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50 Best Companies to Watch 2019

An Interview with Paola Santana, Social Glass Founder and CEO: ‘We’re Using Technology to Create a Software Ecosystem that Simplifies Governments’ Processes to Support them in Operating more Efficiently, Transparently, and Responsively’

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“Our mission at Social Glass is to build purposeful and powerful tools for 21st Century governments, so opportunities and progress can reach everyone.”

The world is currently experiencing a period of rapid technological change that has been called ‘the fourth industrial revolution’. New technologies are being developed which will fundamentally reshape government workforces and change how a government makes policy and delivers public services.

In light of the foregoing, we’re thrilled to present Social Glass.

Social Glass is a software ecosystem powering high-performing governments. The company builds purposeful, transformative technology for XXI century governments, using Artificial Intelligence to digitize, streamline and scale good processes and decision-making.

Regardless of size, public systems, or challenges, Social Glass makes it easy for governments to do what’s right, empowering them to run efficiently and offer high-quality public services that are universally accessible to all.

The company was incorporated in 2017 and is headquartered in San Francisco, California.

Paola Santana, Social Glass Founder/CEO, spoke exclusively to The Silicon Review. Below is an excerpt.

Why was the company set up? And how did you expand your company and its offerings over the years?

Social Glass was created on the basis that governments are the biggest decision-makers in the world. As citizens, we empower the public workforce to operate, manage, deliberate and decide on major topics — from healthcare to education and infrastructure. Sometimes we agree with their choices, sometimes we think they can do better, but regardless of our perspectives, there are some challenges we all need to address. For instance, we estimate that in 80 percent of the world, governments lack simple and integrated processes to effectively leverage their resources to serve their citizens. Social Glass creates a space to proactively engage in this foundational conversation, by dramatically streamlining government procedures and improving end results. We are using technology to create a software ecosystem that simplifies governments’ processes to support them in operating more efficiently, transparently and responsively, building powerful tools able to produce massive public impact.

Governments are also the biggest purchasers in the world, yet their procurement processes are outdated, complex, slow, and require manual implementation by a highly-specialized workforce. Our first product —MICRO™ aims to tackle this specific problem. MICRO™ is a global e-commerce marketplace for fully compliant, fast, and paperless government micro-purchases (e.g. daily needs, office supplies, professional services, emergency items), where government agencies can buy, contract or rent products and services from verified businesses. With this product, we think we can help governments simplify their procurement activities, reducing barriers of entry into the government market for thousands of businesses, and assisting public employees in making the right purchasing decision, every single time.

Any company, big or small, must have a sense of authenticity and originality to succeed, is your company a leader or a follower?

Through our software ecosystem, Social Glass is a pioneer in the creation of a comprehensive, highly-scalable and adaptable suite of government products, reinventing the way governments acquire, consume and pay for software solutions, and the user experience provided to their very unique users — the government workforce. The bottom-up approach taken with the selection and development of our first product, MICRO™, starting at the micro-purchase level instead of addressing the bigger purchases, sets the tone for the type of engagement that we aim to establish with our government users - one that has a low barrier of entry and decreased level of red tape for them, that requires no training, and that is frequent enough to entice a behavior change.

Fostering a culture of feedback is crucial to the success of every organization. How is this true with your company?

Even before starting our Pilot Program, we’ve been discussing and co-designing our first product, features and core offering with government decision-makers, to ensure that we’re building solutions that are highly valued and that solve real government problems. As a fast-moving startup, we’ve been incorporating feedback and adjusting our product in a daily basis with the insights obtained from local, state and federal agencies, and also producing bigger structural changes guided by critical initiatives we’re part of in the federal procurement field. All the feedback is helping us create a more intuitive, user-friendly, efficient, and secure product, that can successfully meet the highest standard for government adoption.

What are the factors that make your brand stand out from the competition?

Our single focus creating category-defining products that redefine governments’ workforce user experience, and the ecosystem approach that brings all these products under a modular suite, making them seamless to use, navigate and adopt. Lastly, our efforts towards developing proprietary Artificial Intelligence tools that provide performance insights, identify patterns and cycles in government operations, and outline opportunities to digitize, streamline, scale, and expedite decisions within and between government agencies.

How do you keep your company up and running?

We continue to stay ahead of the curve by identifying needs— and niches that are often overlooked and unaccounted for. We’re starting with micro-purchases because contrary to the scrutiny received by public bidding, auctions and big contracts, these small purchases in the US under USD$ 10,000 are usually overlooked, but when aggregated represent about ten percent of government purchases (an estimated $150B only in the US). Micro-purchases are not necessarily categorized or identified as such in every jurisdiction, and in many countries they take the shape of a petty cash fund, an emergency budget, a miscellaneous budget allocation, a government credit card expense, a reimbursement, an advanced order, or a pink slip receipt, but what is common throughout these purchases is that many are made by admin staff, in a just-in-time or on-demand fashion. They account for anything from daily needs, office supplies, professional services, emergency items, with a lot of things unaccounted, unexpected, unforeseen, that were not or could not be planned in advance. And we’re observing that this reflects reality.

Do you have any new products ready to be launched? How do they work?

Our first and newest product — MICRO™, has an intuitive web-based marketplace with goods and services from numerous verified suppliers from whom government departments can buy, contract, or rent items. Any government staffer can, for instance, conveniently purchase necessary office or emergency supplies, agency-approved software, or even rent a conference venue and hire catering services, all through the same platform. The transaction details are displayed in a visual dashboard, facilitating staffers to conveniently and quickly track their orders and keep key terms of purchase such as warranty and insurance at a glance. While the suppliers are verified for their legitimacy and past performance before being on-boarded into MICRO™, the marketplace brings real-time data insights into competitive pricing. Sorting is done based on factors such as price, delivery time, or supplier ratings. What’s more, MICRO™ tracks (and thus encourages) local businesses, procurement diversity goals and policy implementation for compliance. We have two other government procurement-related products in the pipeline for 2020, that will augment MICRO™ value proposition to government agencies.

Where do you see your company a couple of years from now?

In five years from now, we see Social Glass being the leading government partner for AI-driven procurement solutions, being the catalyst behind the transformation of governments into high-performing entities. Specifically, we envision a near future where our software becomes an enabler that allows governments to better understand and reduce their operational costs, using the proceeds obtained from the increased efficiencies to provide best-in-class public services and unlock profit-generating activities.

Paola Santana: A Formidable Leader

Social Glass was founded by Paola Santana, a lawyer, public procurement expert and tech entrepreneur, who is on a quest to create the world’s next political system after democracy. Previously she co-founded Matternet, Silicon Valley’s pioneering drone delivery startup. Under her leadership, Matternet engaged with The White House, US Congress, FAA, and NASA to enact the first drone rule in the United States in 2016, and became the first drone delivery platform authorized for urban operations in 2017. A Fulbright scholar and faculty at Singularity University, she’s known for her track record introducing cutting-edge technologies into highly-regulated markets, her most recent experience being co-drafting the public-private partnership enabling the first multi-state Hyperloop system in the United States. She’s been featured as CNET Top 20 Latin in Tech, Forbes Top 50 Women of Power from Central America and The Dominican Republic, LinkedIn Top Professionals Under 35, and Social Glass been ranked in the top 10 e-Governance Solutions of 2019.

“Our vision is to implement an ecosystem that’s practical and modern into the public sector settings, simplifying every single government operation and helping transform governments into high-performing entities.”