This time, we're going to look at Part 2 of the SBIR approach to securing revenue for your innovation. I get the impression there is a long list of folks who know how to go through the motions and submit a proposal, and a much shorter list of folks who know all that...and how to win.
Money may be available for your company's IC-specific product development, but not as a hand-out, more of a collaborative endeavor, sponsored by your friendly Department of Defense. Have you ever considered the Small Business Innovative Research (SBIR) program that the federal government runs? Below is an introduction to SBIR, and I found this to be very helpful. Keep in mind that the DoD drives approximately 70% to 80% of the intelligence community's mission. So, the IC connection is via the DoD-specific SBIR segments. This money will be spent on innovation; that is the law; so, if you believe your innovation is truly unique, it's worth a look.
I'm pulling duty at an intelligence community conference and (I gotta tell you…) I love these events. I'm enough of an extrovert that I try to "work them" for all their worth. What I mean is that I am proud to be a business developer, and I'm here for that purpose. So there is clarity of mission.
Every once in a while, I need to take a step back and reground my motivations. Why? Because the federal market -- let alone the most intricate and challenging portion of the federal market... (i.e., the DoD and intelligence community submarkets) require long term stamina. I recently got a reminder of what a typical warfighter goes through on an average day in Afghanistan. If you have not read what a typical day in-theater is like, please check this out: A Soldier’s Guide To Staying Healthy in Afghanistan and Pakistan. It will give you a new appreciation for the urgency in helping our military and intelligence professionals get home quickly.
What would you say? This is harder than it seems. I'm referring to condensing your message and question for the executive into a crisp, four to five minute conversation. And to have any value at all, there would need to be included a "call to action" or a request for information, as a part of that four minutes.
For those readers who have an on-going (i.e., contractor) relationship with a federal agency, this is the time of year to be considering what kind of proposal you'd like to give your client in case there is any end-of-fiscal year funding that needs to be spent by September 31st.
This is a difficult client market loaded with obstacles and barriers. But I am convinced that these challenges are surmountable. Do yourself a favor: sit back and relax for just a moment and answer this question: in order to better reach your business development goals, if you could have one thing or change one obstacle... that would make all the difference, what would it be?
Being an agile and adroit small business, one of your greatest strengths should be to move quickly in the midst of intelligence community changes. (Change can always mean "opportunity" when viewed positively). There have been many recent changes across the IC that you may be able to leverage, at least thematically, and create an opportunity for your firm. I am referring to conversations you may need to start, continue or shut down, imperatives that you may need to support, funding that you may need to get a piece of and other similar activities. Here is a sample list, for your consideration. Look at these carefully, with an eye toward this question: "how can I leverage this on behalf of my company?"
With some of this basic knowledge out of the way (refer to Part 1), you may want to know that it has been estimated that 75% of the IC budget eventually flows towards the military. Keep in mind that if you break down the IC into civilian and military, then we're talking the following agencies: NSA, MCIA (USMC Intelligence Activity), DIA, NGA, NRO, Army, Navy, Coast Guard, Special Operations Command (SOCOM) and the USAF. Obviously, the entire Army is not an intelligence agency, but others in this list are entirely absorbed into the IC. Interestingly, the NSA just recently became labeled as a combat agency, moving away from Combat Support Agency (CSA). This was an upgrade on several levels. And realize that there are plenty of joint commands where a security clearance is absolutely in use, for instance, Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA), Joint Forces Command (JFCOM) and the Missile Defense Agency (MDA), to name just a few. Most space related organizations operate at SECRET or above.
Who could blame you if, never having been in the military, you were intimidated by the defense intelligence community? The most descriptive term that characterizes the organization (broadly speaking) is 'labyrinthine'. The original use of this term comes from Greek mythology and was applied to a maze intended to befuddle the Minotaur; the original labyrinth was so cunningly devised that even its creator, named Daedalus, almost didn't escape. Although our goal is not to get out... but to get in, the term does seem to fit.