It can be hard in a big company for a small idea to get the attention it deserves. Sometimes, perhaps the big company should think like a startup. That’s what Omaha-based Election Systems & Software did: carved out a small team and sent its members to startup school to develop an idea that could make voting a better process throughout the United States and beyond. ES&S Director of Emerging Technologies Rob Wiebusch and Director of Innovations Shari Little last week finished a three-month stint at the Straight Shot Accelerator, where they refined their early concept at improving voting. They want to use data to help election administrators make smarter decisions at polling places. Omaha’s ES&S makes electronic voting machines used around the world. Even though it’s the world’s leading provider of voting equipment and election support services, the company’s management said a startup mindset is what ES&S needs to maintain its lead in the business. So ES&S sent Wiebusch and Little to the 90-day startup accelerator program in June to come up with the nuts and bolts of a new product offering that will aim to make voters’ experiences at the polls go more smoothly.
With their machines at so many polling places, ES&S collects a lot of data. This project doesn’t use personal information, such as whom a voter chooses for City Council. Instead, it looks at data generated from a polling place as a whole — like how many people voted between 8 and 9 a.m. Or how many times ballots were fed incorrectly into machines.
Armed with that data, election administrators could, say, bulk up staffing during typically busy times or increase training for employees having problems with certain tasks. (The company says the data is non-identifying — in other words, it’s not tied to information that would expose individual identities or votes.)
Wiebusch presented the “public-facing” version of the pitch to an audience of about 400 late last week at Aksarben Cinema for Straight Shot’s Demo Day, a capstone to the program. A fuller pitch was made to ES&S leadership and stakeholders on Monday. Not wanting to tip his hand to the competition, Wiebusch broadly described the idea as such: “We are going to improve election operations for our customers by unlocking insights in the data that already exists.”
Full Article: Startup spirit helps Omaha company ES&S innovate, thanks to Straight Shot incubator – Omaha.com: Money.