March 24, 2023
 min read

Member Spotlight: Rohan Bhobe CEO @ Nava PBC

Nava is a tech consultancy and public benefit corporation working to make government services simple, effective, and accessible to all.

1. Nava | Can you provide a brief description of Nava PBC, main products and customer lines, current size/revenue (if not confidential)? What's the latest win and how did you achieve it?

Nava is a tech consultancy and public benefit corporation working to make government services simple, effective, and accessible to all. Nava emerged from the effort to rescue and rebuild after its troubled launch in 2013, and exists to address some of the most complex challenges in the public sector.

Since 2014, federal, state, and local government agencies have trusted Nava to support them on some of the most highly scrutinized technology modernization efforts. Our staff of about 300 Navanauts help guide agencies constrained by legacy systems to a future with sharp user experiences built on secure, reliable, and fault-tolerant cloud infrastructure.

This article has a good summary of our latest win and some thoughts on how we achieved it, and how we pursue government work as a public benefit corporation.

2. Advice | Are there any specific resources or pieces of advice that have helped you/your team along the way to succeed? Were there any ah-ha moments?

This isn't really advice, more of a musing, but I've been thinking about the relationship between trust and speed a lot lately. As a professional services firm delivering in a public sector context, so much of our success relies on trust—the trust we build with our clients, the trust we build with the people who use the services we help deliver, and the trust we build with our employees. We build trust with those audiences by delivering quick wins that help achieve a long term vision.

There’s a perception that speed can be bad – that it comes at the expense of trust, that it can be reckless. But any entrepreneur or leader knows intuitively that making high quality decisions quickly, and having a quick tempo to the organization’s activities, is important to learn and succeed in competitive or fast-moving markets.

So I’ve recently been reframing how teams achieve speed, and speed’s relationship to trust – speed is a symptom of a lot of other things going right at an organization. It’s not just something you can bolt-on to a team or organization as an afterthought. In high trust organizations, you see speed because people trust one another. They get fast because they’re honest about failings or shortcomings, and have a bias towards action and improvement. In highly aligned organizations, you see speed and creative solutions because people know what’s important and can set about trying to accomplish goals without trying to seek consensus or avoid blame. In high performing teams, you see speed because people are good at what they do, and they deliberately make the operations of their teams faster over time.

In my role as Nava's CEO, I'm really focused on creating an environment where people can deliver, learn, and improve at a faster clip. I'm not talking about a “move fast and break things” concept of speed, but rather a desire to get fast because the underlying practices and culture promote high trust, high alignment, and high performance. One doesn’t need to come at the expense of the other if you can find the right balance (which is hard!).

3. DCTAV/DC Tech ecosystem | What should DCTAV/this exec group be doing specifically to help founders and executives like you succeed + help your company? What changes are needed in DC in particular? Is there anything from the past or currently that was or is working well?

I think DC has started making strides in the right direction. One of the hardest parts is just getting started, and getting to critical mass. The intention with which DC has started connecting CEOs to one another, communicating openly and connecting entrepreneurs to resources, hosting events, etc. goes a long way. Entrepreneurship can be a lonely and frustrating journey sometimes, and helping folks build out their networks helps them be supported in concrete ways, as well as just provide the feeling that they’re not alone. That shouldn’t be underestimated. I would double down on this direction, and continue asking the growing community about what they would like to see to feel more supported.

4. Failures | We need to celebrate failure in DC - and not be afraid of it. Are there any failures that you've encountered along the way and how did it help/hurt you and what did you learn from it? Did it cause you to change any behaviors, thoughts, or activities?

Failure can be a harsh teacher, but it is a teacher nonetheless. It is important to state that no one sets out to fail, and when “celebrating” failure it’s important to remember that it is not a goal; but it is virtually impossible to avoid in complex, long-term endeavors. And so the question becomes when failures do occur, how can you extract as much learning from it as possible in order to adapt and improve?

One of the best long-term examples of this I’ve seen in Nava’s line of work comes from our work on, and our clients at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). When launched in 2013, it ran into trouble pretty quickly. Over time, the website stabilized and was improved. But the most impressive change I saw was that CMS was determined to learn. In the last 10 years, I’ve watched CMS make incredible strides to become a leader in public digital services such as Medicare, by having honest and hard conversations about where failures occurred and what could be better. They resisted the temptation to gloss over the challenges, and dug deep to improve how they design and deliver technology services to the public. It started with not being afraid, and from that starting point, they were able to adapt and improve to the point that they are a model for many federal agencies across the government.

5. Need/Offer | Is there anything that you (or your team) need from the DC tech ecosystem that would be particularly helpful for you? (We'll make this public unless you prefer that it not be.)

DCTAV has a pay it forward mentality - is there anything that you can offer to DC tech execs/founders that are earlier in their journey and that might be helpful to them (e.g., mentorship, community open office hours, hosting or sponsoring an event, etc.)?

It would be great to meet DC political leaders to have them share stories about DC local businesses—I would love to hear about local entrepreneurs and the impact they're having.

6. Open Question | If there's any additional info, advice, thoughts that you'd like to provide, please share it here:

Nava is hiring! If anyone in your network is interested in improving government services for vulnerable populations we're hiring for a variety of roles. More here:

Nava is a tech consultancy and public benefit corporation working to make government services simple, effective, and accessible to all.