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Martin O’Malley to host pitch contest for civic tech entrepreneurs

Democratic presidential candidate Martin O'Malley speaks at the Jefferson-Jackson Dinner in Des Moines last week.Getty Images

Most startup competitions have something tangible to offer the winners: a cash prize, the promise of an investment, 15 minutes of fame on national TV.

The pitch contest that comes to District Hall at 5:30 p.m. next Wednesday offers something different: face time with a presidential candidate.

Former Maryland governor Martin O’Malley will visit the techie hangout in the Seaport to host his third pitch contest for startups. Like the other two that the Democratic candidate held in San Francisco and Washington, this contest will be limited to civic tech entrepreneurs. (O’Malley made government data analysis a big priority as governor, and previously when he was mayor of Baltimore.) The previous winners of these pitch contests included an app that makes filing for food stamps easier and a startup that helps track down missing people.


“Startups are there because they believe in this [civic tech] movement,” said Danny Gaynor, the event’s master of ceremonies and director of policy development with the O’Malley campaign. “In this space, networking matters a lot, exposure matters a lot, hearing other ideas matters a lot.”

On Wednesday, eight or so finalists will make their two-minute pitches to a panel of judges that will include Aimee Sprung, a civic engagement manager at Microsoft in Cambridge, and Jake Auchincloss, who helped oversee the recent MIT $100K entrepreneurship contest. (Other judges will be added.)

There seems to be a Garden City connection happening here: Both Sprung and Auchincloss live in Newton, and Gaynor grew up in the city. “Total coincidence,” Gaynor says. “I wish I could say I was that wily, that I had any intention of stacking the deck with Newton people.”

Jon Chesto can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @jonchesto.