In the second post of the “Tales From the Front: Advice From SBIR-funded Entrepreneurs” series, I share with you Ron Oglevie’s “Winning Strategies”. Ron is a self-described “80-year-old technology junky”. He has a BS in Engineering from UCLA and an MS in Aerospace Engineering from USC. He spent his first career as an “intrapreneur” at a large aerospace company (now Boeing), before forming the Irvine Innovation Institute (III). The mission of III is to create high-tech businesses with strong growth potential. He has a 100% win ratio on the last 8 technology contracts that he managed, including 4 SBIR contracts in the aviation and aerospace fields.
Here is his advice.
1. Do your homework. This means getting to know your customer. Do some intelligence gathering – find out what the agency is looking for. Make it a goal to create one or more product champions at the agency. Understand all the advantages and disadvantages of competing approaches and how your technology stacks up. Clearly point out the advantages of your approach and show them you have a better grasp of the problem than the competition. Is your technology revolutionary (enabling) or simply evolutionary (just a better way)?
2. Think like a business person. Create an operating plan that has a clear vision for your company and includes how SBIR funding fits in – not only in the immediate term, but through Phase 2 and commercialization. An organized plan will allow you to avoid the “Valley of Death”. Begin discussing Phase 2 at the mid-term briefing. Furthermore, concurrently write the Phase 1 final report and the Phase 2 proposal, and submit before the Phase 1 money runs out. “Plan to succeed!” he says.
3. Recruit and retain top talent. This includes both management and technical staff. The principal investigator should have well-established credentials. The breadth of talent should cover all facets of the project. Consultants and collaborators should be used to fill any gaps. Commit sufficient resources to win.
4. Write a winning proposal. Show the reviewers enough about the technology to fulfill the innovation requirement and genuinely excite them. Have examples that clearly illustrate that you know how to complete the activities in the proposal. Stick with data and hard facts, and avoid simple assertions and “trust me” language. Keep in mind that graphics frequently tell a story better than words. Using a “storylining” process can help create a logical flow of thoughts that can be turned into a concisely worded document. In the first section, he also includes a concise proposal summary before getting into the details.
Ron says many winning companies transition to successful growth; however, there are many more disenchanted losers. Why? Simply because the winners did a better job to beat the competition!
Lots of winning tips there! Look for more upcoming posts on other entrepreneur’s advice on winning SBIRs.
And if you need assistance with your SBIR application, or have questions about non-dilutive funding, contact The Isis Group.