As a tech savvy teenager, Tim Hwang began changing how information influenced American politics and business-government relations. In 2012, his programs helped Barack Obama win the Iowa caucus. In 2013, as college students, Tim Hwang, Gerald Yao and Jonathan Chen formed FiscalNote headquartered in Washington, D.C. FiscalNote was created to accommodate contracting the services of his new data seeking and data crunching applications. Even as a small startup, FiscalNote attracted the attention of some high profile venture capitalists. Most recently FiscalNote received ten million in a Series C round in 2016 and ten million in a Series B round in 2015.
FiscalNote, a university startup from Emory University, Princeton University and the University of Maryland, is combining computerized data collection methods with the analyzing power of artificial intelligence to produce applications that greatly increase a company’s return on its investments in governmental tracking. The java programs work faster and cheaper than beltway law firms and lobbyists so the effect of this new start up is likely to be enormous.
This start up can be understood as another example of technocrats converting expensive services from the purview of a mass of costly labor intensive experts to the relatively inexpensive realm of the shared economy. Retainers to well-heeled government trackers may become a thing of the past as this university startup demonstrates its power to identify relevant activity within the federal and state governments and its powerful ability to predict the fate of proposed legislation and regulations.
It is not surprising that this technological solution to the huge demand for governmental information arose in a university setting with their combination of technological resources, student and professor entrepreneurs, and existing knowledge about national and local governments and how they work. In 2013 the University of Maryland contributed to a FiscalNote seed fund drive.
While FiscalNote CEO Tim Hwang acknowledges that there are still a multitude of political “Black Swans” occurring, he believes that the information technology that underlies FiscalNote is second to none and it makes government information accessible, transparent, and actionable.
FiscalNote has produced three information analysis tools to date: FiscalNote Prophecy, FiscalNote Sonar (focused on tracking the federal government), and FiscalNote Atlantis. So far, FiscalNote has focused on American government risks to business; however, it is currently planning to expand into assessing governmental risks to business overseas in Europe and Asia.
Following the passage of the Affordable Care Act, demand for FiscalNote services has been growing particularly fast in the health care field. FiscalNote’s success to date is in large part a measure of its ability to produce finished, market ready products that have been successfully employed by large corporate clients.