If you haven’t noticed, we’re kind of fangirls of the SBIR/STTR programs. Across Montana and the nation, some fabulous companies have been able to launch new disruptive products that address critically important problems. Many of these companies scale and grow and create lots of jobs and continue to innovate.
But, SBIR funding alone will not be enough. There will be gaps in funding, there will be delays in product development, there will be costs that are not covered by SBIR.
Remember, if you need immediate capital, SBIR will not fill that need. But, as part of your long-range research and product development strategy of novel, high-risk technology, SBIR funding is a brilliant strategy.
But what about those gaps?
TechLink published some best practices of top performers in the Air Force SBIR/STTR programs a few years ago. When talking about funding their startups, these successful companies offered spot-on suggestions for mitigating funding gaps.
- Set expectations for employees and enact lean operating practices
- Diversify your source of income by building reserves from other product sales or adding paid consulting projects that leverage your team’s expertise
- Explore if debt and equity funding may be right for you
- Look at other research and development contracts/grants
- For Montana companies, make sure you reach out to the Montana Department of Commerce’s Montana SBIR/STTR Matching Funds Program as soon as you receive your Phase I award notification
There certainly have been some changes in the SBIR programs in the past few years especially within the Air Force, but the TechLink Air Force SBIR Best Practices Handbook offers a look at strategies that can help you successfully build your company. Even if you are working with a granting agency like NSF or NIH, take note of some of the concepts shared in this handbook.
To explore other financing options, seek the advice of the regional economic development organization in your area. On the montanainnovationpartnership.org homepage, you’ll find a banner with links to many of the Montana economic development providers.
This month’s book recommendation is another brilliant look at how you can build relationships needed to coordinate the multiple sources of startup capital you may need. Recommended to me by one of our recent NIH SBIR Proposal Lab tech founders, Get Backed breaks down the pitch deck. Use it to learn how to tell your story for direct sales as much as finding potential investment partners or securing a bank loan. Oh, and did I say Air Force has been changing a bit in the past few years… many of you know that they also require SBIR/STTR applicants to submit a reading pitch deck as part of a full SBIR/STTR proposal.
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