Poppy MacDonald – Uncovering Government Data at USAFacts – Ep.120

My guest on this episode is Poppy MacDonald. Poppy is the CEO of USAFacts, a not-for-profit data company founded by former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer to gather, organize and share data about the US government at the federal, state, and local levels entirely for free.

Many of you will know about my fascination with media and data companies, and this episode with Poppy is a continuation of that strong interest. But not only is Poppy’s story about running a super interesting data company, but also about growing an organization from 5 to 47 employees in less than 4 years. The company is very much a startup with everyone wearing multiple hats and driving to the same goal.

Through our conversation, Poppy and I talk about why government data can be so hard to find, building a data-centric, non-partisan organization, growing pains, the long-term vision for USAFacts, and why the company was compelling to her when Steve offered her the job.

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Links:

Poppy on LinkedIn

USAFacts

Topics:

(4:03) – Poppy’s background and career

(7:29) – How did your experience in media at Politico transfer over to the world of Data?

(10:54) – What channels are you using to share and gather data?

(12:54) – What are your visions for further disseminating information to the broader US population?

(17:51) – As you work down from federal to county size to gather data, does it get harder as you go smaller?

(20:45) – How do you help governments & agencies gather their own data?

(25:12) – How does your team need to grow and evolve?

(28:28) – Where have you had growing pains when going from 5 or 6 to now nearly 50 people?

(33:25) – What team has been the most challenging to build within the company?

(35:33) – The importance of having patience while building USA Facts

(37:21) – What 5-10 year growth and marketing goals do you have for the organization?

(42:03) – Do you think your company could ever have a media side?

(44:53) – Are there any comparable companies to yours in other countries that you can learn from?

(48:06) – What’s been the most interesting or odd piece of data that’s been hard to get a hold of?

(50:09) – What college class would you teach if it could be on anything?

(51:28) – What’s a strongly held belief you’ve changed your mind on?

(52:35) – What’s the best business you’ve ever seen?

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