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Social Network GovLoop Sold To GovDelivery

The popular government social network's founder expects that the acquisition will give GovLoop more backing and a chance to grow its impact.

Popular government social networking Web site GovLoop has been acquired by government communication firm GovDelivery, the companies announced Monday.

GovLoop, launched in May 2008 by then Department of Homeland Security employee Steve Ressler, has grown to more than 18,000 members. It has quickly become a stock example of a way to use social networking to increase government collaboration. However, many of the site's most active members continue to be federal employees at the center of the drive toward government transparency known as "Gov 2.0," and many conversations on the site often fail to go anywhere.

GovLoop CEO Steve Ressler has bigger plans for what began more as a hobby and personal project than the full-time job it is now becoming. The acquisition by the larger GovDelivery, which has about 50 employees and expects about $10 million in revenue this year, should allow him to hire several full-time staff and focus on building GovLoop.

With that backing, Ressler hopes to grow GovLoop from its current size to more than 100,000 members and beyond, and increase GovLoop's impact on the way government does business. A number of government agencies have their own burgeoning internal social networks, but GovLoop as a commercial Web site cuts across agencies and governments. Today, Ressler said in an interview, he hears a few examples daily about how GovLoop has helped federal employees solve operational issues by allowing employees to collaborate across agencies, but he wants to dramatically increase that number.

"There are 20 million fed, local, and state employees, and I'm always thinking about how I can connect them better," he said. "I want GovLoop to be able to impact government at a large scale. This opportunity allows it to do that." Though GovLoop has up to this point been free and free of advertising, Ressler plans to offer paid premium groups that include GovDelivery services as one way for GovLoop to be able to contribute to GovDelivery's bottom line.

GovDelivery helps governments communicate with the public, largely through software-as-a-service that lets government agencies manage and send out automated e-mail blasts to citizens, but increasingly through social media as well. GovDelivery has been growing quickly in the last year, and CEO Scott Burns sees GovLoop as one way for his company to improve its government-to-government business.

"One of the main audiences for government content is other people in government," Burns said in an interview, adding that on average, 15 to 20% of those who sign up for e-mail updates from the government are government employees. "We can help ourselves and GovLoop by creating collaborative spaces for where people who have received information can go and discuss further."

The two companies did not disclose terms of the deal, but Ressler said he chose to look for a "new home" rather than seek out venture capital because he felt it would get him more support for GovLoop, quicker.

InformationWeek Analytics has published an independent analysis on setting government IT priorities. Download the report here (registration required).

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