Finding Opportunities in Gov

Finding opportunities when working with the government can be confusing and complex, tune into this webinar for a break down of how to approach conversations with government and where to look for opportunities!





My name is Margaret Amori, if we haven’t met yet I lead our North American region for the Inception program at NVIDIA. This was a complimentary session just for our Inception members who are interested in doing kind of what I outlined before, selling to government, going faster, finding opportunities. The government ecosystem I would say, the government customer is very large, very complex. All told when you kind of add in all the government spending on IT, they are literally the world’s largest buyer of IT goods and services. Not only that, but they pay their bills on time, they offer non-dilutive government grants. They don’t go out of business. And once you’ve landed a contract with the government, certainly in a program of record, that’s a guaranteed revenue stream for multiple years, three to five years. So that could be really nice once you get to that point.


But there’s a big but, a huge but, which is the government is a very large, very complex, not always the fastest customer. So there’s a lot of hurdles to overcome and navigate. And I can tell you from experience, because I did sell to government for probably about 20 years at both NVIDIA and other large corporations such as HPE, VMware, Symantec, and then small companies as well. So I know the pain of navigating all the government complexity. And that’s precisely why I invited Dcode to come and speak with you guys today. They are experts on government procurement. So Riya Patel is going to come on and introduce herself, what her role in the government was, what she now does for Dcode, and how can different startups work with Dcode to kind of help them with the government procurement process and all sorts of different tips and tricks and things that you’ll want to know.


With that Riya, I’m going to pass it over to you to introduce yourself.




Adam, while we have you on here, what would be most helpful for you to get out of this session today? And how savvy do you feel on the government procurement process at large?




Well, we’ve been pretty successful so far. A couple phase Is, a couple phase IIs, so upwards of 4 million or so in total funding, but always looking for ways to improve and increase the win rate. So no real specific questions at this point, probably later on.




So I’m going to share my screen and get into the deck, but just to give you guys a quick background on who I am and why, hopefully you will listen to me, my name is Riya Patel, I’m the Managing Director of Customer Success at Dcode. So I oversee Dcode’s government business line, everything from sales, customer success, vision, strategy, moving forward, strategic learning, et cetera. Why I bring that up is because my team is living the pain of working and selling to government every single day, just like you all. And so it has been an enormous learning experience and also just a really fun wild ride as we live through some of the newest programs, initiatives, regulations that are coming out of government and testing them for ourselves.


Bigger picture around my background, I come from DOD and specifically from the acquisition community. So I spent a number of years working on major defense acquisition program, so think your F-35, F-22, and working procurement for those big multi-billion multi-year programs. I also was a staffer on the Defense Innovation Board where I was much more focused on software acquisition in particular. And then at Dcode, a big focus of mine, because I also love procurement just generally, is helping our tech companies understand the nitty-gritty of government procurement and contracting, how to navigate them effectively. And really how to make a sustainable business out of federal government.


So the high level of Dcode. Dcode’s entire mission is to connect the commercial technology industry and federal government to drive commercial innovation and outcomes for both sides. So we work with tech companies to help them understand how to make a sustainable and scalable business line out of the federal government. I hope and I feel like most of you’ll empathize with just how stinking hard it is to understand things like compliance, federal contracting, pricing, how to work with prime contractors, messaging and marketing, the budget cycle, and working with the Hill. There’s so much complexity and regulation and just requirements that come with working with the federal government that you don’t have to deal with when you are looking at just sales from a commercial perspective. And it is really, really difficult to, unless you cobble together your own internet research and ask 400 different organizations, how to navigate all of the red tape and do so in a way that doesn’t sink a bunch of money, time and resources, that likely your company doesn’t have to understand whether the market is worth it for you.


So our whole emphasis is de-risking this market for commercial tech companies and also de-risking commercial tech for the federal market. And that’s where the government side comes into play and where my team, specifically at Dcode, is focused on, how to enable government to be better partners and drivers of commercial technology so that everyone is meeting in the middle and understanding how to best go about getting good tech into mission and driving mission outcomes quickly and effectively.


All right, so just to give you a little bit more color on exactly what we do and some of our metrics, because metrics are really important at Dcode to make sure that we are driving outcomes. So we’re a six-year-old DC based advisory firm and we’ve worked with over 160+ venture backed, and also some bootstrapped, technology companies. It’s mainly SaaS products and software companies scale and the federal market. So venture capital and other partners send their portfolio company to Dcode when their companies are interested in starting up a federal vertical for the first time. Government agencies come to Dcode to identify cutting edge technology capabilities, whether that is emerging technology or just commercial technologies for their technology needs. And again, they call Dcode when they need help even understanding basic things around their own procurement process, which is fun.


And we really center whether or not we are making an impact in the market around our metrics. So number of tech implementations in government, number of agencies and programs we’ve supported, and most importantly to us is seeing how many federal contracts are won by Dcode companies. And at this point in our six-year history, we’re over 250 million. So again, I bring this up because there’s a lot of organizations and a lot of companies that will sell you their Rolodex. And then when you’re like, all right, but how do I get to contract with these organizations or how do I move the sales motion forward? That’s where things can really fall apart. And that is key to the way we work with commercial tech companies and how we are able to say that we’ve gotten over 250 million in contracts for all of Dcode’s 160 companies.


And my final point slide on the overview of Dcode, before I get into the piece that everyone is here for, which is the procurement component is just to give you a little bit a bigger sense of where we sit in the marketplace. So Dcode sits at the nexus of the tech industry, federal government and also partners. And we’ll talk a little bit in the session about how to best strategically leverage partners. What I mean by partners are prime contractors, cloud service providers, et cetera, to really accelerate your sales motion. But they’re an integral part in getting good technology, and especially SaaS products into government quickly and effectively. They just need to be incentivized in the right way. And so we really aim to work with all of the key stakeholders and players to drive the speed at which we are getting tech into mission.


All right, so I’m going to pause there and just one more time ask in the chat if there are any specifics around procurement methodologies, programs, initiatives, Margaret alluded to SBIR, STTR, things that you all are interested in before I dive in. Definitely can talk a little bit more about how to do this sustainably, the budget cycles, how to inform software sales, I can definitely cover that. Anything else?




So I wanted to make sure you saw Adam’s question. I think that’s a great one. And then I would love for you to talk a little bit about how a company creating a hardware solution might approach this a little bit differently from someone who’s got a software solution. And by hardware, it could be I’ve got a small drone or I’ve got some kind of robot, or even, and we could talk about this, but this is my understanding when it comes to ATOs, a lot of times there are some, I don’t want to call them loopholes, but there are some easier methods to get ATOs if your software is combined with hardware, aka an appliance. So potentially we can debunk that or talk about that. So that would be a question that I’ve got for you.




Absolutely. I will cover that at the end, and just remind me, Margaret, if I don’t bring it up, but definitely can talk about hardware versus software.


So the big question here and just couching the whole reason we are doing this session to begin with, and yes, Fernando, I see your question too, can definitely touch on that, is understanding the nuances and the complexities of the federal acquisition process. 


I did want to just quickly highlight something that I think often gets conflated. What is the difference between acquisition, procurement and contracting in the government space? 


Acquisition is kind of the entire lifecycle. So the lifecycle from government identifying a need or requirement to aligning funding to that requirement, to going through, putting out a specific solicitation, to procure those services, to the actual nitty-gritty of getting a contract awarded to a vendor. So acquisition is the overall process. Procurement is a phase of acquisition, and it’s specifically the phase of which government is procuring a service, an item, a product, et cetera. And the process that goes along with it. And contracting is the tactic, it’s the actual, the agreement, the paperwork that brings a vendor on board to deliver that service or product to the federal government.


So oftentimes those words are used interchangeably, but they have a nuance. And why it matters is because, one, it’s all about savvy speak when you’re talking to government, but also I think it helps understand how in the federal sector you have to be thinking about shaping federal acquisitions all the way from identifying the requirement, not just the contracting component. And that’s a little different than in the commercial sales market when you can really just focus on, here’s our product, here’s how we sell it, let’s get to contracting. A government sales motion can take over a year simply because you were trying to influence the requirement phase and push that into procurement.


We talked very high level about some of the challenges of doing business with government. I will reemphasize Margaret’s point on, if you’re looking at all the texts on the right, why is it even worth it to do business with the government? And again, it is absolutely worth it so long as you approach the market in a smart way and a resource-effective way because it gives you a stable customer, it gives you recurring revenue and it gives you a really strong qualifier and is just an amazing marketplace from a land and expand perspective. And so government is absolutely worth it. My whole purpose here is just to help you guys understand some of the hurdles and challenges you’ll face and how to overcome those effectively, and specifically for the procurement process.


All right, so we talked a little bit about this, but one thing I will say that I’m sure the folks who have already been selling to government have gotten this experience is that oftentimes we see at Dcode our companies come in and they think that government is going to give them the answers on the “how do we get to you, do we have budget, and how to close a contract?” And most often you’ll find yourself in a situation in which you are explaining to government how to use their own rules. And so that is one of the biggest reasons it’s important to master government acquisitions because the questions usually get thrown onto the companies around, “Well, you tell me how we buy you. Or you tell me who we should be talking to.”


And one of the unique things about the federal market is that you have a triangle of people you need to get on board and in order for you to make a sale. You have your decision maker, you have your end user and your problem owner, and maybe those are two different people as well, and then you have your stakeholders, your finance, your legal, your acquisitions. And each of those kinds of stakeholders needs to be bought in order for you to make a sale.


And so a lot of times companies go in and say, “All right, well I’ll just talk to the CISO at this agency and that CISO will be able to give me a contract, identify funding and make this deal go through really quickly.” And often that is not the case. The CISO is just one component of a set of stakeholders you need to convince in order to make a sale. 


There’s a lot of different strategies around how exactly you bring in these stakeholders and how you find the right people, and that is really dependent upon the type of product you are selling. And this also goes to Margaret’s question about hardware versus software, and there’s a lot of different strategies that you can take to target the right set of stakeholders and bring them on board during the sales motion.




One of the things that I found is unlike selling to commercial enterprise, there’s an assumption that, oh, I just go talk to the CIO. They love my stuff, they’ll give me an order. Or I’ll talk to the CISO, as you imagined, or I’ll talk to the CDO. Unfortunately in government, a lot of CIOs don’t control the budget. They could be a stakeholder, but they’re not necessarily going to be the decision maker. The other thing that I found over time is that there’s kind of this sweet spot in terms of the people who are going to get things done.


So in the DoD for example, which is where most of my experiences, yes, of course you can go get the meeting with the two-star general and they might love your stuff, but again, they might be able to, sure, they’ll say no, but they can’t say yes and give you a contract. It’s like the colonel level and the program managers and the majors who are all the ones that are getting things done. And so I’ve found over many years, that’s kind of my sweet spot. Those are the people that I’m going to call first and spend the most amount of time with because they own the budget, they own the programs, they’re responsible for the mission and so they can actually make things happen.




Absolutely. And Margaret, you’re hitting on something too that I think is key here. Most of the time those three stars also need help to understand you should connect us with your colonel or your program manager who is living this on the ground. Or maybe bring us in contracting and your finance, your CFO into the next conversation so we can have that discussion. But most of the time the POC or the government personnel, especially the more senior you get, needs to be told what those next steps look like and who is most helpful for them to bring in. It’s like you have to do stakeholder management on behalf of your government potential customer in order to drive the right conversation.




And I also saw the question about timeline and kind of understanding the budget cycle and aligning the sales motion, and I will cover that in this traditional contracting component. So we’ll get to that question too.


So there’s two sections to this kind of presentation and overview. And this is really helpful because I know we’re to focus a little bit more because we’re covering things at a very high level. This would probably be like eight hours if we went in-depth into each specific text in these slides. We are going to talk about the traditional contracting process and included in that kind of FAR-based contracting, FAR is the federal acquisition regulation. And then not so traditional contracting, so things like commercial solutions openings, OTAs, the SBIR and STTR and center program, some of those initiatives and programs that might be interesting to you all but don’t necessarily stem from the FAR or government is not so used to but might be more forward-leaning if they do employ. And then throughout that, we’ll make sure to consistently provide you guys tactics, like so what do I do with this information? What to take back and how to implement some of the pieces that we’re talking about at a high level to inform your sales strategy, your sales motion, just overall your federal business.


Awesome. All right. So we’re going to talk a little bit about the traditional agency acquisition process. So this is probably what most of you see when you kind of dive into or kind of see solicitations that are being released on some kind of federal marketplace. So like I mentioned, requirements is a really important step in the federal acquisition process and in the traditional contracting process as well. 


So in this stage, it’s usually government detailing their specific requirements, identifying funding lines. This is also when, if you are in a program of record, which means that you are getting funding allocated from Congress and it’s in the budget, making sure that your funding lines are tied to a specific requirement and understanding how much money you have in there. You then have market research and the next slide will go in and kind of what you should be doing at each of these stages.


Market research is your time to shape and influence the requirement, the contracting office and your decision makers on why they should buy your product and not a competitors. So at this stage you’ll usually see a request for information go out, which is I think over the years the intent of an RFI has been diluted from just a true, “we want to see what industry is capable of,” and now I think contractors and companies have become really savvy and this is the time where they’re using RFIs to influence what the request for a proposal looks like so that it is baked for their company. 


However, it’s also just a time where government is really interested in talking and collaborating with a variety of different vendors. This is also when you will see industry days pop up. I generally think that in these stages, market research is usually your time to shine in terms of getting meetings and conversations with government.


Then you have competition, a request for a proposal goes out. Here we have set-asides. What we mean by set-asides is this is also when government dictates that a certain solicitation or a certain proposal should be set aside for small businesses. A small businesses, whether you are registered as a woman-owned or veteran service-disabled or Alaskan Native. Or whether it should be set aside for non-traditional vendors, companies that don’t typically do business with the government, usually that is set in the competition stage and then obviously you’ll have a whole bunch of requirements and thresholds that come out in this phase of the process.




Would you agree that in the market research phase, certainly industry days would be a good place for startups to go attend, meet the people who are involved in creating the requirements and also find potential primes to team with so they can meet the Raytheon team that’s going after that particular opportunity and potentially get aligned with those groups?








If they can’t travel and spend the time on industry days, is there another way that they could do that maybe at a smaller scale virtually?




Yeah, absolutely. Here’s some little tricks that we advise our companies. So one, industry days are rarely worth it unless you’re going in person. And I think now especially with COVID, there’s been more and more virtual industry days in which government is droning on about their problem sets. However, they are required to post attendee lists of who attended industry days on as well as most of these organizations also put a recording of the PowerPoint or the slide deck that they talked about their specific requirements and tech needs. And so often I don’t think it’s worth the budget and the money to devote someone to just watch industry days all day, but I would recommend taking those attendee lists and they always put emails and contact information for each of the prime contractors, and using that as a starting point of looking for teaming partners. So that is one way in which you can make the most out of industry days without actually attending it.


I think the other is just taking a look at, there’s usually, especially I know there’s a lot of questions about research and development and R&D grants. And especially for R&D opportunities in which they’re also doing market research, there’s always usually a technical point of contact, and I highly recommend just reaching out to those technical points of contacts and setting up a call or a meeting or learning where they’re located and having that conversation. And as long as you’re couching it as market research, you won’t get a lot of, “Ooh, I don’t know if I can talk to you or if I’m showing favoritism as government.”




And you mentioned SAM a couple times, can you talk briefly about what it is and then also the caveat with the other SAM that is masquerading as the proper government site so that people don’t fall into that trap?




Yes. So is a really wonderful named website, obviously rolls off the tongue. But it is the place where everyone in government is required to post their solicitations. I don’t recommend that you just have someone devoted to monitoring SAM all day every day because it is not the best user experience and it is also really difficult to filter based off your specific technology needs. However, the cool thing you can do in once you’ve identified an opportunity you are interested in is set up an alert to make sure that anytime there’s a change to that solicitation or if government releases another set of documentation or the proposals are open, you get an alert to your email and that way you’re staying on top of some of your opportunities. There are a ton of different market research websites and platforms like Deltek’s GovWin, Bloomberg Government has a tool, GovTribe, et cetera, probably like four or five, GovSpend.


And I recommend looking at one of those tools and seeing what works best for your organization. Typically, for startups and SaaS products that don’t have the money that a Lockheed Martin can have to invest into sales and capture management, Dcode recommends a tool like GovTribe, which is a little bit cheaper, a little bit better of a user interface. And in tools like this, you can set up saved alerts and put in specific tech requirements or keywords around your product. And every day GovTribe will just send you, “These six opportunities have been released.” And they mentioned AI or analytics or natural language processing and that’s why it’s pulled for your company. And that’s a little bit easier of a way to parse through just the sheer volume of opportunities that are coming out on every single day without having to have someone devoted to just looking at the website.


I’m going to move to this slide and then talk to Adam’s question about the budget cycle to inform sales. One of the things that’s really interesting about the federal sales motions in particular is because of the way the budget cycle works, there are key times during the year that you can leverage to your advantage and close a whole host of deals. This works for research and development as it does if you are just purely trying to sell licenses of technology that you sell in the commercial sector.


October 1st is the start of the new fiscal year. And so as soon as the new fiscal year starts, October, November, December and January are usually the time when organizations are planning for their next fiscal year. So new start programs, new technologies they want to bring in, what is their vision and strategy for the next fiscal year and making sure it’s aligned to budget. So I’d say the fall is a really great time to have a lot of exploratory conversations for opportunities that will close later on in the new year.


The one thing to be aware of is continuing resolution. So this happens when, I hope people are recalling their Gov 101 high school classes, but continuing resolution occurs when the House and the Senate cannot reconcile their differences on the budget for the next fiscal year. And we have gone into continuing resolution for the past… I honestly can’t remember a time when we were not in a continuing resolution. What this means for tech companies is that just because the fiscal year starts on October 1st, doesn’t mean that government will have their new budget for the year.


So what we saw last year was had a lot of great conversations teed up in October and November about new starts, new programs, new products that government wanted to bring in. They didn’t actually get their budget until March or April. So January was a down month in terms of sales because government didn’t have access to their budget. They were operating off of their budget from the last fiscal year and no one was sure about when they were going to get their budget to actually start buying the list of items that they had determined in October, November, December.


So I pause there just because I think it’s important to note that, that even though you’re having conversations in October and November, December about new starts, with the way that the budget has worked for the last couple of years, your government organizations might not be able to access their budget until March or April of the next year. And that’s just something to be aware of. At Dcode, we make sure that we are counting our revenue targets to align for a slower Q1 that way we’re not thinking that we’re going to close all this work in January, February when there might be a possibility for government to not have their budget.




But, Riya, that pertains specific to new funded line items, right?








Because whatever they had last year, they can expect to have the same the following year?








So this would just be new initiatives. And then certainly that doesn’t apply also to the program of record funding, right, because that comes right off the top line and then everything else is kind of discretionary?




Exactly. What I will say though is most of the time government treats, if you are a SaaS product and you are talking to a potential customer like CBP for instance, for the first time, they will include that as a new start. So even if it aligns to an existing requirement or funding that they had last year, most of the time if it’s a new company to them, they’re going to bucket that company into the new start. And so it’s really hard, unless you already have existing work with that organization, for government to allocate money off of what they had budget for last year or their program of records spend if they don’t get their new budget in, which is annoying. But there are a lot of strategies to figure that out, how to convince them that you aren’t a new start but align to an existing requirement.




And then one other thing and then I’ll stop interrupting because I know you have so much more material to get through and we’re like half through. The other thing I’ve seen a lot of commercial companies make the mistake of doing is waiting too long through the year. So I feel like, hey, use the fall and winter to have those conversations and position your solutions with the right buyers around, I feel like it differs based on agency, but March, April, May, June, that’s when those buyers are putting in the request for funding. And then through summer and certainly in September, that’s when those contracts are being issued.


So I have seen where you do have the opportunity to get after some unclaimed funds later in the summer. But these are shovel-ready projects. This is someone who’s put in a request and that request did not initially get funding. And then what ends up happening is maybe something else falls through and so there’s all of a sudden some available funding for people to go grab. But if it’s not shovel-ready, if it hasn’t already gone through all the checks and balances and been approved as a potential project, then it’s too late at that point to get the funding.




Perfect segue, because that’s what I was going to talk about next is what you should be doing in the spring. And exactly what you’re talking about Margaret, the spring is the time to tee up conversations, to get on unfunded request lists or wishlists. And in probably March and April specifically, Dcode, and we advised for our tech companies too, is having the most conversations with government to get on as many lists as possible, but also just to also start teeing up the conversation about, “Hey, you might also be thinking about your next year’s budget already. Let’s start having the conversation about how to build our product in there.”


 But I will say one tactic is if you ever get a response from a potential customer at any point in the year, especially early on in the year about, “We just don’t have the funding right now. Or I don’t know what my budget is going to look like.” Should never just close a conversation off like, all right, well check in a couple of months. Always ask them to put you on an unfunded request list. Be like, “Okay, that’s great. Well, what can we provide you to put our information on an unfunded request list or the wishlist, if you have end of year funds or fallout funds in June, July, August?” And they have entire documents where they’re tracking, here are all the items that if we got money or if money shook out by the end of the year that we have left over, we would fund right away.


And May, June, July, August should be your busiest time from a sales perspective, because government is nearing the end of the fiscal year. Nobody in government wants their budget swept because they underspent. And so they’re trying to just set trash cans of money on fire and it is the time where you can get a lot through, but the only way you can get a lot of your products through is if you had a conversation in February, March, April about putting your products on an unfunded request list. So June, July, August, like I alluded to, should be your busiest times because everyone is just trying to spend end of year funding or fallout funds, you might hear that, of money that they were planning on spending but for some reason or another didn’t end up spending. And September is usually the craziest month because you’re just working through getting contracts closed out. But usually you’re not identifying new opportunities in September because all the contracting offices are working really hard just to get money obligated on paper.


That’s a very high level of the budget cycle and how that should impact sales. But I will say it is cyclical and the advantage that the budget cycle does give you is that there is always a way to turn a not right now into a, okay, well think about us for your next year budget or think about us for your unfunded request list. And so rarely should you walk away from a conversation in which someone says, “We don’t have budget,” as a work with that customer. Because of the way the budget cycle works, there’s usually always an opportunity for you to ask them to put you on some kind of list, should money shake out or for the next budget year.


All right. So this slide is really meant to talk kind of about what a SaaS company, or even for hardware, what you should be doing at each stage of the traditional acquisition process. And I’m just going to highlight a few bits here because everybody can read, and I think some of the text is pretty straightforward, that market research stage is really the time to influence the requirements. And one of the things Margaret and I were chatting about this the other day was sometimes tech companies see the perfect opportunity posted on or get released on LinkedIn or something and it’s a request for proposal. And if a request for proposal comes out and it’s perfectly aligned with your technology, but you didn’t know that RFP was coming out, it’s probably already too late and it’s probably rigged for some other company. So the RFI stage and the market research stage is really where all of these companies are looking to shape the set of requirements and the scope of work to make it as advantageous to their technology, their product, and their differentiators as possible.


So the question you’re trying to ask yourself in this market research stage is how can I shut out as much competition as possible? And so this stage is a really important stage because you want to be at the forefront of conversations with government in order to move into the competition stage where it’s really just responding, but nothing is a surprise. And during the competition stage, as Margaret alluded to, this is really where you’re also talking to partners, prime contractors, especially if you see an opportunity that is a whole kitchen sink but doesn’t have a ton of specifics. This is the stage where you are forming those partnerships and responding to proposals.


Once you get to source selection, government is really quiet. So I would say definitely don’t recommend reaching out to government when something is in evaluation stage. And just expect this from government, when something is going through the evaluation stage, you’ll likely get no emails from them, no communications, they won’t be posting anything, and that’s totally normal. It’s not that they are avoiding you for some reason. And then you have contract award.




Hey, Riya, would you mind if we skip forward to the BAA and non-traditional contracts since we’re short on time?








And I think someone asked the question about if they’ve got a potential dual use solution, so it’s being sold effectively in commercial, what type of a contract and how would you work with government to convert that to something that the military could use, for example?




Yes, definitely. And I’ll get to BAAs first and then we’ll move into the non-traditional contracts. So broad agency announcements are, you have a couple of different versions of broad agency announcements. Generally, they’re for long-term research initiatives. So to the question about R&D grants, recommend looking at broad agency announcements. Where you look to find those is on or using market research tools that you can more specifically just set filters for. Most agencies that have a research component will have an annual broad agency announcement that they put out in which they list all of their research topics and technology needs for the year as well as a technical point of contact of who is responsible for this technology area. And then it’s usually a rolling basis. They put it out for a whole year or maybe a couple of years and they get tech company submissions over the course of the whole year.


My guidance on a BAA is that there is no incentive or urgency for government to respond to submissions on a BAA. So if you are submitting to a BAA and just put it out in the ether, I wouldn’t expect that BAA to turn into an opportunity for you in a couple of weeks. It could be months, it could be a year before you hear back. And to mitigate that, what I would really recommend is if you are putting in a submission to a BAA, also reach out to the technical point of contact and see if you can identify other POCs at that office or organization to drive them to understand better what you do and why it’s worth them to call you in to evaluate your technology solution kind of immediately. Because that’s one of the unique things about a BAA is that they don’t necessarily need to have funding allocated before putting one out, and they don’t need to have a specific timeline to follow.


So those are the two things I’d caution on on a BAA, don’t expect them to turn into deals overnight, but they are really great ways, especially if you are focused on R&D, to source new opportunities and deals. And every agency that does research will have a broad agency announcement likely.

And I’m happy to answer follow up questions on BAAs specifically after this or over email, whatever. Because there’s a lot there, but really at a high level, I hope that gives some more color


All right. Let’s move into not-so-traditional contracting. So this not-so-traditional contracting, and again, what we mean by this is that these are programs in some cases or contracting mechanisms that aren’t governed by the federal acquisition regulation. What is really great about these is that they’re also usually focused on non-traditional vendors or companies that have a dual use application for the government to the question about dual-use technology and how best to get government on board. So I’m going to focus on OTAs a little bit more than CSOs. And OTAs, what is my top three takeaways? The DOD uses OTAs more than civilian agencies. What I mean by civilian agencies are HHS, Veterans Affairs, Social Security, Treasury, Commerce, Labor, kind of your citizen facing services. OTAs are more in vogue in DoD.


Why OTAs are interesting to folks on this call is because they’re specifically focused on bringing non-traditional vendors into the fold. So there is a requirement that a national vendor must be significantly involved in a submission or proposal in order for a company to be eligible for an OTA. And the definition for non-traditional is really broad, but I think what matters most for you all is that you are considered a non-traditional, so long as you haven’t done hundreds of millions of dollars of work in federal government over the past four years. So if you just started your federal practice or you have less than a hundred million in federal contracts, you probably are a non-traditional vendor.


How you identify OTA opportunities, there’s two ways. So there are specific organizations that have access to other transaction authorities, and probably the one that most people are most familiar with is Defense Innovation Unit. So I definitely recommend if you have a dual-use technology and are interested in exploring OTAs, to look at the solicitations that come out of Defense Innovation Unit. The other way that you can access OTAs is by joining a consortium. This is definitely a resource that Dcode can share and we can put on our website as well to see all of the consortia across the DoD. Consortium are basically communities around an OTA and you have to be a member in those communities into a consortium. Sometimes you have to pay a fee, sometimes you don’t have to pay a fee.


And then the government organization releases solicitations only to those members. So you can’t find OTAs on, but you can follow specific organizations. And consortium and I would recommend looking at consortium, which are based around technology areas that are most aligned with your product. There’re also hardware consortium, and that is a really great way to identify opportunity specific to hardware companies.




Riya, what’s your opinion once, an OTA kind of is advertised, is it much like an RFP where it’s pretty much destined for somebody and don’t waste your time responding to that?




Yeah, the interesting thing though is that OTAs are meant to be a lighter lift than the traditional contracting process. So whereas you might have to do a 20-page technical volume for like an RFI, RFP or even a BAA in some cases, for an OTA A, it’s usually a five-page technical volume. With an oral presentation, it’s a lot lighter lift and a lot more flexible on the proposal requirements.




So then perhaps where people could leverage an OTA is if they have someone, most likely in the DOD, who’s interested in their solution and they need a contracting vehicle to then say, “All right, I’m going to fund this and this is how I’m going to get you a contract. It’s going to be via an OTA.” Is that correct?




Correct. Yes, absolutely.




And then the other thing I would mention is for anyone on this call who is interested, we’ve got a very, very close partnership, as does Dcode, with an organization called Carahsoft. They are NVIDIA’s federal distributor and there’s new ones every year, but I’ve been tracking about 33 different OTA consortiums. I’m happy to share that list with you guys and you can kind of see all the different tech categories within each one. Carahsoft is a member of about half of those consortiums, and so if you sign up with Carahsoft to be your federal facing reseller or distributor, they’ll share all that information on OTAs with you. They’ll get you hooked up if you guys want to use an OTA as a contracting mechanism. So that is an option to you guys as Inception members.




Thanks, Margaret. That’s awesome to hear.


All right, I’m going to cover SBIR, STTR and then we’ll close this out and I’ll address some lingering questions. But I know we’re nearing the end anyway. So part of this was to give you guys very high level of a lot of different areas, and so definitely follow up with Dcode with the Inception program for more specifics because there’s a ton we couldn’t just get into for sake of time.


So SBIR, STTR, again, I’ll just give you guys the key takeaways, this is specifically relevant for those of you who are curious about R&D and pursuing R&D grants within government because the program is focused on research and development with a potential for commercialization. So also for the people who asked about dual use technologies and how to best show the government that you have a technology that could also have an application for a government use case, highly recommend looking at the SBIR program and the STTR program. The difference between SBIR and STTR is that STTR requires you to have a nonprofit research partner. Otherwise it’s the same program, the same topic areas in many cases, it’s just a matter of who is on your team. So the couple of things I would highlight is that there’s only a handful of agencies that have access to Small Business Innovation Research programs, SBIR, STTER. Most of those organizations, I think all of the DoD has a SBIR program and then a handful and mainly the research agencies, so National Science Foundation, Health and Human Services have access to the SBIR and STTR program.


And how do you find those? You can just do some internet Googling and get a ton more information on the SBIR program and explore agencies that you think are most relevant for your product or service. It’s a cycle, so every quarter or three times a year, in some cases, the SBIR program will release a new set of topics around research opportunities and areas they’re interested in. So just keep your eye on those dates of when those new topics are released. And then it is a really fantastic way for small businesses and companies that want to actually develop their technology a little bit more with government equipment personnel users to get funding as well as government expertise and a pathway for commercialization. So if you’re on an earlier stage, have a really interesting technology that has a dual use application, really focus on research and development, highly encourage to look into the SBIR program or the STTR program.


We got through lot. We had a lot. I’d say hardware is its own beast in and of itself. There’s a lot of really flexible mechanisms, Margaret, kind of what what you were alluding to about ways to leverage hardware in order to get around some compliance loopholes or security loopholes. On the flip, hardware also comes with a whole lot of complexities because you need to be ITAR compliant. Government really cares about where you manufacture certain parts, making sure that certain countries aren’t involved. And so there’s a lot there with hardware that might not necessarily be there with software, but again, I’m not going to try to dive into that all right now that is a really great follow up question.


So what you got today was probably like what Dcode goes through with our tech companies in a year and in a variety of different sessions. So if you’re interested, we do run these fed go-to-market bootcamps. And I hope that what this session gleaned from is that we’re really focused on the nitty-gritty and the how, what you should be doing at each stage, not just kind of talking very high level about understanding the federal market. And so if you’re interested, definitely encourage you to check out our website and some information on our collateral. And also happy to take any follow up questions, conversations, you guys have our emails in the chat. And I will turn it back over to Margaret and Emily to close us out.




Awesome, thank you. Well, I really hope this was informative. Honestly, I’ve spent a ton of time, my whole career really in the government space, and every time I talk with Dcode, I learn a lot of new things. So reach out to us, reach out to Riya, Emily, myself for any follow up questions. We will be sharing the slides so you’ll have that as a reference, but certainly check out the Dcode platform. There’s a ton of information there and I think you guys will find it very useful. With that, you guys, thank you so much for the time.