APIs, in return for a three per cent equity stake.

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The former managing director of Barclays Techstars accelerator, Mark Lazar, will head up the programme and it boasts an advisory board from across technology and the public sector that includes: Google DeepMind's Mustafa Suleyman; former government chief commercial officer Bill Crothers; Estonia's chief technology officer Siim Sikkut; Lord Paddy Ashdown; and former chief of defence staff under Cameron Sir General David Richards.

Korski said the ambition is to run the course on a regular basis to create a better supply of tech companies ready to navigate government procurement rather than to change the process in the first instance. But, that set up is flexible and may change over time, for example specialising in certain areas such as digital identity, and Public might consider other support such as a tech incubator in future.

Korski also didn't rule out looking for institutional investors down the line, but for now has "plenty of runaway" from the current funds, the amount of which has not been disclosed.

Also involved in mentoring the startups are Passion Capital's Eileen Burbidge, former government chief technology officer Andy Beale, Co-op Group digital chief Mike Bracken, head of the government digital service (GDS) Kevin Cunningham and former White House adviser Brian Forde.

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