MeWe builds a bridge be­tween gov­ern­ment and busi­ness

The Star (St. Lucia) - - BUSINESS -

Manik Suri, a for­mer D.E. Shaw hedge fund wun­derkind, has been wrestling with how best to help gov­ern­ment put com­pli­ance pol­icy into prac­tice for years.

A re­cent af­fil­i­ate at Har­vard’s Berk­man Cen­ter for In­ter­net & So­ci­ety and for­mer di­rec­tor on the board of En­trepreneur­ship for Amer­ica, Suri’s pub­lic ser­vice in­cluded a stint on the White House Na­tional Eco­nomic Coun­cil.

While there, he saw how dif­fi­cult it was for gov­ern­ment agen­cies to en­sure proper over­sight. The sys­tem clearly failed in the wake of the hous­ing cri­sis that brought the U.S. econ­omy to the brink of to­tal col­lapse . . . and the econ­omy took nearly a decade to re­cover.

Suri’s com­pany, MeWe, the “Tur­boTax for com­pli­ance”, was born out of his frus­tra­tion with that ex­pe­ri­ence.

Founded in 2014, the com­pany raised a $2.3 mil­lion seed round ear­lier this year from in­vestors in­clud­ing Ur­, the gov­ern­ment tech­nol­ogy and cli­mate­fo­cused early stage in­vest­ment fund, and the GovTech fund (whose lim­ited part­ners in­clude Jeff Be­zos and for­mer Gen­eral David Pe­traeus).

“I thought maybe there was a bet­ter way to get things done out­side of gov­ern­ment,” Suri said.

MeWe wasn’t Suri’s first foray into work at the in­ter­sec­tion of tech­nol­ogy and pol­icy.His first stop was Har­vard, where (as a third year) he co-founded the Gov­er­nance Lab­o­ra­tory as a col­lab­o­ra­tive in­sti­tute be­tween MIT and NYU. Work­ing with Beth Noveck, Suri launched the cen­ter to find ways to use tech­nol­ogy to im­prove data man­age­ment and pub­licpri­vate col­lab­o­ra­tion. MeWe is, in many ways, the con­tin­u­a­tion of Suri’s work with the GovLab.

To round out his found­ing team, Suri en­listed Aaron Co­hen, the for­mer chief ex­ec­u­tive of Menu­pages and a pro­fes­sor of in­ter­net his­tory at NYU, and Ran­jeet Sidhu, a se­rial en­tre­pre­neur who served as the chief ex­ec­u­tive DrCat­a­lyst. To­gether the three men have cre­ated a soft­ware tool that at­tempts to ease the bur­den of com­pli­ance re­port­ing.

The com­pany fo­cuses on health and safety cer­ti­fi­ca­tions and in­spec­tions for com­pa­nies op­er­at­ing mainly in the food and hous­ing sec­tors. The idea is to make it eas­ier for ev­ery­day em­ploy­ees and man­age­ment to run com­pli­ance checks and dis­trib­ute that in­for­ma­tion to lo­cal and state over­sight agen­cies.

MeWe makes money from both com­pa­nies and gov­ern­ments. New York is al­ready a key cus­tomer, as are the fast-ca­sual TGIFri­days res­tau­rant chain and Wal­mart. And MeWe is also in dis­cus­sions with two large fast-food fran­chises to be the sys­tem of record for their food-safety com­pli­ance and over­sight ef­forts in­ter­na­tion­ally.

Given the cur­rent lax­ity of gov­ern­ment over­sight at the fed­eral level, Suri takes great pains to un­der­score the fact that the com­pany fo­cuses on lo­cal and state reg­u­la­tory agen­cies (which these days are far more ea­gle-eyed in their over­sight than their fed­eral coun­ter­parts).

Be­yond re­tail and fast food Suri looks ahead to the day when reg­u­la­tory bod­ies will be­gin tak­ing a closer look at the ven­dors in shar­ing econ­omy mar­ket­places.

While Airbnb may not own real es­tate, the day could re­quire stan­dards that hosts would have to com­ply with. In that in­stance, a ser­vice like MeWe’s CoIn­spect prod­uct could prove to be very handy.

“As in­dus­tries start to see these laws com­ing out, they’re start­ing to see a way to get ahead of them,” Suri said. “Us.”

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