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March 24, 2014

Democratizing Data

Diego Mayer-Cantú ’12 joined the Smithsonian Institution to work on an open data initiative as part of the Presidential Innovation Fellows program, which pairs top innovators from the private sector, nonprofits, and academia with government agencies to collaborate during 6- to 13-month “tours of duty.”


Diego Mayer-Cantú ’12 is an entrepreneur’s entrepreneur: his first venture out of business school uses open data from the US Patent and Trademark Office to make the patent process easy and affordable for startups. In the fall, Mayer-Cantú joined the Smithsonian Institution to work on an open data initiative as part of the Presidential Innovation Fellows program, which pairs top innovators from the private sector, nonprofits, and academia with government agencies to collaborate during 6- to 13-month “tours of duty.”

“This kind of work satisfies my personal motivation for entrepreneurial activity that affects many people in meaningful ways.”

At the Smithsonian, Mayer-Cantú is focused on digitizing curatorial information, photographs, 3-D scans of objects with historical significance, and similar materials. “We want to make these resources enriching and engaging for different audiences,” he says. The digital collections are also made available to education startups. “This work has prompted me to think about the opportunities that exist at the intersection of public-private partnerships.”

For Mayer-Cantú, one of the benefits of working with a large government agency is scale. “How many education and tech firms have a $2 billion annual budget that affects hundreds of millions of people worldwide? This kind of work,” he says, “satisfies my personal motivation for entrepreneurial activity that affects many people in meaningful ways.”

Photo by Brian Ireley, Smithsonian Institution

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