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Getting At Government's Secret $35 Million Fund For Innovation

Feb 7 2014, 12:27pm CST | by

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Getting At Government's Secret $35 Million Fund For Innovation

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Getting At Government's Secret $35 Million Fund For Innovation

Well, it’s not really a secret. You just have to know the tricks on how to successfully apply – I’ll get to that in a minute. It’s more important to tell you where the money is coming from.

The United States Government is opening up a reported $35 million dollars spigot for a serious problem: veteran mental healthcare. The Department of Veterans Affairs recently published a ‘broad agency announcement’ requesting that ANYONE can submit a proposal to help fix the problems of the veteran mental healthcare system. Through what is aptly called the “Veterans Affairs Center for Innovation,” or VACI in government’ese, the VA wants to reach out to the innovators of the world for help. Furthermore, it doesn’t matter if you’re in the “healthtech” space, or the “big data” game, there’s something for everyone.

The only catch is that it has to help improve veteran mental healthcare and the problems facing our returning soldiers, sailors and Marines. If you’re not interested in that, don’t ever read my blog ever again.

Although both the private and public sectors have spawned dozens of highly promising companies and tough government “task forces”, the VA isn’t waiting around for the results; they are about to inject a serious amount of cash to expedite the winning ideas.

But don’t get too excited – you still have to deal with the government and that requires some work – and it’s called navigating the bureaucracy. Remember, this is the government; bureaucracy is a fact of life. This isn’t Silicon Valley’s infamous Sand Hill Road. You just can’t knock down doors with your cool mobile app and receive a million dollar check in return. But it’s not impossible either. With government funding, there is a process I stress to others where if you are willing to roll up your sleeves, you can get yourself to a familiar place where you can spend less time writing proposals and more time working on “ideation” and execution.

I have clients that I work with on a daily basis that sell their products and services to the government, but are often overwhelmed by finding opportunities and filing the correct paperwork just to get a look at their company. However, I’ve found some tricks that make the daunting process easier:

Trick #1 – Scan BAA Key Words to Seek Fit: Read the full ‘broad agency announcement’ (aka BAA) and scan for key words that pertain to your company or idea. You may just find, after ten boring pages of jargon, something relevant to your concept. Those key words are all you need for your proposal and subsequent marketing strategies. In the case for this BAA (full BAA link here, or read a summary here at VACI’s website), you can quickly scan through the full document and find at “Topic 1″, “data” and “analytics”. Well, if I owned an analytics company, this is where I would place my bets. The same method works for the rest of the topics. Try it for your self with topics 2 and 3. My guess is you may even find words like “gamification” and “mobile”.

Trick #2 – Reach Out and Ask Questions: This one is a no brainer but often overlooked because people assume that there’s an invisible wall between people and government. If you read through the announcement (link here) you’ll find an agency representative’s contact information – use it. It’s there for a reason. Furthermore, many announcements have FAQ’s and webinars to answer your questions. VACI’s Eventbrite for this BAA is: here and it’s on February 19th.

Trick #3 – Work With a Partner Company. Bonus If They Have “Past Performance”: Investors value a start-up with a good team. As an entrepreneur, it shows maturity and insight that you believe it takes a room of the smartest people to create great products. Like VC’s, the US Government likes companies that work together. Why? Because they, like private-sector investors, like to diversify and reduce risks. When a single proposal contains multiple companies, it shows that they care about the problem enough to work together, combine their respective strengths, and utilize their past experiences to create better services and products.

So, if you’re looking for your next round of funding and think that you have an idea that’s worthy of a serious real-world problem, submit your proposal to this BAA. I think you’d be foolish not to. More importantly, it’s definitely no secret that veterans would greatly appreciate the outcomes created by the world’s most innovative minds.

Source: Forbes


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