Update 2: A Tale of Two Pilots

Once Again – thank you for all of the incredible time, support, and dedication to our cause to better connect the Department of Defense to our incredible entrepreneurs!

People Interviewed since last update: 63

Rebranded: One of the greatest pieces of feedback we’ve received is that we should be including the entirety of the DoD from the start—we are working on rebranding to a "Defense" focused name, and will be transitioning to a new site with our next post! More to come here...

MVP Update:

We’ve played with multiple MVP’s and what we’ve found, more than anything, is that this is not a one size fits all model. We’ve begun to map out the landscape with the help of our myriad of interviews.  Thus far, we’ve gotten fairly positive feedback on the following depiction of how and why a technology accelerator fits. 

This first image show the various options available for innovation, to include contract vehicles and incubation space!

This first image show the various options available for innovation, to include contract vehicles and incubation space!

This image shows where a technology accelerator might fit into the defense innovation ecosystem. There are numerous paths that a small business might take, and any of the steps show here might be skipped pending the state of that organization. 

This image shows where a technology accelerator might fit into the defense innovation ecosystem. There are numerous paths that a small business might take, and any of the steps show here might be skipped pending the state of that organization. 

Pain Points: 

We have really hammered down our pain points, and are confident in the feedback we’ve received. We think we’ve truly boiled it down to the concept that our technology transition processes and contracting processes traditionally designed for big industry are not well suited for nontraditional partnerships - especially those with start-up companies. 

We do just fine purchasing new tech that has been embedded in our prime contractor purchases, but the contracts for those are generally years to decades long, and the technology is no longer new by the time it hits our shelves. 

The ability to transition technology, even that which we recognize as being value added ASAP, is incredibly hard. This is a statement we’ve heard over and over again from groups to include the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL), the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), Joint-Improvised Threat Defeat Agency (JIDA), the Army’s Rapid Equipping Force (REP), and even the United States Special Operations Command (USSOCOM). While many of these organizations find luck in developing or discovering innovative and effective technologies, it is incredibly difficult to transition that technology into a program of record, or get it on purchase order and out to the warfighter quickly.

While we are looking at working with start-up companies, this transition challenge plays a huge role.  If we can’t turn a contract over and make it stick, we can't get new technologies.  For young companies, they see us reaching out and making promises we don't often keep, and we become somewhat of a “boy who cried wolf.” This is an issue on both sides of the fence. Program managers are afraid to invest their money on something they don’t think they can hold on to, and small businesses don’t want to rely on government investment to get them where they need to be.

For those on the commercial side – this is probably a “duh” to hear for you. Though the exact numbers vary in data, the average time it takes for a business to get on contract with the government is 18-24 months.  When looking at start-ups and entrepreneurs, that timeline just won’t do. For a start-up, runways are generally on the order of a few months, and rarely expand past a year prior to some serious Series A funding, and that won’t do.

We also have a pesky habit of creating restrictive requirements on small companies, so that when they do create something for a government contract, they are unable to truly commercialize it without dramatic changes. 

This and the contracting issue have led to a huge stigmatization problem for the government within the venture capital community.  Venture Capitalists seem to agree that when a small business is working for the government, that constitutes as a risk. When the value of that company is projected out, the government investment is often valued at a small percentage of the actual intended investment.  As a small business, this is a great deterrent from looking into dual use tech or reaching out for government contracts. 

Boiling it down, we are focused in on the following: 

  1. An need to find new ways to adopt new technology either into use or into programs of record --either through new contracting and acquisition habits or a more risk accelpting culture.
  2. A need to improve the stigma surrounding government investment within the Venture Capital and entrepreneurial communities.

Pilot Programs:  We've got money! 

As the title suggests, we are going down the path of two pilots.  Both are being manned and funded to run in the 2017 Calendar Year!

Pilot 1: This pilot will focus on space technologies and is honing in on numerous hypothesis looking into bettering our ability to transition technology from start-ups and entrepreneurs into programs or into the hands of the warfighter. 

Objective: Improve nontraditional partnerships with small businesses through the development of transition and bridging platform, and by focusing on connecting the correct program managers with appropriate businesses.

Pilot 2: This Pilot will focus on counter-autonomy (to include the counter unmanned aerial vehicles initiative the government has been undertaking for the last year) and will primarily test the hypothesis that branding and strong partnerships will improve the stigma associated to working with the government as a small business.

Objective: Begin branding the Defense Technology Accelerator and rely on strong partnerships and advertisement of new initiatives, such as the Commercial Solutions Opening (CSO) contracting vehicle, to overcome the negative stigma for venture capitalists to invest in start-ups looking at government contracts early in their development.

More details regarding our pilot programs will come in December!

Keep the feedback coming--we look forward to hearing from you!

 

Personal Update: All tiny new members of our Air Force family are happy, healthy, and (we'll just say it) pretty much perfect!