Outline.com, a TechStars start-up, wins Knight Foundation award for open gov project

Screen grab of Outline.com simulator
Screen grab of Outline.com simulator

The Knight Foundation awarded more than $3.2 million to eight projects that are attempting to make public information more accessible — and useful — for citizens and journalists.

Cambridge-based Outline.com received an undisclosed award through the early stage venture fund, Knight Enterprise Fund, to continue working on its simulator to analyze the effects of public policy and its presentation of the data.

Through open data provided by sources like the Census Bureau and IRS, the Outline.com simulator could project the impact of a potential tax hike or cut on a state’s education budget. A team of economists designed the model, and co-founder Nikita Bier said it took a year to merge all the data together.


No government or tax policy knowledge is required to use the simulator. Outline.com will display information down to a micro level with an easy-to-grasp user interface of sliders, Bier said.

Massachusetts has already hired Outline.com to develop a pilot program showcasing Governor Deval Patrick’s budget. Bier said the simulator is built and the application will be deployable in about a month. Bier said the idea behind Outline.com is that the “public has same access as the government’’ to data. The project was a part of the spring 2013 TechStars Boston start-up accelerator class.

Bier is presenting on Outline.com at TEDxBoston tomorrow.

The Knight Foundation Challenge on Open Gov launched in February and awarded up to $620,000 each to the other winners. Among the recipients: Civic Insight, OpenCounter, Open Gov for the Rest of Us, Oyez Project, Procure.io, GitMachines, and Plan in a Box.

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