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U.S. CIO VanRoekel talks startups, savings, new tech in Iowa visit

Steven VanRoekel, the United States’ new Chief Information Officer, made the rounds at his old stomping grounds on Monday.

VanRoekel, who grew up in Cherokee, Iowa and graduated from Iowa State University, returned to his alma mater to give a talk and also visited StartupCity Des Moines, a downtown technology startup incubator, during a visit to central Iowa. 

Just the second person to hold the position of U.S. CIO, VanRoekel took over the post in August after stints with the U.S. Agency for International Development and Federal Communications Commission. He also spent 15 years in various roles at Microsoft.

VanRoekel drew from those past experiences and looked ahead to future endeavors during his visit Monday. Silicon Prairie News wasn’t able to attend VanRoekel’s talks, but we’ve compiled a healthy roundup of other outlets’ recaps of his visit. A few of the highlights: 


A Des Moines Regsiter recap of VanRoekel’s visit touched on his discussion of startups:

“Anytime I’m in a city, I want to meet the startups,” he said. “I want to meet the entrepreneurs who are pushing the boundaries of technology. At the end of the day, they are the growth engines of the economy.”

VanRoekel told ISU students that he compares his work with the government with that at Microsoft because both have to consider operations and new investments in their budgets. However, the government doesn’t take depreciation into account when it invests in new technology and outdated systems can remain in place, he said.

A post on the StartupCity blog provided additional insight into startup-centric talk from the CIO: 

VanRoekel says he is taking a “lean-startup approach to government.” He’s no stranger to startups; his wife is a co-founder of Expedia and Zillow, and he worked for 15 years at Microsoft Corporation, including three years as a speech and strategy assistant to Bill Gates. 

$80 billion budget

VanRoekel sits at the helm of a department with an $80 billion budget, and he’s well aware of the impact that can have. Again, from The Register:

“At $80 billion, we have a market effect,” he said. “We have to always be cognizant of that and think hard about what we build or what we buy and the things we do.”

New endeavors

VanRoekel discussed his efforts to help usher the government into the 21st century. Among the latest is PortfolioStat, a program rolled out Friday that requires information technology reviews at all federal government agencies in an attempt to find wasteful and inefficient investments.

The StartupCity blog has more on VanRoekel’s push for efficiency in innovation:

His mantra is “innovate with less,” which means eliminating redundancies through consolidation and sharing. For example, when VanRoekel arrived in D.C., the Department of Agriculture had 21 different email systems. “They couldn’t even send an email to all of their employees,” he said. “They now have one, and it’s cloud based and one-third of the cost.”

For more on VanRoekel’s visit, check out complete coverage from other outlets. 

Credits: Photo from Christian Renaud on Twitter

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