Friday, December 13, 2013

SBIR Grants are a great way For Tech Businesses to Fund Development and Beta.

Small Business SBIR Grants for Commercialization

SBIR/STTR programs offer competitive federal government grants and contracts that fund small businesses to develop innovative high-risk technologies with the goal of increasing private sector commercialization in the marketplace

Participating Agencies that provide funding for SBIR/STTR:

  • Department of Agriculture
  • Department of Commerce
  • National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
  • Department of Defense
  • Department of Education
  • Department of Energy
  • Department of Health and Human Services
  • Department of Homeland Security
  • Department of Transportation
  • Environmental Protection Agency
  • National Aeronautics and Space Administration
  • National Science Foundation


The Department of Defense topics have been released and companies can contact the topic author for each solicitation through December 19th 2013. This is an important phase allowing you to directly address technical questions and clarify the objectives of the solicitation with the topic author.


Program Examples (there are hundreds)

More information can be found here:

64MB+ Radiation-Hardened, Non-Volatile Memory for Space
Cyber War Gaming
A LIDAR for Mapping Dense Aerosols
Data Analysis and Mining for Penetration Environment Dynamics (DAMPED)
A Novel Method for Creating Microshear to Aerosolize Packed Powders
Decision Aid to Threat Identification and Intent Modeling
Abrasion Resistant Coating on Composite Substrates
Deflagration Efficiencies in Metals
Abuse Tolerant High Energy LiCoPO4-Based 5V Li-ion Cells
Deployable graphene-based chemical/biological sensors
Active Sonar Interference Avoidance Planning
Detecting Malicious Circuits in IP-Core
Adaptable Standardized Modular Infrastructure for Optimal Space Utilization
Develop a Methodology for Cyber-Electronic Warfare Battle Damage Assessment (BDA)
Adaptive antenna structures
Developing and Improving Commercial Marine Algal Culture in the United States
Adaptive Instruction Authoring Tools
Developing Failure Stability in High-Reliability Sensor Design and Applications
Adaptive Inter-Cylinder Output Balancing System (AICOBS)
Development and Verification Tools/Processes for ASICs and FPGAs
Adaptive Radar Detection Approaches for Low-RCS Maritime Vessels in Highly Variable
Development of a Multiplex Bioassay for Early Predictors of Multiple Organ Injury
Adaptive Screen Materials for Image Projection
Development of a Multiplex Bioassay for Early Predictors of Multiple Organ Injury
Adaptive, Immersive Training to Counter Deception and Denial Tactics, Techniques and  Sharing of Intelligence and Planning Information for Multi-Agency Coordination
Development of Analysis Techniques for Predicting Magnetic Anomaly Detection (MAD)
High-Performance, Low-Power, Acceleration-Compensated Oscillator Technology
Multi-Stage, Multi-Phase, High Efficiency, Intelligent, Electrical Energy Conversion Unit
Holographic Lightfield 3D Display Metrology (HL3DM)
Multimodal-Multidimensional image fusion for morphological and functional evaluation
Hot Stamping of Thick Gage Armored Steels
Multiple Sonobuoy Data Association and Classification
Hot Surface Ignition Apparatus for Aviation Fuels
MWIR Seeker-Sensor for Strap Down Weapon/SUAS applications
Hybridization Techniques for Ultra-Small Pitch Focal Plane Arrays
Near Real-Time Processing Techniques for Generation of Integrated Data Products
Hydrogen Generation from Water and Full or Partial Replacement of Petroleum Fuels in
Net-Centric Collaborative Environment for Littoral Combat Ship (LCS)
Imaging Techniques for Passive Atmospheric Turbulence Compensation
New METSAT Display Service for Weather-Ready Nation
Improve Energy Source for NDI Equipment Tools
Next Generation Rad Hard Reduced Instruction Set Computer
Improved AFSCN FCT Simulator
Noise Canceling Rad Hard Extremely High Frequency (EHF) Low Noise Amplifier
Improved Computerized Ground Forces for Close Air Support Training
Non-Destructive Inspection for Medium Caliber Gun Barrel Fatigue Crack

Sensing and Control Technology to Assist in Vehicle Launch and Recovery
Development and Translation of Medical Technologies to Reduce Health Disparities (SBIR) (R43/R44)
2013 SBIR
Feb 25, 2013
Apr 23, 2013
Jan 7, 2014
Reissue PHS 2013-02 Omnibus Solicitation of the NIH, CDC, FDA and ACF for Small Business Innovation Research Grant Applications (Parent SBIR [R43/R44])
2013 SBIR
May 30, 2013
Jul 5, 2013
Jan 7, 2014
Reissue PHS 2013-02 Omnibus Solicitation of the NIH for Small Business Technology Transfer Grant Applications (Parent STTR [R41/R42])
2013 STTR
May 30, 2013
Jul 5, 2013
Jan 7, 2014
Phase IIB Grants for Brain and Behavior Tools
2011 SBIR
Feb 28, 2011
Mar 5, 2011
Jan 8, 2014
Complex Technologies and Therapeutics Development for Mental Health Research and Practice
2011 SBIR
Feb 25, 2011
Mar 5, 2011
Jan 8, 2014
Lab to Marketplace: Tools for Brain and Behavioral Research
2011 SBIR
Feb 25, 2011
Mar 5, 2011 
Jan 8, 2014
NOAA Small Business Innovation Research FY2014
2014 SBIR & STTR
Nov 13, 2013
Nov 13, 2013
Jan 29, 2014
NASA SBIR 2014 Program Solicitation
2014 SBIR
Nov 14, 2013
Nov 14, 2013
Jan 29, 2014

Development of novel and emerging technologies for the accurate detection and diagnosis of polymicrobial infections in biomedical laboratory animal models
2011 SBIR
Sep 16, 2011
Nov 5, 2011
Sep 8, 2014
Development of Novel and Emerging Technologies for the Accurate Detection and Diagnosis of Polymicrobial Infections in Biomedical Laboratory Animal Models
2011 STTR
Sep 16, 2011
Nov 5, 2011
Sep 8, 2014
Lab to Marketplace: Tools for Biomedical and Behavioral Research
2011 SBIR
Sep 8, 2011
Nov 5, 2011
Sep 8, 2014
Development of Appropriate Pediatric Formulations and Drug Delivery Systems
2011 SBIR
Aug 11, 2011
Nov 5, 2011
Sep 8, 2014

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Startup Booktrope is Winner of Fourth Seattle Angel Conference Investment Competition

Winner receives $205,000 Investment, 37 new Angel Investors gain hands on
investment training.

SEATTLE, WA. – November 20, 2013 — The Seattle Angel Conference announced today
Booktrope Seattle Startup Winner Seatttle Angel Conference IV
that Booktrope ( was selected as the winner of its fourth investment competition, held in Seattle, WA, at the Impact HUB Seattle. Booktrope is a Seattle based company that has been building their web based book publishing model and technology
for two years. Their mission is to reinvent book publishing, using web-­‐‑based tools for
book development, production and marketing. Booktrope will receive a $205,000 angel
award investment from the Seattle Angel Conference IV LLC .

This event’s finalist companies were selected from over 40 companies based throughout
Washington that applied to compete at the fourth Seattle Angel Conference. A rigorous
selection process (known as due diligence) was undertaken by the 37 active angel
investors to select the winning company. Thirty to Fifty hours of investigation was
performed on each finalist, amounting to over 240 hours of due diligence. Each investor
staked $5,500 to $10,000 to create the $205,000 investment award for this year’s event.
This rounds investment brings the total investment from the Seattle Angel Conference to a
remarkable $625,000 invested in the local economy and over 110 investors educated about
angel investing in just 2 years of the Seattle Angel Conference. LaserMotive, a Seattle
startup who delivers electricity via light to critical assets won a secondary deal of $55,000
from the angel investors, as “their business plan was just too good to pass up”.

“The Seattle Angel Conference is all about educating new angel investors into effectively
evaluating and supporting Washington and pacific northwest start-­‐‑ups , giving new angel
investors mentoring, training and experience.,” said John Sechrest, founder of the Seattle
Angel Conference. “At the same time, we are helping promising startups improve their
business models”.

The other four finalists who pitched were DiscussIO, offering simple market research,
connecting companies to panelists; Suncrest using advanced hydroponics to grow and
market local lettuce year round; graZie Mobile, providing bar and restaurant apps that
entice and incentive customer engagement and Homeschool Technical Apparel, creating
the most durable highly breathable outerwear to keep you warm and dry.

Participating companies received awards of 3 months of HR resource service from sponsor
ADP, and the winner, Booktrope received a full year, giving these startup business the
tools they need to grow from recruitment through retirement. In addition, Impact Hub
Seattle, Makerspace and SURF Incubator offered each finalist support and space for
working, meetings, or events over the next year. AterWynne, Palo Alto Software and
Edoceo also provided sponsorship.

The next Seattle Angel Conference will be held in May 2014. All Washington startups and
interested investors should inquire in January about participating in the next round of
educational events, trainings, and competition. Deadline for applications will be March 1,

About the Seattle Angel Conference
Each Seattle Angel Conference culminates a 5 month program to educate and train
accredited investors as exemplary angel investors through workshops, hands-­‐‑on practice
and mentoring. The Seattle Angel Conference is an investor driven conference, connecting
new angel investors with early stage and seed businesses in the Greater Seattle Area. The
Seattle Angel Conference introduces qualified investors to the potential, process and
rewards of angel investing, and equally importantly, works to encourage, accelerate and
coach startup companies in the Seattle areas and across the Northwest. For more
information see
John Sechrest
Seattle Angel Conference
c: 541 250 0844

Monday, November 11, 2013

Wade Brooks on Angel Investing

Come learn returns of Angel Investors overall and more about the Willamette MBA Angel Fund.  Wade  will be the Capstone Speaker at the Seattle Angel Conference on December 13, 2012

Wade is the Executive Director of the Willamette University Angel Investment Fund, the first and only graduate school angel fund program of its kind. Wade co-founded this program with Rob Wiltbank, PhD and it provides experiential learning for MBA students in effectuation, due diligence and seed-level investing. It was ranked by Inc. Magazine as one of the "Top 10 Best Entrepreneurship Courses of 2011," alongside classes at Harvard Business School, Stanford Graduate School of Business and the University of Chicago Booth School of Business.
In addition to the Angel Fund, Wade teaches courses in entrepreneurship, new venture launch and venture investing at the Willamette University Atkinson Graduate School of Management. He also serves on the board of private companies. While he has taught corporate finance and capstone courses, entrepreneurship remains his passion.
When I founded the Willamette Angel Conference, we were lucky to have interest from the Willamette MBA Angel Fund. We had two students representing the Angel Fund work along side each of the investors in the Conference Investor LLC. They had made an actual investment into Conference and participated fully in the process. The investment discussions were definately better off having the MBA students engaging in the process.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Reflections on angel due diligence

As we approach deeper due diligence on the group of companies being considered for our 4th angel investment at the Seattle Angel Conference, I get to thinking about the hundreds of startups we've seen and reflect on the biggest challenges those startups have faced in the past. I also get to thinking about how those challenges could have been discovered earlier in the due diligence process.

There will always be challenges investing in early stage companies, some big and some small. The goal is to avoid the big ones as much as possible and understand how to mitigate the small ones. There are a lot of angel investing guides being published recently, as the historic JOBS Act general solicitation rules were put into effect on Sept. 23. I will reflect on the startups we've seen and the pitfalls we could have seen earlier. I won't rehash all of those great posts (a short list of some good ones are below).
Past Seattle Angel Conference Investments
Thinking about past Seattle Angel Conference Investments, the challenges we've run into that have made a company "un-investable" for the seattle angel conference LLC members are quite varied. The variability is higher than most early stage funds as the people in the LLC making the investment decisions change for each investment round. This changing of the guard is a planned part of our approach to investing and training new investors. For example, one investment fund may have a medical professional, allowing us to better analyze startups in that space, while another investment fund may not have a medical professional, causing us to pass over some startups we don't feel confident we can do adequate due diligence with our team.

Across the four rounds of investment so far, the shortcomings we see fall into the main categories that most early stage investors call out as the most important (read my series on the most important things for early stage investors for more insight here). There isn't a specific order to the three main categories, but there is clearly a need for startups to focus emphasis placed on team, then product/market and finally the business model.  

Absentee founders
We see a lot of very early stage companies and this means that many of the teams are being founded by people in the process of leaving their current job or are holding consulting roles to pay the bills. Sometimes that works well and the founders have moonlighting arrangements and solid plans to go full time on their startup at given milestones such as our investment. For others, there are no moonlighting arrangements or no solid plan to quit the day job and go full time. Founders MUST be COMMITTED and PRESENT. Finding a startup with a founder that has a minimal level engagement in their venture and the fund raising process like this is an issue we've seen a few times. We've never found a great startup that had an absentee founder on the team, yet as part of the training process for new investors we frequently entertain the idea of investing in a startup despite absentee founders making up a significant part of the team.
Other team issues we see:
  • Wrong people - we have seen a number of startups that simply have the wrong people on staff. That isn't to say that every team must be 100% perfect, but having the wrong people on the team can be difficult if the team is not willing to change. It may be they need strong sales and have no person on the team who can make the first critical sales (see my post on Rudy Gadre’s view on founder charisma). Or it may be that they have founders taking equity or salaries and are providing no value to the business. Expect that we will be analyzing who should and shouldn't be on the team early and have a frank conversation after a pitch or over coffee about what needs to happen to get the right team on board.
  • Wrong formation/agreements – It’s a rare start up that can get invested as an LLC, and if you don't own the IP, you're in a world of hurt.   Examples:– the team has formed their company as an LLC and need to take venture capital in the future to be successful, they need to be a C-corp. Check out Joe Wallin and Scott Usher’s post on incorporating an LLC.
Thinking about the product/market fit part of the equation we've seen a number of issues such as scaling issues, wrong people for the product, lack of competitive differentiation. The largest or at least most common issue in this area is definitely products that have no competitive differentiation.

Lack of competitive differentiation
Quite often we see businesses with a product that simply has no way to attract enough customers in a short enough period of time given the existing marketplace and existing competitors. Too often there are already many competitors in the space and the startup doesn't  have anything incredibly unique that sets them apart. These may be great businesses and while their market is expanding they will certainly experience high growth. The difficulty comes in when the market stops expanding and they are faced with competitors who may be hungrier and better positioned than they are to expand market share.   
The last issue we have seen come up with some regularity is related to the business model/economics of the business itself. This includes businesses that won’t make enough margin in relation to the other economics of their business, as well as businesses that simply aren’t raising or can’t raise enough money to move fast enough to succeed.  Companies raising the wrong amount of money because they don't understand their cash needs is a frequent red flag or "disqualifier".

Raising just enough money to fail
This problem plagues early stage growth companies all the time and it is fairly well documented by entrepreneurs and investors alike. Raising too little money to do anything meaningful to get to the next milestone. Raising too much money so the valuation is out of whack or the ability to raise the next round is hindered because the money was spent poorly. Raising money for the wrong reasons. Not focusing on customer acquisition in exchange for focusing only on raising money. The problem with identifying this type of problem early is that it can sometimes take really getting to know a business to be able to determine if they are raising the right amount of money and for the right reasons. Perhaps this is why the team and product/market fit come earlier in the analysis for most early stage investors. For the Seattle Angel Conference, I think most of these business model and fund raising issues will always be found in the final due diligence that we perform on the final six potential companies. 

We need to get better at passing down the learning from one investor group to the next, but the complexity and uniqueness of each company makes it hard.  We as members of the LLC should spend more time studying other investors, and sharing best practices with each other, both before and during the SAC process.  Here are some great resources to use to increase your investor knowledge.  Please share whatever you find most useful with your fellow investors. 

Locally, both Andy Sack and Chris Devore post insights on their investments regularly. There are a few other must reads such as Paul Graham, Brad Feld, Fred Wilson, Mark Suster, and Hunter Walk. In terms of following great early stage entrepreneurs we have some locally such as T.A. McCann, Dan Shapiro, and other great ones from around the country such as Sequoia Capital’s ‘grove’.

Regardless of whether you are a part of a Seattle Angel Conference investor fund or are doing your own early stage due diligence, identifying the pitfalls above earlier will be important for making smart decisions faster. As we continue to focus on educating new early stage investors, we will continue to look for ways to identify major pitfalls earlier in the process and leave the multitude of smaller pitfalls for later in the process.

Follow Josh on twitter @joshmaher

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Changes in Jobs Act - Summary for StartUps

Note: We are not lawyers, this is not legal advice.  Please consult your lawyer for details

The revised JOBSACT will change the regulations for solicitation of funding.  Most of us know this as the start to really open "crowdsource" funding, (via "general soliciation") but there are many other serious implications as well. Know the rule changes.  Consult your lawyer.  Be compliant.  Here are some changes to expect

  • Reach more investors. General solicitation gives access to investors well outside your  local investment community. Communication tools such as blogs, e-mail newsletters and social media will let you  reach many more potential investors. The amended JOBsAct rules will allow startups to use social media, email and other methods to communicate with the general public to find new  accredited investors. 

  • Burden on you to verify accredited investor status. Start ups are required to take "reasonable steps" to verify that investor under Rules 506(c) are "accredited investors". Companies should talk with their lawyer about how best to confirm that all investors qualify .  Membership in an investing group, such as the Seattle Angel conference,  may facilitate or provide the "reasonable steps" for the entrepreneurs.  The SEC  indicates that having an investor check a box on a questionnaire is not sufficient to verify accredited status,additional information must be obtained.

  • You will have to differentiate yourself even more. With general solicitation available,  more investors will learn about potential startup investments. You will have to differentiate yourself from the maddening crowd. You will need to consider what types of solicitation and advertising are appropriate for your business, and level of investment required.  

  • Getting deep and intrusive with your investors.  
  • If you use the new general solicitation rules outside of an angel investing group or conference, you must request personal and private financial information from investors, or must find some other appropriate way to demonstrate that the investors are accredited. Requesting such information, or obtaining other verification may deter potential investors. 

  • Role of angelfunding sites and angel groups   
  • The new rules further highlight the importance of Angel Groups, and  web-based platforms that facilitate investing.  General as well as sector focused Angel websites, angel groups, and and other matchmakers will help entrepreneurs and investors to verify accredited status in accordance with the new rules.  There will be a lot of competition and complexity until the market shakes out.  Find out where the investors are going and planning to look for deals, and make sure you're there, especially for your location and business sector, as many Angels like to invest locally and/or in a specific business sector.

  • Existing Rule 506b is still in effect.  
  • Issuers do not need to use the new rules. The SEC has made it clear that these changes  are limited to transactions under new Rule 506(c). Issuers may continue to rely on Rule 506(b) and conduct private offerings the "old way," provided that no general solicitation or general advertising is used.
  • Possible Additional Filings and Disclosures: 
  •  New proposed rules (not yet in effect) would further require disclosures before solicitation.
  • Disqualification of "bad actors"

    The SEC also changed Rule 506 to disqualifies start ups from relying on Rule 506 if "bad actors" are participating in the offering.   If your company has a current or previous "issuer" with any of the following,  Do not pass go...
    • Criminal convictions in connection with the purchase or sale of a security, making of a false filing with the SEC or arising out of the conduct of certain types of financial intermediaries. The criminal conviction must have occurred within 10 years of the proposed sale of securities (or five years in the case of the issuer and its predecessors and affiliated issuers).
    • Court injunctions and restraining orders in connection with the purchase or sale of a security, making of a false filing with the SEC, or arising out of the conduct of certain types of financial intermediaries. The injunction or restraining order must have occurred within five years of the proposed sale of securities.
    • Final orders from the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, federal banking agencies, the National Credit Union Administration, or state regulators of securities, insurance, banking, savings associations, or credit unions that …
      • Bar the issuer from associating with a regulated entity, engagingin the business of securities, insurance or banking, or engaging insavings association or credit union activities, or…
      • Are based on fraudulent, manipulative, or deceptive conduct andare issued within 10 years of the proposed sale of securities.
    • Certain SEC disciplinary orders relating to brokers, dealers, municipal securities dealers, investment companies, and investment advisers and their associated persons.
    • SEC cease-and-desist orders related to violations of certain anti-fraud provisions and registration requirements of the federal securities laws.
    • SEC stop orders and orders suspending the Regulation A exemption issued within five years of the proposed sale of securities.
    • Suspension or expulsion from membership in a self-regulatory organization (SRO) or from association with an SRO member.
    • U.S. Postal Service false representation orders issued within five years before the proposed sale of securities
If in doubt about the new rules, check with your lawyer. The last thing you want to do is inadvertently put your startup on the wrong side of the general solicitation rules.