“Tell your company’s story and how you will help make things better,” was the simple yet powerful advice provided by Kate Lucey of H.S. Dracones to other women-led startups and tech companies at yesterday’s Breakthrough for Startups and Small Business session.  

H.S. Dracones, like other up and coming startups trying to help government and public sector focused companies, represents an opportunity for the government to open up the market and work with best of breed players that can help deliver results.

However, small businesses (and even many larger ones) face an uphill battle when trying to “breakthrough” to the government market.  Shelly Kapoor Collins, founder of Shatterfund, a fund focused on women-led companies, emphasized the need to simplify processes and make it easier for government to find opportunities. 

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Erin Rothman, CEO of StormSensor – an innovative company that helps government manage stormwater by utilizing a patented combination of networked sensors, cloud-based software, and smart analytics –  said they have tried to come up with smarter ways to work with government, often making their projects so small that it makes it easier for government to get to them.  

Alisa Gus, CEO of another startup, Wish Knish, a blockchain company focused on improving customer engagement and learning, mentioned the difficulty of getting in front of government users and finding avenues to contract easily with the government.

So what is the government doing to help small businesses? 

Emily Harman, Director of Small Business for the Navy, offered candid advice to companies about doing their homework, following through on advice they receive, and honing their message in on the value they deliver, not the minority status they may hold.  She also provided examples of innovative approaches the Defense Department is taking along with the myriad of resources they are providing. 

Some advice to small businesses offered by government and other experts included:

  • Be strategic in your choices about which agencies you target.  Not everyone is going to be the right fit. Find the right “use cases” that fit your product/expertise and then focus on them.
  • Tell your story in a way that is powerful, built around user needs and explains the benefits for the customer.  No one cares if you are women-led (or another designation) if they can’t see how you can help them with their priorities or challenges.
  • Do your research in terms of publicly available resources, as well as resources provided by agencies.  The Navy, for instance, has numerous small business resources available.  Research and find the right ones and bookmark them so you can stay up to date.
  • Look at the “procurement forecast” of your target customers to you can identify opportunities early.

In general, the themes and advice offered by companies in attendance to government  included:

  • Simplify government processes.  They are too cumbersome and costly for small businesses.
  • Speed up the process. Small businesses don’t have six-12 months to wait for a procurement to be awarded.
  • Consolidate and provide easier access to resources so small businesses, who are already struggling for resources, can easily find them.
  • Propose problem statements so companies can provide their ideas and solutions.  Avoid long, specific requirements statements that lock out most small businesses.
  • Be thoughtful about efforts such as category management.  Not every contract offers economies of scale and benefit from aggregation.

Please join us for future Breakthrough and other events that help us bring government and companies together so we can continue “to create an open government market”.

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