Highlights from 2014 National SBIR/STTR Conference
July 24th, 2014 by Rebecca Todd
This year’s National SBIR/STTR Conference held June 16-18 in National Harbor, Md., was packed full of valuable and current information about the program and related areas of interest for innovative companies. Here are some of my takeaways from the conference that aren’t often found in general SBIR/STTR program descriptions:
For prospective Defense Department SBIR/STTR applicants – The Defense Contract Audit Agency (DCAA) may do pre-award audits. Companies need to have your Policy and Procedure manuals ready at this point. Be sure that your accountant has “yellow book” experience with audits. Time sheets for all project personnel need to be ready at any time throughout project performance.
The company is responsible for its subcontractors, who are also subject to audit. SBIR awardee companies should regularly check in with their subcontractor partners to ensure that their time sheet numbers align with project performance.
Vendors fall under the category of “Other Direct Costs.” They are not collaborators on the intellectual property and cannot serve as subcontractors.
Patent costs are generally considered unallowable expenses for SBIR/STTR projects, though the NIH will allow a portion of the budget to go towards general patent searches and initial advice from legal counsel. Otherwise, applicants should use a portion of their allowable 7% fee to support legal expenditures.
Fraud, Waste, and Abuse
Proprietary information that is appropriately marked in your proposal cannot be disclosed under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).
The Office of Inspector General has the authority to issue search warrants and call for arrests. To avoid inadvertent fraud during the conduct of an SBIR/STTR project, here are some things an SBIR/STTR awardee company should NOT do:
- Operate out of your residence without supportive evidence that the residence houses resources necessary to perform the proposed internal (company) portion of the project. There should be a separate lease or contract for space required to conduct the required research and development effort.
- Pay others to do ALL of the proposed research.
- Charge personal expenses to the federal government.
- Lie, either through omission or directly in project proposals and reports.
Investments: VC, Angel Investor, Incubator, and Crowdfunding Opportunities
Andreessen Horowitz, a California-based venture capital firm, only takes referrals and has a 99.3% rejection rate.
Many VC firms expect a 20-30% return on investment.
Common challenges VC firms see in new technology companies include lack of business acumen and an inability to strongly define and segment their market.
The Department of Health and Human Services has launched an I-Corps program (an adaptation of NSF’s I-Corps) to support development of marketing knowledge among life science-based entrepreneurs. For more about this program, see my recent Lab2Launch post about it.
Only 9% of Kickstarter businesses are technology-based.
AngelPad is an intensive 10-week mentorship program founded by ex-Googler Thomas Korte to develop web-technology startups and help them raise the funding they need to succeed and ultimately grow more successful businesses.
TechStars provides seed funding, extensive mentorship, and a network of mentors/alumni for 7-10% equity in each company.
Plug and Play Tech Center is a global accelerator that specializes in growing tech startups.
Small Business Investment Company is a program created by Congress and maintained by the Small Business Administration to facilitate the flow of capital to America’s small businesses. The structure of the program is unique in that SBICs are privately owned and managed investment funds, licensed and regulated by SBA, that use their own capital plus funds borrowed with an SBA guarantee to make equity and debt investments in qualifying small businesses. Learn more about SBIC.
Accelerators, Clusters, Lab-to-Market Commercialization
The Regional Innovation Acceleration Network supports existing and emerging venture development organizations (VDOs) by providing the means for peer-to-peer sharing of information and best/common practices and helping to identify funding opportunities for VDOs. The network also provides tools to help regions of the country approach the creation of their own VDO.
SBA Growth Accelerator Fund is a $2.5M competition for accelerators and other entrepreneurial ecosystem models. The judging panel will give particular attention to, and the SBA encourages, applicants that fill geographic gaps in the accelerator and entrepreneurial ecosystem space.
The Federal Laboratory Consortium‘s mission is to advance technology transfer and commercialization of federal research to grow American businesses.