42 Investment Summit: SaaS Universe

Our friends at Unit.City and Center 42 Innovation Agency are running a Saas VC conference in the next few weeks. Contact Kirill Mazur (km at unit dot city) for more information.

https://42.unit.city/42-investment-summit

42 Investment Summit: SaaS Universe is a new series of unique CEE tech events for business leaders, investors, creative entrepreneurs and international guests in Kyiv, the second creative capital of Europe 😉 

We will gather a community of 300 brightest people from venture capital funds, angel investors, a lot of business founders, corporate executives, startup ecosystem leaders, business associations, GR and media from Ukraine and CEE region to make new relevant connections, deals, find business opportunities and ideas for cooperation and future growth. 

The topic of this event – SaaS Universe.
Subscription business model (SaaS) changes everything. Now, it doesn’t matter where you have located your office – you can earn money globally and be competitive globally as well. And Ukraine and CEE already have a lot of successful SaaS-stories – like Grammarly (Ukrainian SaaS startup which top-5 in the list of world’s most innovative companies in AI who just raised $110 mln. in last round). 

And yes – we want to bring more international people and capital to Kyiv! 

New SBIR Program Changes – Project Pitch

SBIR is allowing companies to submit a short pitch to determine if their project is of interest to SBIR funding. The details are as follows:

https://seedfund.nsf.gov/project-pitch/

Project Pitch

The required Project Pitch allows startups and small businesses to get quick feedback at the start of their application for Phase I funding from America’s Seed Fund powered by NSF.

Startups or entrepreneurs who submit a three-page Project Pitch* will know within three weeks if they meet the program’s objectives to support innovative technologies that show promise of commercial and/or societal impact and involve a level of technical risk. They will also get additional guidance and feedback from NSF staff.

If your Project Pitch is a good fit for the program, you will receive an official invitation from NSF to submit a full proposal. If you’re not invited to submit, you’ll be told why your project is not appropriate for the program.

Along with your company information, you’ll have to outline four key elements in your Project Pitch:

1. The Technology Innovation. (Up to 500 words)

Describe the technical innovation that would be the focus of a Phase I project, including a brief discussion of the origins of the innovation as well as explanation as to why it meets the program’s mandate to focus on supporting research and development (R&D) of unproven, high-impact innovations.

2. The Technical Objectives and Challenges. (Up to 500 words)

Describe the R&D or technical work to be done in a Phase I project, including a discussion of how and why the proposed work will help prove that the product or service is technically feasible and/or significantly reduce technical risk. Discuss how, ultimately, this work could contribute to making the new product, service, or process commercially viable and impactful. This section should also convey that the proposed work meets the definition of R&D, rather than straightforward engineering or incremental product development tasks.

3. The Market Opportunity. (Up to 250 words)

Describe the customer profile and pain point(s) that will be the near-term commercial focus related to this technical project.

4. The Company and Team. (Up to 250 words)

Describe the background and current status of the applicant small business, including key team members who will lead the technical and/or commercial efforts discussed in this Project Pitch.

Visit the online form to submit your Project Pitch or to preview the required fields. More details about the NSF’s new process and eligibility requirements are on our Apply page.

*Each small business can only submit one Project Pitch at a time and up to two Project Pitches per submission window. (The submission windows for 2019 are March 4-June 13 and June 14-December 12). Any small business with a pending Project Pitch must wait for a response before submitting another Project Pitch. Any small business that has received an invitation to submit a full proposal must wait for a resolution of the full proposal before submitting a new or revised Project Pitch.

Korean Entrepreneurship

The Neutrino Donut, LLC will be part of a project to evaluate startups in Korea and bring a group of them to Los Angeles. This project will involve a judging program in Korea and multiple companies selected to come to LA. As part of this program, these companies will have meetings with potential customers, international consulates, and the investor community in Santa Monica and Los Angeles.

Commercialization in the Grant Process

The Neutrino Donut recently completed a series of review sessions on grants for SBIR, DoD, and a few other places. Commercialization has been a weakness in the process. Let’s review.

  1. You need commercialization experts on your team. People who have taken a product into the marketplace. Not your friend’s nephew and definitely not the grad student who worked on the project.
  2. Who are your customers? Who is going to buy your product? If you have to resell them the product next year, will they be around to buy it? Also, a minor point – do they have money to spend on you?
  3. Who are you selling to? Who approves the sale? Where is purchasing in this process? Who can veto your sale?
  4. How do you create ongoing revenue? Selling to someone once and moving on does not work.
  5. Have you considered partnerships with people who already work with your targeted customers?
  6. Do you need product certifications, such as security with the Amazon Cloud product? This is where the partnership discussion above comes in handy.
  7. Do you have IP that can be acquired?
  8. Do you have any competitors? Don’t forget – doing nothing is a competitor.

Find a consulting organization who can help you with the commercialization part. That would be us at The Neutrino Donut, LLC.

Secrets from the Review Panel – February 2019

The Neutrino Donut recently completed several review panels for grants for DoD and NIH. Here are a few things to remember:

  1. There is a large group of people in the room. Each person has different expertise and different expectations on evaluations. All members comment on specific aspects (science, statistics, commercialization, regulator planning, ethics, user reactions) and rate the overall process.
  2. Score variants between members are generally limited, based upon the discussion. These score variants are discussed as well to understand the issues.
  3. Conflict of interests are aggressively managed.
  4. The suggestion a competing grant winner was able to block your idea is simply not true. There are too many people in the process. Your idea didn’t make it on merit.
  5. There are a limited number of winners. Even if you have a good idea, that may not be enough. You have to be a winner amongst the winners.
  6. We read the applications. Boy, do we ever. We recognize cutting and pasting from other grants, spelling mistakes, incorrect references, and so forth. Grant language which may not be appropriate which has been copied is noticed. It may not hurt, but it doesn’t help. See the winner amongst winner comment above.
  7. Read the feedback. A lot of time goes into the writing and it is designed to provide guidance on re-submitting your grant. You have a group of serious experts giving your idea feedback.
  8. On the DoD grant review, vets are included in the sessions. Their comments have been key to the success of a grant. So, talk to the consumers of your product about your idea. Meditation is a great idea until you are trying to implement the program to someone who is on active duty in a battle zone. Patients can’t smoke at Walter Reed. Prosthesis which do not have ball bearing problems are a good thing. Things I learned recently…
  9. As the commercialization expert, this is a weak spot for grant writers. Get someone who has taken similar technologies to the marketplace to be part of your team. Not a family friend, but a real player. Universities are filled with entrepreneurship programs.
  10. Figure out the IP early on and decide how you want to manage the process. Don’t write it off.
  11. Look at commercial opportunities for your technologies. The concussion marketplace has many opportunities outside the military. These commercial relationships will advance your research and provide more funding. What is not to like?

Department of Defense Grant Review Programs

The Neutrino Donut is part of a group of scientists who are evaluating technologies for DoD funding. We are providing evaluation services relating to commercialization of these opportunities. This is our third review panel and we are able to provide insights to our clients on process and commercialization processes within grant programs.