No One Can Do It for You

One of the most important things any early stage company can understand, especially those receiving government grant funding, is this:  No one will or can do some of the work for you.  This is particularly true when it comes to answering the key questions about your business, your market potential, or where your funding will come from.  You and your organization are responsible for understanding how to do business, identifying your potential customers, and deciding how to fund your business through to commercial viability.

Grant recipients also need to understand that getting a grant doesn’t mean the government is a guaranteed customer for the resulting product, technology, or service.  It may be, but it is up to you to execute the necessary steps, make the right connections, and build a viable business to deliver “the goods”.  The grant process and the acquisition process are two distinct areas within government operations.  Your organization is the only one responsible for ensuring that you are capable – technologically, financially, and in terms of overall business capacity – to do business with the government under procurement processes, practices, and rules.

The government provides points of contact, programs, workshops, seminars, and information on how to do business under grant and acquisition rules.  Each agency or program will answer questions, provide referrals to other points of contact, and perhaps become a champion for your project, idea, or research.  They work with you, but they don’t do the work for you.

Some grant recipients have the expectation that “the government will “give” me “my” market research and tell me the potential for “my” product.”  They believe at that point they’ll know what to do.  They are wasting time, opportunity, and dollars.  Every moment you don’t initiate market research and invest in understanding the potential of your product, technology, or service, costs you in real dollars and cents and potential future earnings.

Grant programs are not entitlement programs.  They are programs meant to create innovation, encourage research, and assist in the development of viable organizations.  They are economic stimulus programs and a mechanism for the development of new technologies and products which the government may need or wants made available to non-government markets.

Whether you want to be the prime contractor or a subcontractor, you must define the objective, seek out opportunities, understand what is needed to “get the deal”, and do what it takes:

  • Demonstrate technological/product proof of concept
  • Validate your business model
  • Fund the on-going costs of being in business
  • Identify your market
  • Pursue customers – government and non-government
  • Establish structures and processes to deliver “product” to customers
  • Produce and deliver on-time and at the required quantity and quality
  • Close deals
  • Establish financial stability

Developing the technology and the business is the responsibility of the business founders, managers, employees, and other stakeholders.  The government’s role is limited to ensuring that the grant funds are properly spent; that acquisitions are made in an objective, competitive environment; that the government’s intellectual property and other rights are preserved; and finally that recipients/contractors perform to required standards.  The government is accountable for returns on the investment of taxpayer dollars – that is why there is growing emphasis on the commercialization plan for technologies, products and other intellectual property funded by government programs.

The government is not responsible for the following:

  • Providing market research
  • Establishing business structures and processes
  • Funding all activities of the recipient
  • Providing “end” customers – government or non-government
  • Paying for 100% of the costs of doing business
  • Paying for the commercialization activity – marketing, advertising, raising capital, protection of intellectual property (filing patents, etc.)

If you want to focus on the technology and the product, and don’t want to be involved in building a for-profit, commercial business around the technology, then you have a few alternatives:

  • Recruit business talent to handle the “business”

As employees

As investors/partners and key management

Contractors and consultants

  • License or sell the intellectual property to others to take to market

If you found and own a business, you are ultimately responsible for ensuring its success.  Whether you choose to be involved in the day-to-day business or focus on the technology and products, you and your team, not the government, are responsible for accomplishing the tasks necessary to succeed.

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