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  • 15 Dec 2016 4:19 PM | Deleted user

    Navigating the government business sector is a daunting task to some and an adventure for all. The processes seem labyrinthine and the needs and missions of various agencies are always a bit obscure, unless you have been an insider at some point. And, just where the heck is all that money they are supposed to be giving away?

     Well, your observations are, kind of, right on the mark. At least from an outsiders point of view, so let’s just peek behind the curtain a little and get some insight from someone who has been on both sides, me. Now remember, this is a blog post and so it’s short, things do change and these observations are just my opinion, so lets get started.

     What’s the mission? Every government agency has a mission and a budget and understandably doesn’t want to spend their dollars on things they won’t get credit for. You need to think a bit about what you are good at and then look for agencies whose job aligns with that. Elementary marketing? Yes, but it is surprising how many people or companies forget that and try to push their potential government customer in a direction they have no reason to go. Maybe they also make that error with a commercial customer. A way to get started here is to search on, for instance,mission of GSA”.  You’ll see results such as Mission of GSA. You will have to drill down into that mega agency of choice, but it’s worth it. At least the internet has made it easier. In the early days you needed a multi-volume set of books and a subscription to keep it up to date.

     Where’s the money? That’s a little harder, but with diligence you can find it. Easiest is the Small Business Innovation Research Program (SBIR). They even have a twitter feed. "Each year, Federal agencies with extramural research and development (R&D) budgets that exceed $100 million are required to allocate 2.8 percent of their R&D budget to these programs. Currently, eleven Federal agencies participate in the SBIR program…”. It’s a great place to get started, but don’t expect to just pick a topic and get a grant. There’s more work and preparation required to have a reasonable chance. See who in the agency has sought this kind of work before, seek them out and start some discussions. Do it early since they are not allowed to talk about an open procurement in general.

     Another route is through Federal Business Opportunities (FedBizOpps). Again this used to be a paper publication, in 6pt type (Ugh!). There is a lot of stuff there, so learn how to use  the search engine.

     And last of all, when you see that opportunity that is just tailored for you, an SBIR, Fixed Price Contract, etc., follow the instructions. That’s harder than you may think. Even if you believe you have a better idea, give them what they want. You can almost always offer options. And MEET THE RESPONSE DATE. That means have the proposal in their hands well before the deadline. Something frequently goes wrong and they put the burden on you.

    If you want to learn more, visit the Small Business Administration site for 8 tips on finding government business, your local Procurement Technical Assistance Center  or attend the October 4 Meeting of the IEEE Boston Entrepreneurs’ Network.

     Good Luck!

    Fausto Molinet  is a former USAF acquisitions officer and had 10 years post retirement employment in the defense industry with Litton Itek Optical Systems. He is one of the founders of ENet and consulted to small and large technology companies in strategy for 25 years. He is currently Chief Business Development Officer for Celeriss, Inc. and a member of the ENet Advisory Board.

  • 03 Dec 2016 5:00 PM | Deleted user

    Companies in their earliest stages face a lot of challenges. Legal challenges are certainly among the most important. However, with professional legal guidance these fundamental legal issues can be handled in a way that sets up the new company for future success. So, what are some of the legal issues should entrepreneurs and founders address?

    1. What Kind of Company to Create?

    In order to mitigate personal liability and to create a vehicle for investors, most founders choose to incorporate as a C-Corp (think standard corporation). Obtaining venture capital for other forms such as an S-Corp or Limited Liability Compnay is nearly impossible. Just as important is where you choose to incorporate. Delaware is among the most popular place to incorporate for many reasons, including demonstrating seriousness of intent and because nearly all corporate attorneys understand Delaware law regardless of where they are located. In addition, you will be held to the legal and tax codes in the jurisdiction in which you choose to incorporate. Find a professional in the area who can explain your options and then execute the plan.

    2. Founders Equity and Employee Stock Options Plans

    Startup companies have to deal with both founder's equity and employee stock options plans (ESOPs). Implementing an ESOP and/or restricted stock offering gives your employees a stake in the success of your company, thereby giving them incentive to make a long-term commitment to the success of the company and rewarding them for their contributions. There's also the issue of founder's equity. While an even split might sound like the most fair arrangement, it will likely lead to problems down the road and could potentially be a red flag for investors. Founders equity should vest over three or four years to demonstrate commitment to future investors.

    3. Employee and Consultant Agreements

    Necessary standard legal agreements include confidentiality agreements, non-compete clauses (in states where they are enforceable), and assignment of intellectual property including inventions for both employees and consultants, if any. When starting a new company, it's advantageous to have these and other typical agreements in template form. Many law firms who work with startups have “starter kits” which include these and other documents that can be customized to the particulars of the new company and its founders.

    4. Patents -- Provisional, Utility, and Design Patents

     For product companies, especially those selling to the consumer market, design patents cover the look (ornamental design) of the product. A provisional patent is a way to get something on file at the US Patent Office that when done well, documents what the company knew and when it knew it. America has gone to a “first inventor to file” regime and it’s important to get to the patent office first. Within a year of filing a provisional application, the inventors or startup should file a utility patent application which will be examined by the Patent Office to determine if a patent should be granted. There is a lot of complexity and inventors and startups are well advised to get help from a patent attorney registered to conduct business with the US patent office.

    5. Trademarks and Copyrights

     Web and mobile based businesses especially should discuss trademarks and copyrights with an attorney whose legal practice is focused on one or both of these areas. Copyrights can be used to protect, for example, software and the content of mobile applications that is displayed to the user. Trademarks can go along way to protecting the brand and distinctive ways in which the brand is used, for example words or words and typefaces and graphic elements. Trademark searching to make sure no one else is using the mark for a similar business is often expensive. One can do a lot using Google and other search tools and then have an expert do a broader search in conjunction with a first round from professional investors.

    In Conclusion...

    Companies in their earliest stages have a great deal of legal matters to consider. This list of 5 highlights should be addressed early on to lay a foundation for growth, success, and for working with angel investors and VCs.  To learn more, please come see our panel of experts speak on these and other critical legal issues at our December 6th event.

  • 08 Apr 2015 3:34 PM | Kathleen Ballos (Administrator)
    The topic of Tuesday night’s (4/7/15) ENET Meeting at Constant Contact in Waltham was Winning Investor’s with Your Pitch and Presentation . Moderator Alan Silver put together a great panel, which included Lucinda Linde of Walnut Venture Associates, Sheryl Schultz of Golden Seeds, and Ralph Sheridan of Launchpad Venture Group.

    This wasn’t a meeting about building the perfect pitch deck. There are lots of excellent resources online for that (here’s one of my favorites, from Forbes ). Instead, Lucinda talked at length about fundamental questions that a founder has to answer during their pitch, while Sheryl discussed how angels evaluate the founding team, market opportunity, and competition .

    Ralph Sheridan’s presentation looked at the top-5 reasons Why Startups Fail , with the overall goal of giving founders the information and lessons that angels have learned over the years, so that founders can factor that information into their business analysis, planning, and ultimately, pitch.

    Here is Ralph’s list. It isn’t remarkable. What is remarkable are the underlying and contributing causes (see his deck ). For me, and I suspect a lot of attendees, the personal experiences and commentary Ralph added to illustrate and amplify his points was really helpful and interesting.

    1. Run out of money
    2. Technology isn’t ready
    3. Market doesn’t respond
    4. Inability to sell
    5. Leadership mistakes

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