White House CTO has tech credentials

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By David Saleh Rauf – 3/9/12 6:14 PM EST

Todd Park, the Obama administration’s choice to lead its tech initiatives, brings more than just data-driven expertise: He’s a serial entrepreneur who could inject a dose of Silicon Valley into the White House.

On Friday, President Barack Obama’s top tech policy adviser announced that Park is set to trade in his title as chief technology officer at Health and Human Services for a job as the nation’s second-ever federal chief technology officer.

Park’s new position instantly puts him in the spotlight: He’s set to pick up where pioneer Aneesh Chopra left off to help drive government adoption of technologies that improve access to public information and services.

The tech and health care industries and Silicon Valley investors say Park is more than capable of completing the task.

“I couldn’t think of a better fit,” Bryan Roberts, a lead partner at the Palo Alto, Calif.-based venture capital firm Venrock, told POLITICO.

“Aneesh was great. He got out and banged the drum and was a great face for technology,” added Roberts, who has worked with Park since 1999. “But Todd is going to take that to a whole new level in my mind.”

Park launched his career as an entrepreneur in the late 1990s by co-founding a health care company and taking it from the ranks of a startup to a hundred-million dollar business. The firm, athenahealth, is recognized as a leading vendor of cloud-based services for physicians.

Park helped take the company public in 2007, making millions of dollars in the process and building a successful business model. In 2011, the company reported generating revenue of $324.1 million and had 1,795 full-time employees on its payroll, according to a regulatory filing.

He left the company in 2008 to launch another health care venture called Castlight Health, which allows consumers to comparison-shop for health care procedures.

“He’s actually built a technology company. He’s created thousands of jobs and taken tech from a gleam in somebody’s eyes to servicing thousands of customers,” said Roberts, who invested in both athenahealth and Castlight. “Now, having been that successful, he gets to go to a bigger bully pulpit.”

Park left the private sector in 2009 after being recruited by HHS to be agency’s so-called “entrepreneur in residence.”

He joined the agency in August 2009 and in his roughly three-year tenure has been largely lauded for infusing an entrepreneurial spirit into the process of making public health care a data-driven business.

One of his top accomplishments at the agency entailed leading a team that developed and launched within 90 days HealthCare.gov, the first website to provide consumers with a comprehensive inventory of public and private health insurance plans available across the nation by zip code.

He’s also largely responsible for helping HHS push a billion-dollar program to incentivize the use of electronic health records, which includes requirements for doctors and hospitals to share health care data in a meaningful way.

Park was also ranked No. 5 on a list of .the “most powerful data scientists” put together by prominent tech commentator Tim O’Reilly, the founder of O’Reilly Media.

“As our ‘entrepreneur-in-residence,’ Todd has lit a fire of innovation across HHS,” Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said. “I know he’ll bring the same energy and boundless creativity to his efforts across the entire federal government as the next CTO of the United States.”

Moving forward, Park’s job will be much more expansive. He’s being tasked with “applying the newest technology and latest advances to make the federal government work better for the American people,” White House Office of Science and Technology Policy Director John Holdren wrote in a blog.

In a tweet Friday, Chopra gave Park a ringing endorsement: “An OUTSTANDING pick! @whitehouse announces @todd_park will be our next CTO! I’ve got a tear in my eye :).”

The announcement also won praise from the tech and health care industries.

Rey Ramsey, president and CEO of TechNet, the tech lobby, called Park “an entrepreneur at heart [who] knows how the private sector and public sector can work together to create innovation, jobs and opportunity for more Americans.”

And Gary Lauer, president and CEO of ehealth, said Park is a “recognized leader in the world of technology and health.”

“Todd knows how to blend government and private sector technology to ensure the best possible outcomes of public policy goals and objectives,” he said.

Park has also used his wealth to spread around campaign contributions.

In 2007, he donated small amounts to the presidential campaigns of Obama and Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), according to the Federal Election Commission. In September 2008, he gave $37,000 to the Democratic Committee for Change, which describes itself online as financing “the mobilization, voter registration and get-out-the-vote efforts for the local Democratic parties in our 18 battleground states.” Around the same time, he also gave $30,800 to the Obama Victory Fund, FEC records show.

Park will make his first public appearance as the newly-anointed federal CTO on Saturday at SXSW in Austin, Texas. He’s set to speak at a panel titled “LEAN STARTUP: From the White House to the Boardroom, What You Can Learn from Lean Giants.”

Kate Nocera and Jason Millman contributed to this report.

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