10x Investments

10x is a stage-gated internal investment program for the United States government, modeled on modern venture capital practices, that funds the exploration and development of new product ideas, sourced from civil servants, to significantly improve how the government uses technology to serve the public good.

Innovation Summary

Innovation Overview

10x is a stage-gated investment program for the United States government. Its mission is to fund the exploration and development of new project ideas sourced from civil servants across the federal landscape that significantly improve how the government uses technology to serve the public good. The name comes from the idea that the program aims to deliver ten times the value of the initial investment — 10x — as measured through cost savings, improved efficiencies, or scale of impact.

10x looks for ideas with evidence of a clear description of a problem that technology could address, alignment with current government-wide priorities, and the potential for positive impact on multiple government agencies or a broad portion of the American public. The 10x program hires teams to investigate these ideas, develop the most promising projects into products and services, and support them until 10x can find a permanent home for them within its own agency, the General Services Administration (GSA), or another federal agency.

10x uses a four-phase investment process, modeled on modern venture capital practices, where the amount of funding increases at each phase only if the project has proved to be successful up to that point. At each stage of the process, the idea, product, or service is evaluated to determine whether the next phase of funding is warranted, continuously balancing risk with potential benefits.

The initial barrier to entry is low: to get started, 10x asks federal employees to submit three sentences of context on the problem area and how technology might help to address it. The 10x team then selects the most promising ideas and hires a team of researchers and strategists to investigate and develop a better understanding of the dimensions of the problem.

The four phases are:

  • Phase 1, Investigation. A small team answers the question “Is this a bad idea?” by developing a high-level understanding of potential opportunities and challenges, and in particular any significant roadblocks that might be too difficult to overcome.
  • Phase 2, Discovery. The team answers the question “Is this a good idea?” by developing an understanding of the idea’s potential, considering problem statement, industries impacted, product and market fit, finances, timeline, regulatory environment, and how the product might scale.
  • Phase 3, Development. The team answers the question “Will anyone use this?” by developing a functional minimally viable product (MVP) with at least one active agency customer, including estimates for the cost and effort required to build and maintain a fully viable product.
  • Phase 4, Scale. The team answers the question “Will everyone use this?” by deploying additional funding to increase the number of people using the product and to determine a method for ongoing financing and maintenance.

Alongside the funding provided, the 10x team provides guidance, oversight, acquisition vehicles, and advice to idea authors and project teams, equipping them with the necessary tools to help each project reach its potential.

10x provides resources to projects attempting to solve significant issues inside the government that might not otherwise have been addressed. As individuals on the front lines of a huge workforce, federal employees have significant exposure to the challenges facing the government that could potentially be solved through a new technology or service but often have little to no access to any means to explore or execute on their ideas to address these issues. The 10x program was explicitly designed to bridge this gap by providing these resources, financial and otherwise, to civil servants who apply.

10x aims to provide job satisfaction and fulfill a sense of duty for any civil servant who sees a way to further their agency’s mission through the development of a particular product or service. Civil servants who recommend an idea to the 10x program have the option to participate in and support the development of that product as part of their own career development.

10x introduces concepts of adaptation, agility, and experimentation to federal agencies, demonstrating how a structured, lightweight process can be used to manage the risks — financial and otherwise — associated with iteratively testing out new ideas. In particular, 10x showcases how this iterative approach can successfully operate in alignment with the traditional top-down appropriated budgeting process used by the government.

The 10x team works to identify how a successful project might be sustained within the government, ultimately reducing its reliance on funding from the 10x program. 10x ensures that agency partners who agree to house a 10x product or service over the long-term have the necessary knowledge, procedures, relationships, and funding structures in place to allow the project to thrive and continue to grow once it has graduated from the 10x process into a more traditional agency environment.

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Year: 2017
Level of government: National/Federal government

Status:

  • Identifying or Discovering Problems or Opportunities - learning where and how an innovative response is needed
  • Generating Ideas or Designing Solutions - finding and filtering ideas to respond to the problem or opportunity
  • Developing Proposals - turning ideas into business cases that can be assessed and acted on
  • Implementation - making the innovation happen
  • Evaluation - understanding whether the innovative initiative has delivered what was needed
  • Diffusing Lessons - using what was learnt to inform other projects and understanding how the innovation can be applied in other ways

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