Presidential Innovation Fellows

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Presidential Innovation Fellows program logo
Presidential Innovation Fellows Logo (Mid-2013)

The Presidential Innovation Fellows program is a competitive fellowship program that pairs top innovators from the private sector, non-profits, and academia with top innovators in government to collaborate on solutions that aim to deliver significant results in months, not years. It was established in 2012 and has operated continuously since then. The program focuses on generating measurable results, using innovation techniques from private industry such as Lean Startup, Design Thinking, and Agile Development.[1]

The highly competitive program features an acceptance rate in the single digits. In the inaugural round in the summer of 2012, over 700 applicants competed for 18 fellowships.[2] The second class included 43 fellows[3] selected from over 2000 applicants.[4] The third round consisted of 27 fellows selected from over 1500 applicants. The Presidential Innovation Fellows program and the fellows themselves are commonly referred to by the shorthand “PIF” (pronounced “Pif”).[5]

In 2015, President Barack Obama issued an Executive Order making the Presidential Innovation Fellows program a permanent part of the U.S. federal government.[6]


Presidential Innovation Fellows Logo (original, Early 2013)

The Presidential Innovation Fellows program was founded by former U.S. Chief Technology Officer Todd Park, former U.S. Chief Information Officer Steven VanRoekel,[7] former Department of Veterans Affairs Chief Technology Officer and White House Fellowship alumnus Peter L. Levin, and former White House Office of Science and Technology Policy Senior Advisor for Innovation John Paul Farmer.[8] Park served as the executive champion for the program and Farmer as its founding director.[5][9]

Around the time of its founding, Park said the new program "will bring top innovators from outside government for focused "tours of duty" with our best federal innovators on game-changing projects. Combining the know-how of citizen change agents and government change agents in small, agile teams that move at high speed, these projects aim to deliver significant results within six months."[1] On the White House blog, Farmer wrote, “The first five missions include creating common-sense tools for public participation, liberating government data to fuel job growth, giving everyone secure access to their own health information, streamlining the government contracting process for high-growth startups, and getting more bang for our foreign aid buck.”[10]

Those interested in the program were invited to visit a webpage that explained the program in the following terms: The Presidential Innovation Fellows program pairs top innovators from the private sector, non-profits, and academia with top innovators in government to collaborate on solutions that aim to deliver significant results in six months. Each team of innovators works together in-person in Washington, DC on focused sprints while being supported by a broader community of interested citizens throughout the country. What makes this initiative unique is its focus on unleashing the ingenuity and know-how of Americans from all sectors.[11]

Originally hiring in groups of "classes" or "rounds," in 2015 the Presidential Innovation Fellows program was updated to rolling recruitment to better fit the timing needs of agencies and administration priorities. According to the White House, "Applications will be accepted throughout the year...[T]hey will be reviewed in the order they are received and candidates will be accepted on a rolling basis." [12]

Relationship to other Presidential fellowships and federal programs[edit]


18F, the digital agency of the General Services Administration, grew out of the Presidential Innovation Fellows program in 2014, originally consisting of nearly two dozen Presidential Innovation Fellow alumni.[13] As PIF alum Ben Balter has noted, "the PIF program was a success, and soon after a group called 18F was created within the General Services Administration (GSA) not only to house the PIFs, both physically and bureaucratically, but also to continue and augment their efforts — to centralize forward-thinking technologists in government under one administrative umbrella, and to provide a vehicle for change that wasn’t tied so closely to the administration and the highly political world in which it operates on a daily basis."[14]


The United States Digital Service, or USDS, launched in 2014 and provides consultation services to federal agencies on large-scale information technology projects. USDS seeks to simplify and improve federal websites and other digital service delivery tools. As PIF alum Ben Balter has noted, "unlike 18F, which is approached by agencies asking for help, USDS has a shortlist of administration priorities that it actively pursues." Like the PIF program and 18F, one of the strategic aims is to "bring best-of-class, private-sector engineers into government for time-limited tours of duty," and task them with bringing a modern perspective to key technology initiatives.[14] Similar to 18F, many PIF alumni have stayed on to help staff the USDS.[13]

White House Fellows

In terms of extreme selectiveness, the Presidential Innovation Fellows program is similar to the White House Fellows program. In addition, both are non-partisan programs. However, the White House Fellows program is focused on preparing future national leaders using special assistant roles to top-ranking government officials. In contrast, the Presidential Innovation Fellows are tasked with leading highly accelerated tactical and technical projects, with many of the projects rapidly delivering new functioning systems, processes, and software applications using principles derived from Lean Startup methodology.

Presidential Management Fellows

The PIF program is distinct and separate from the Presidential Management Fellows Program, the latter of which focuses primarily on recruiting recent graduates as citizen-scholars as a pathway to long-term Federal careers.

HHS Entrepreneurs

In the same year that the Presidential Innovation Fellows program was founded, the Department of Health and Human Services created its HHS Entrepreneurs program (originally known as HHS Innovation Fellows), which is different in structure and focus, but also aims to incorporate external ideas and expertise into HHS's own innovation processes.[15]


  • MyUSA / MyGov (2012, 2013)
  • Open Data Initiatives (2012, 2013) : Accelerating and expanding efforts to make government information resources more publicly accessible in "computer-readable" form and spurring the use of those data by entrepreneurs as fuel for the creation of new products, services, and jobs.
  • Blue Button for America and MyData Initiatives (2012, 2013) : Empowering the American people with secure access to their own personal health, energy, and education data. The Blue Button specifically refers to the movement to help Americans access their own digital health data, alongside standards and interoperability work for additional open formats, namely Blue Button+, that build upon Meaningful Use regulation-related standards for electronic health records. Blue Button+ enumerated the HL7 FHIR standard and the Direct Protocol, a derivative of AS1, as secure standardized means for consumers to transmit and receive health data.[16]
  • RFP-EZ and Innovative Contracting Tools (2012, 2013) : Making it easier for the government to do business with small, high-growth tech companies, and enabling the government to buy better, lower-cost tech solutions from the full range of American businesses. Following the inception of this project, bids received through the system were 12x more competitive and cost 30% less on average than prior bidding systems; during the pilot period, 270 small businesses were also attracted that had previously not entered the world of federal contracting.[17]
  • Smart America Challenge (2013,2014) : Program to demonstrate the value and benefits of the IoT in a public/private partnership.
  • Better Than Cash (formerly known as The 20% Initiative) (2012)
  • Disaster Response & Recovery (2013) : Collaboratively building and "pre-positioning" needed tech tools ahead of future emergencies or natural disasters in order to mitigate economic damage and save lives.
  • Cyber-Physical Systems (2013) : Working with government and industry to create standards for a new generation of interoperable, dynamic, and efficient "smart systems" – an "industrial Internet" – that combines distributed sensing, control, and data analytics to help grow new high-value American jobs and the economy.
  • Innovation Toolkit (2013) : Developing an innovation toolkit that empowers our Federal workforce to respond to national priorities more quickly and more efficiently.
  • 21st Century Financial Systems (2013) : Moving financial accounting systems of Federal agencies out of the era of unwieldy agency-specific implementations to one that favors more nimble, modular, scalable, and cost-effective approaches.
  • Development Innovation Ventures (2013) : Enabling the US government to identify, test, and scale breakthrough solutions to the world’s toughest problems.
  • VA Modernization Team (2013) : Helping to amplify the ways which the Department of Veterans Affairs uses technology to better serve our nation’s veterans.[18]
  • (2016) : platform designed to improve access to the federal government’s custom-developed software.

Presidential Executive Order[edit]

On August 20, 2015, President Barack Obama issued an executive order institutionalizing the Presidential Innovation Fellows program as an ongoing part of the U.S. Federal Government. “Three years ago we launched the Presidential Innovation Fellows program,” he said President Obama as he announced the executive order, “What began as an experiment is becoming a success. That’s why I’m making it permanent. From now on, Presidential Innovation Fellows will be an integral part of our government." President Obama went on to say, "To all the Fellows who’ve served so far, I want to thank you. I encourage all Americans with bold ideas to apply. I can’t wait to see what those future classes will accomplish on behalf of the American people.”[6]


The Presidential Innovation Fellows Foundation, a non-government non-profit organization, was formally incorporated in 2014. It exists to serve as an alumni group for all former Presidential Innovation Fellows (PIF) and to serve as the fiduciary agent for non-governmental contributions for the support of the PIF program. The purposes include: furthering the mission of the Presidential Innovation Fellows program of bringing the principles, values, and practices of the innovation economy into government in order to tackle the Nation’s biggest challenges and to achieve a profound and lasting social impact; providing a conduit for nongovernmental support of the PIF program and its mission; and serving as an alumni association for PIF fellows, providing an avenue for PIF fellows and their networks to continue contributing to solving challenges of national concern.

Some alumni of the program have gone on to other innovation roles, primarily in technology-related areas, in both the private sector as well as in public sector roles at federal, state and local levels, as well as advisory roles such as sharing scientific and technical expertise at President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) workshops.

Current and Emeritus Fellows[edit]


  • Phil Ashlock
  • Ben Balter
  • Adam Becker
  • Nick Bramble
  • Danny Chapman
  • Kara DeFrias
  • Greg Gershman
  • Clay Johnson (technologist)
  • Dmitry Kachaev
  • Ian Kalin - Chief Data Officer of the U.S. Department of Commerce[19]
  • Raphael Majma
  • Nathaniel Manning
  • Marina Martin - CTO of the U.S. Dept. of Veterans Affairs[20]
  • Matt McCall
  • Karl Mehta
  • Ryan Panchadsaram - Deputy CTO of the United States
  • Dr. Henry Wei
  • Jed Wood


  • Sarah Allen (software developer)
  • Rob Baker
  • Tom Black
  • Chris Cairns
  • Dave Caraway
  • Adam Dole
  • John Felleman
  • Derek Frempong
  • Garren Givens - Program Director, Presidential Innovation Fellowship[21]
  • Greg Godbout - Executive Director and Co-Founder of 18F[22]
  • Justin Grevich
  • Hillary Hartley
  • Scott Hartley
  • Sean Herron
  • Michelle Hertzfeld
  • Claire Holroyd
  • Nayan Jain
  • Jacqueline Kazil
  • John Kemp
  • Kin Lane
  • Erin Maneri Akred
  • Diego Mayer-Cantu
  • Dain Miller
  • Geoff Mulligan
  • Beverly Park Woolf
  • Joe Polastre
  • Dr. Robert L. Read
  • Sokwoo Rhee
  • Adam Riggs
  • Martin Ringlein
  • Alison Rowland
  • Mollie Ruskin
  • James Sanders
  • Jason Shen
  • Aaron Snow
  • Vidya Spandana
  • Amos Stone
  • John Teeter
  • Matthew Theall
  • Raphael Villas
  • Ben Willman
  • Charles Worthington
  • Scott Wu


  • Sarah Brooks
  • Rachel Harrison Gordon
  • Andrea Ippolito
  • Julia Kim
  • Robert Sosinski
  • Julia Winn
  • Jeff Chen - Chief Data Scientist of the U.S. Department of Commerce (2015-2017)[23], Chief Innovation Officer of the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis (2017-)
  • Christopher Daggett
  • Ben Getson
  • Christopher Goranson
  • Dr Tyrone Grandison - Deputy Chief Data Officer of the U.S. Department of Commerce (2015-16)[23]
  • Dan Hammer
  • Maia Hansen
  • Timothy Jones
  • E.J. Kalafarski
  • Jeff Meisel
  • Susannah Raub
  • Bosco So
  • Alan Steremberg
  • Gajen Sunthara
  • Dr. Clarence Wardell III
  • Ashley Jablow
  • Mikel Maron
  • David Naffis
  • Denice Ross
  • Dr. Lea Shanley
  • Christopher Wong


  • Ross Dakin
  • Luke Keller
  • Alexandra Pelletier
  • Joshua Patterson
  • Kate McCall-Kiley
  • Adam Bonnifield
  • Erren Lester
  • Steven Babitch
  • Emily Ianacone


  • Michael Balint
  • Dr. Bob Balance
  • Adam Bellow
  • Dr. Amrita Basu
  • Michael Brown
  • Dr. Eric Daimler
  • Kyla Fullenwider
  • Wendy Harman
  • Olivier Kamanda
  • Patrick Koppula
  • Justin Koufopoulos
  • Mitchell Sipus
  • John Trobough
  • Clara Tsao
  • Amy Wilson
  • Robert H'obbes' Zakon


  • Gil Alterovitz
  • Nina Bianchi
  • Sandeep Burugupalli
  • J. Alex Dalessio
  • Davey Gibian
  • Zach Goldfine
  • Mike Rossetti
  • Jeffrey Starr
  • Stephen Winchell
  • Stephen Matthew Wisniew [24]

Fellows are listed by the year that they joined the program.

Fellows involved in the Rescue of (2013-2014)[edit]

Following the initial round of the Presidential Innovation Fellows program, in 2013, several recent alumni of the program including Ryan Panchadsaram and Greg Gershman[25] were called upon in an ad hoc team to assess the situation and restore the functionality of the site for health insurance enrollment, led by U.S. CTO Todd Park as well as former Google engineer and eventual Administrator of the U.S. Digital Service, Mikey Dickerson. [26]

Alumni holding notable government posts[edit]

Leadership Team[edit]

Current Leadership Team[edit]

  • Acting Executive Director, Joshua Di Frances
  • Director of Operations, Deputy Director, Keith Muth
  • Deputy Director, Davar Ardalan
  • Operations Specialist, Saran Kaba

Previous Leadership Team Members[edit]

  • Previous Executive Directors, Garren Givens, Nathan Olson (Acting), Ben Willman (Acting)
  • Director of Operations, Nathan Olson
  • Director of Engagement, Smita Satiani
  • Director of Product and Technology, Andrew Stroup
  • Operations Specialist, Puja Balachander


  1. ^ a b Todd Park (2013-04-01). "Wanted: A Few Good Women and Men to Serve as Presidential Innovation Fellows | The White House". Retrieved 2015-08-20.
  2. ^ Steven VanRoekel. "Hitting the Ground Running With the Digital Strategy | The White House". Retrieved 2014-04-30.
  3. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2013-10-29. Retrieved 2013-11-15.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  4. ^ Steve VanRoekel and Todd Park. "A Smarter, More Innovative Government for the American People | The White House". Retrieved 2014-04-30.
  5. ^ a b Tory Newmyer (2014-09-04). "Can A Tech Strike Force Fix Washington; Fortune". Retrieved 2015-08-20.
  6. ^ a b Gregory Korte (2015-08-20). "Obama Makes Presidential Innovation Fellows Permanent; USA Today". Retrieved 2015-08-20.
  7. ^ Lardinois, Frederic. "White House Receives Flood of Innovation Fellow Applications after its Disrupt Announcement". TechCrunch. Retrieved 2015-08-28.
  8. ^ "Brainstorming New Ways to Bolster America's STEM workforce". Retrieved 2015-08-23.
  9. ^ Colby Hochmuth (2013-10-14). "Mind behind fellows program bids farewell to White House; fedscoop". Retrieved 2015-08-20.
  10. ^ Doug Rand and John Paul Farmer (2012-06-07). "What It Means To Be A Presidential Innovation Fellow; White House Office of Science and Technology Policy". Retrieved 2015-08-20.
  11. ^ "Presidential Innovation Fellows | The White House". Retrieved 2014-04-30.
  12. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2015-07-21. Retrieved 2015-07-19.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  13. ^ a b "The Push To Bring Tech Efficiencies To Government Bureaucracies". TechCrunch. AOL. 9 June 2015.
  14. ^ a b Ben Balter (2015-04-22). "The Difference Between 18F and USDS". Retrieved 2015-07-19.
  15. ^ [1] Archived October 4, 2013, at the Wayback Machine
  16. ^ "Blue Button Implementation Guide".
  17. ^ Karen G. Mills and Todd Park. "RFP-EZ Delivers Savings for Taxpayers, New Opportunities for Small Business | The White House". Retrieved 2014-04-30.
  18. ^ "Presidential Innovation Fellows Projects". Retrieved 2014-04-30.
  19. ^ a b Otto, Greg (2015-03-13). "Commerce Department names Ian Kalin first chief data officer". Retrieved 2015-03-13.
  20. ^ a b Herrera, Jessica (2013-05-21). "VA Taps White House Tech Adviser Marina Martin as New CTO". Retrieved 2014-04-30.
  21. ^ Wang, Nancy (2015-02-15). "From private sector to public service". US News & World report. Retrieved 2015-03-13.
  22. ^ Hochmuth, Colby (2014-08-22). "Hacking bureaucracy' at 18F". FCW. Retrieved 2015-03-13.
  23. ^ a b c d Otto, Greg (2015-07-31). "Like 18F, but for Commerce: Introducing the Commerce Data Corps". Retrieved 2015-08-14.
  24. ^
  25. ^ "Tech companies to rescue troubled site". 2013-10-31. Retrieved 2015-08-08.
  26. ^ Time Magazine, March 10, 2014, "Obama's Trauma Team"
  27. ^ "EPA to grow digital services with former 18F director at the helm". FedScoop.

External links[edit]