Founder and CEO, FiscalNote
Political tech executive
Industry: Data services, media
Key previous position: Founder of youth lobbying organization
Notable fact: Son of South Korean immigrants
Tim Hwang’s email had a simple-enough subject line: “Changing Government.”
It was the vision he laid out in that email for dragging government into the digital age that caught entrepreneur Mark Cuban’s attention, spurring him to cut a six-figure check to the newly born company that Hwang promised could get it done, FiscalNote.
Six years later, FiscalNote is an ascendant force in Washington, with an office on Pennsylvania Avenue, and is expanding rapidly across the globe with locations in Brussels, Seoul, and Hong Kong. Its software and data serves thousands of clients from large government agencies and Fortune 500 companies to small trade associations and local political parties that can’t afford to put a K Street lobbyist on retainer.
Information in Washington was, and often still is, processed in a disconnected and inaccessible way, which Hwang compares to the way Wall Street manually analyzed stocks before the 1970s. FiscalNote offers a massive trove of data on government, from local municipalities to Congress, allowing lobbyists and policy wonks to follow relevant legislation, analyze comments and rule-making from regulatory bodies, and gauge the influence of officials on each issue.
“It was really a sleepy market. There was not a lot of innovation,” Hwang said. “Customers were pretty unhappy with the product they were using.”
FiscalNote, Hwang says, has made government more understandable and showcased a sustainable model for digitizing it, making data easier to use and accessible to a much larger audience.
More than just data, though, FiscalNote is also making it easier for the Washington machinery to connect through collaborative and chat software, allowing lobbyists, policymakers, and other advocates to work in a streamlined fashion.
As the company continues to grow, buying legislative-media outlet CQ/Roll Call for $180 million in 2018, Hwang envisions one day when data on every country in the world can be at your fingertips.
“A lot of the work that I’m personally doing is trying to build a global company,” he said.