Starburst Webinar Summary: ‘DoD Not Slowing Down: Opportunities for Startups Post COVID-19’

Starburst hosted a U.S. DoD Virtual Round-Table on May 7th titled ‘DoD Not Slowing Down: Opportunities for Startups Post COVID-19’.

This meeting featured keynote speaker Dr. Will Roper, Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics, along with experts from AF Ventures, Space and Missile Systems Center, DoD Rapid Recreation Technology Office, Navel X, Defense Innovation Unit (DIU), AFWERX  and In-Q-Tel.

The Air Force facilitates Technology Accelerators through AFWERX that provide businesses with education, resources, mentorship, and access to investors and customers in order to bolster those companies’ likelihood of success. Businesses can propose innovative ideas through AFWERX using a 3-tier process for proposals (each step increases probability of consistent contract).

  1. Bring proposal to AFWERX (potential reward of approximately $50,000)
  2. Businesses have 90 days to find and convince customer(s) of worth. Investments first come from a customer and theinvestment is matched by the program and sometimes private investors start investing as well (potential reward of approximately $1.5-2M)
  3. “Big bet” or contract (potential reward of approximately $30-40M)

While following this proposal process, businesses should be marketing ideas to potential customers. Experts from this webinar proposed a few avenues through which businesses can pitch to potential customers:

  • AFWERX is developing a calendar online of pitch events where businesses can pitch proposals.
  • Check DIU website regularly for pitch opportunities.
  • Register for pitch events and trade shows (Collider events / Space Pitch Day)
  • Cold call or reach out to potential customers on LinkedIn

The A&D industry is evolving rapidly, with new vehicles, technology, and advanced manufacturing processes. Webinar speakers mentioned a few areas that may present higher opportunities for businesses:

  • Automation solutions
  • Software (i.e. – sensor tasking)
  • AI/AR
  • In-Q-Tel-specifically mentioned: manufacturing technology, materials, life sciences and bio investing (especially now), autonomous systems, platform sensors, processing technology, cybersecurity, enterprise technology, machine interfaces.