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Mar 23, 2020

The Three Best R&D Teams If This Is Your First Pitch

Time to read: 5 min

Some [companies] are more equal than others…

If this is your first pitch to an R&D team then these programs may be your best bets based solely on the % of their funding decisions that go to first or second time recipients:

On the civilian side:

  • Commerce

  • ARPA-E

  • NSF

On the defense side:

  • Air Force Dual-Use

  • Office of the Sec Def


Federal Foundry webpage (R&D).002.jpeg


Why this analysis is utterly useless…

Sure, data is great, but if the data doesn’t actually help you make a better decision it is kind of useless. And this data doesn’t really help you make better decisions because:

1) If funding to technologies like yours don’t come around very often then you have to jump on any opportunities you can regardless of whether the R&D team is dominated by repeat players.

2) Big players tend to focus on the best funded research areas, so if you’re doing something out-of-the ordinary (e.g. that isn’t funded very often) the repeat players likely don’t have great solutions to pitch.

Why this analysis is super helpful…

On the other hand, this data can help you make better decisions.

If lots of R&D team are putting out topics in your area (e.g. likely to be a focus area for repeat players) you could wait for a viable topic from an R&D team that has fewer repeat-players


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If you do pitch to an R&D team that has a lot of repeat players…

Here are some things to improve your chances of winning

  • Convince the R&D team you will be compliant. You’re looking for federal money which means the people handing it out are scrutinized, so convince them that even though you’re new you’re not going to make administrative/ regulatory mistakes that will get them in trouble and you can do this by including someone on the proposed research team that has extensive federal grants management experiencer and by making sure your pitch and budget are compliant.

  • Figure out the “unwritten” expectations for the pitch. The RFP will give you the blueprint for your pitch but repeat players also understand the style and other unwritten norms that this customer likes, so go find a redacted proposal from this R&D team and/or an advisor who has successfully pitched to help you out.

  • Be bold. In my experience repeat players pitch safe incremental solutions, and if the funding committee is deciding between:

    • A safe incremental solution from a repeat player that they know will do a good job and not screw up the reporting/ compliance and

    • A safe incremental solution from you, who they don’t know and who might screw up the reporting and compliance…

    You’re going to lose. So be bold!


Why does it have to be either or why can’t I do both and…

You can pitch to as many R&D teams as you want (the repeat player heavy and the repeat player light ones) but if you do you’ll have to disclose that you’re pitching to multiple R&D teams and the anecdotal wisdom is that your chances of getting funded by any of them will go way down. I have no data to back this up but it is conventional wisdom so wanted to pass it along

That being said if you have time and you don’t mind writing multiple pitches I say go for it!

Data is a liar…sometimes…

I want to be really clear, our analysis at best shows correlation NOT causation. The chart shows how often funding went to a company that had previously received funding, it does NOT show that a company got funded BECAUSE they were previously funded. In fact from my conversations with funding officers they want to fund new companies so:

1) Pitch: R&D teams frequently only get pitches from repeat players, so if you see something go after it!

2) Be compliant: Show that you will nail the compliance when you’re funded by nailing the pitch compliance.


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