Carl Nelson Consulting

SBIR for high tech innovators

Consulting on Getting and Using SBIR

Carl Nelson Consulting helps small high-tech firms with new technology get and use federal government R&D funding for innovations from the Small Business Innovation Research program (SBIR). To be eligible you must be (or become) a mostly US-owned for-profit small (under 500 employees) firm doing R&D in the USA. The money is free - no repayment and no equity taken. You propose on a government specified schedule for a small award (Phase I) $100-150K to show feasibility of your idea. If that works, you can propose some serious money (Phase II) $1M or maybe more to develop some kind of prototype. Then you are on your own. For more details, see Doing SBIR.

  • 23 years helping about 100 SBIR proposers and hopefuls

  • ten years as sole decider of 10,000 SBIR proposals at Ballistic Missile Defense Organization  (Star Wars),  now called Missile Defense Agency,  and one cycle for the DARPA Technology Reinvestment Program

  • 37 years in Department of Defense, mostly R&D, 

  • degrees in Chemical Engineering  (Rensselaer Poly), and  years of rocket science

  • more ....  publications and references
Consulting On
  • getting and using SBIR

  • getting a life after SBIR (commercialization);

  • dealing with government (ugh);

  • who and where are the SBIR firms;

  • why you can't get SBIR for anti-gravity

  • the competitive world of SBIR

SBIR Government websites

Defense Department    the biggest; mostly safe military mission stuff. Next round: Jul 2, 2020 two DARPA special solicitation close Apr 20 and May 26

National Institutes of Health second biggest, funds human science from cell chemistry to mending behavior. Next round:  variable and frequent

National Science Foundation  SBIR's originator, funds a hodge-podge of science. Next round: March 5, 2020  open now

NASA big; funds safe space science. Next round:  April 20, 2020  

Department of Energy  a bit quirky. Next round:  Oct 2020

And smaller agencies: Agriculture, EPA, Commerce, Transportation  fund a few 

Small Business Administration - policy poobah, does not  fund SBIR.

Non-Government websites

General SBIR questions, especially about Congress: SBIR legislation and general help  Ann Eskesen, SBIR cheerleader and data collector

More links .....

What Some Clients Said:

"Thanks for the critique from hell. Now that you've leveled the ivory towers, let's see what we can make of the pieces left strewn about."

"It has been one of the most intense weeks I have ever experienced. It was great to have a skeptical graybeard to keep me focused. "

"Your comments on our lack of a business plan are absolutely right. To that end, we are in the process of finalizing an agreement to create a two-level business plan."

"Thanks for the help and especially the coaching. I know you do it for money, but you do it well and good spirited."

"You've won my respect as an editor"

"Thank you for the advice. I will add an exciting introduction which gives the reader a better "feel" for the potential of this technology."

Ask Yourself

  • What Do You Want To Be? besides a government contractor

  • What's So Compelling About Your Idea? and if so, Why Government?

  • Does Time Matter?

  • Does Business Matter as Much as Science?

  • What Will You Do If It Works?

  • Do You Mind If Government Owns Your Idea?

  • Can You Eat Just One Potato Chip? many companies live on SBIR

Concepts you need

  • Competitive Advantage

  • Figure-of Merit

  • A credible Market (could be government)

  • A compelling story

Nelson's Subjects

Getting SBIR

If You Don't Know SBIR

  • How does it work?
  • Can you get some?
  • Which half of what you know is wrong?
  • Do you need me?

If You Already Have SBIR Scars

  • Does your Phase 2 proposal sell your idea?
  • So you lost, now what?
  • Can I schmooze anybody to help you?
  • How much do you need me?

English Usage: The difference between "its" and "it's",  and "principal" and "principle"?

Contract Negotiation:
  • What are you entitled to?
  • What do the SBIR rules really say?
  • How does government think?
  • Can you keep the prototype?
  • Does your language undercut your story?
  • Should proposals sound like mystery novels?
  • Can you write a great sentence with verbs?
  • Can you write a great sentence with verbs?
Research and Development:
  • government R&D;
  • organization and strategy;
  • commercialization and dual-use;
  • government R&D policy
Small Business America:
  • Where are the 700 companies with BMDO SBIR?
  • Which of the 2800 proposers really have something?
  • Does the government do what it says it intends?

Some Samples of Consulting:

Company A has a Phase 1 but no Phase 2 experience. It would like Phase 2 (it thinks). I help it decide what to ask for, help structure the request, search for interested people in and out of government, and advise on how to find whatever else it needs (capital and partners). Compensation: a low hourly rate plus a percentage of the Phase 2 award amount. Sometimes part payment in equity.

NOTE: You cannot pay for proposal preparation or general business advice from SBIR funds.
Nor can you pay a contingency fee to anyone just for getting a government contract.
Nor can you use the SBIR money to pay for work already done.

Company B, just forming, has a new technology with high commercial potential, but never had SBIR. I help it propose Phase 1s and then Phase 2s. Compensation: a low hourly rate plus a rising percentage of the SBIR award amounts.

Company C has had quite a few SBIRs but realizes that one group of its technologists is living on SBIR with no convincing moves toward the market. I lend the wisdom, small company knowledge, analytical skills, and a sense of humor for re-structuring the company. Compensation: a fixed hourly rate with large portion paid in equity of either the parent or any spinoff entreprises.

Company D is mostly commercial with some SBIRs. It has a problem negotiating Phase 2 with a DOD agency. I help it understand the agency and present its case. Compensation: a fixed hourly rate.

Company E had lots of SBIRs but wants a periodic strategic review of where it's going (whether it knows it or not). Compensation: a fixed hourly rate.

Business angels seek small high-tech companies to invest in. I introduce SBIR firms to investors who may want what they offer. Or venture matchmaker F wants private businesses to seek investment. Compensation: a percentage of whatever investment is made by the investors introduced.

Company G wants occasional advice on SBIR or government. I answer dial-a-question. Compensation: a fixed hourly rate (but no couch).

Company H has SBIR for new technology. I help it network in its technical world and lend general advice (but don't bobble detailed technical questions). Compensation: a fixed hourly rate.

Entrepreneur on-the-loose (just been bought out by $2B company) seeks a new product that he can build a company around. I match him with innovative developers. Compensation: royalty or equity position in the new enterprise.

Other Compensation Schemes: innovative win-win incentives considered