Tales From the Front – Advice From SBIR-funded Entrepreneurs (3)

The SBIR journeyIn the third post of the blog series titled “Tales From the Front: Advice From SBIR-funded Entrepreneurs”, I share with you Rick Weiss’ tips for companies seeking to grow their business with SBIR funding. Rick is the Founder and President of Viocare, Inc.  Viocare has a platform of solutions that enable companies, communities and clinicians to improve the wellness and productivity of their respective employees, members or patients. Recently, I had the pleasure of hearing Rick speak as a guest at an SBIR workshop given by Jim Greenwood and sponsored by the New Jersey Small Business Development Center

Here are his eight tips for SBIR success.

Rick has bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Electrical Engineering and Math, and is a competitive cyclist, logging in a whopping 6000 miles per year. He worked for many years as a software engineer and then decided he wanted to develop software to help amateur athletes change their diets to improve their performance. His wife taught nutrition in high school, so it was a good fit for him to enter the health and wellness space. After 1 attempt, he received his first NIH SBIR Phase I contract in 1994 to develop a tool for research dietitians to run feeding studies. It was not an exact fit for the vision he had for his business, but it was money for him to get started! He then went on to receive no less than 23 NIH SBIR and traditional awards over the past 20 years — including a $4M UO1 grant from the NIH — and Rick is probably one of the few entrepreneurs who can brag about obtaining a perfect score of 10 on his most recent NIH SBIR grant proposal.

Here are his eight tips:

  1. Contact the program officers
  2. Go for the full amount, if not more
  3. Schedule time to write the proposal
  4. Have someone else read and edit the proposal
  5. Read the instructions carefully
  6. Know your idea inside and out, and be passionate about it!
  7. Limit the scope of your proposal to ensure success
  8. Submit new proposals as extensions of previous successes

Rick said he pivoted his company at least 10 times over the past 20 years. This led Rick to advise: “Don’t be a grant business. Only get SBIRs on what will improve your ‘secret sauce’.”

I hope these tips were helpful. Feel free to share any other tips you have!

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