At Gallium Solutions, we’re the partner startups turn to as a first step in pursuing a Federal government contract, grant, or agreement. The best part of our job is working with our clients to take a commercial product and access a burgeoning government business, often with little or even no re-engineering.  

But over time, we’ve found that common mistakes and pitfalls trip up these newly minted products, especially as companies begin developing a federal proposal for the very first time. It’s completely understandable too – this is typically very new, with processes and requirements that can be quite unfamiliar and, frankly, more than a little confusing.

Here are four common mindsets that tend to trap startups when pursuing government funding opportunities:

  1. “I want to do multiple, different submissions at one time!”

In theory, this seems like a great idea. If we’re preparing one proposal, why not prepare more at the same time? In our experience, except in rare situations, we are big advocates of focusing on one proposal submission at a time. Why? The most high-quality submissions are those best aligned with your capabilities, with a thoughtful strategy, submission-specific writing, an understanding of the soliciting agency, and the proper allocation of your time.  

Recent rule changes to some SBIR topics prohibit multiple submissions within the same topic, but it’s still within the rules to submit to multiple topics. Multiple submissions at once don’t necessarily increase your odds of success – often times it’s quite the opposite. We’ve discovered some notable exceptions to this rule, but that’s something we should meet and ensure you’re a fit for before you proceed.

  1. “I can handle multiple acceptances!”

Your company, whether it is just you at a card table in your garage, five people in a tech incubator, or a full-fledged company, has a finite amount of human capital. In other words, there are only so many hours you can devote to fulfilling the requirements of an accepted submission. Submissions require an allocation of dedicated resources to perform the work proposed on time and in accordance with the terms and conditions of your award.  Key personnel proposed on multiple submissions at once can lead to contract fulfillment issues.  There are only 24 hours in the day, and you can’t work for all of them.  Better idea: Know your resources and ensure you don’t overcommit your time, your people, or your business. We can help you get a better picture of what delivering on a contract win will look like.  

  1. “I don’t know what it will cost, I’ll just worry about that later!”

Regardless of your technology, you need to know what it will cost to execute it. What are your input and output costs associated with your proposal?  How many hours and what type of staff will you need to accomplish the work?  What are your company’s basic operating costs for expenses such as facilities, utilities, and staff benefits?  What equipment, supplies, or travel will be necessary to execute your proposal?  You may not know the cost down to the penny, but you should have a general idea of how much to budget for all the necessary nuts and bolts. The federal government frowns upon attempts to reverse-engineer a budget from the award amount. Better idea: Have an idea of how much it will cost to execute your idea, where you can source your goods and services, whether they must be domestically made (a critical issue for some technologies), the government’s standard labor rates, and any other related submission costs. If you’re confused about how to ensure your compliance with the government’s requirements here, we can help.

  1. “I forgot to complete all the required registrations; I’ll do that when we submit the proposal!”
    Doing business with the government requires a little legwork before a submission can happen.  Registrations are key to ensuring you can prepare a submission and receive an award, and most importantly, get paid.   Delaying registration can turn a great proposal into a non-compliant submission.  No one wants that. Better idea: Let Gallium Solutions guide you through this process. Fortunately, we have a great blog post that you can use as a to-do list to get started.

If you’re a startup and interested in government contracting opportunities, we’d love to start a conversation with you. Contact Gallium Solutions today to learn more about how we can help.