The Social Return on Data

Staff Writer | Bloomberg Businessweek | February 23, 2012

You don’t normally find serial entrepreneurs working for the U.S. government. But Todd Park, who co-founded three companies by the time he was 36, believes he can help make Americans healthier. Park, now 39, is the first chief technology officer hired by the Department of Health and Human Services, the U.S. agency that administers Medicare and Medicaid and oversees the Food and Drug Administration and the National Institutes of Health, among other agencies. He is the “entrepreneur-in-residence,” nudging the agency to open its vast stores of data to spur innovative ideas.

Park is teaching the normally plodding government agency how to think and act like a Silicon Valley startup: Get new products to market quickly, study customer reaction, and then make adjustments to find the best solution for that need. It’s right out of the entrepreneur’s handbook, except that Park has 313 million customers—the population of the U.S.

“He is not a Washington guy,” says O’Reilly Media founder Tim O’Rilley, who calls Park one of the most powerful data scientists around. “He’s a technology guy who is trying to figure out how to make the health-care system work.”