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Advice for the Tech Startup CEO Considering A Federal Strategy

Advice for the Tech Startup CEO Considering A Federal Strategy

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Published by Bob Gourley
This paper is designed to provide insights that can help any tech firm seeking to grow in the federal space. It captures advice we provide elsewhere (including the online site at GovWit.com) and flows from our belief that there are understandable and learnable principles that can help any tech firm decide when and how to enter the federal market.

We also believe too many small tech firms either ignore these principles and lose time/money/business because of it, or they wrongly believe they can only succeed in the federal space by paying a large consultancy to bring them to the market. Most of these principles are easily observable by anyone who has spent time in the federal ecosystem and should be freely available to anyone who seeks to study the market.
This paper is designed to provide insights that can help any tech firm seeking to grow in the federal space. It captures advice we provide elsewhere (including the online site at GovWit.com) and flows from our belief that there are understandable and learnable principles that can help any tech firm decide when and how to enter the federal market.

We also believe too many small tech firms either ignore these principles and lose time/money/business because of it, or they wrongly believe they can only succeed in the federal space by paying a large consultancy to bring them to the market. Most of these principles are easily observable by anyone who has spent time in the federal ecosystem and should be freely available to anyone who seeks to study the market.

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Published by: Bob Gourley on Oct 04, 2013
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial

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09/09/2014

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WhitePaper:AdvicefortheTechStartupCEOConsideringaFederalStrategy
October2013
Inside:
Whenshouldyoustandupafederaloffice?
Howdoyoulearngovernmentmissionneeds?
Whatisagoodstrategyregardingintegrators?
 
2
CTOlabs.com
 
Advice for Tech Startups Considering A Federal Strategy
I’m Bob Gourley, a former government technologist and current researcher/writer whotracks government mission needs and emerging technology. I end up giving lots of freeadvice to startup firms. I like that. It helps me help out small company CEOs and helpsme build a network of firms that may one day turn into clients or partners. But individualpoint to point discussions really don’t scale well. So I have been posting tips andsuggestions online at several of my websites (including at
GovWit.com
) to reachanyone who would like some starter ideas on a federal strategy. This white paper isbased on these online writings.
Background:
Most of what I write here comes from years of experience in the federal space. Over time and observation, principles emerge that can help any newcomer to this market getup to speed.But I cannot recommend a one-size-fits-all approach to this market. Every firm isdifferent. And every buyer in the federal space is different.
Which leads to my first big ask:
Please just consider the advice below a startingpoint. You will need to filter all these considerations through your own insights into your capability. And you may want a longer conversation with people you trust before youexecute on any strategy you develop after reading this. So please scrutinize thesesuggestions before acting on them.It is also important to note that opinions can vary on many elements of this. For methese are proven principles, but you may have other observations or may have heard of other approaches.
Which leads to the second big ask:
Please give me your feedback on the tips andstrategies you read here. I promise to keep evolving these recommendations and toprovide them free to others seeking to serve the federal market with potentially virtuoustechnologies.
 
3
DronesForFunandProfit
 
Standing Up Your Federal Office
There comes a time for every growing high tech startup when you will be faced with thedecision on whether or not you should stand up a federal office. You will want to timethis just right. If you do it too early you will be wasting money. If you do it too late youwill be losing an opportunity to grow and to serve the nation. A general rule of thumb for high tech firms pursuing federal business is that you willwant to be pursuing business for at least two Octobers. The government does businessevery day, but for software purchases there is a definite cycle centered around the endof the federal fiscal year. New firms that enter the federal market a few months beforethe end of the fiscal year can frequently benefit from money that must be spent or lost.But that will probably not be a statistically significant amount. The “two October” rule of thumb is an important one for planning purposes. As for when you start, here are some tips:1. Do you need to hire more engineers? If so that is probably a better deployment of your resources than standing up a federal office. Build a great, GA product.2. Have you detected any “demand” signals that indicate the government needs younow? This can help you decide how fast to move in this direction.3. Have you finished your B round of VC financing? If yes then we can assumeseveral things. One is that you have some staying power as a VC backed firm. Another is that you have some great VC’s that are probably connected into theDC ecosystem. Tap into their network and get their sense of whether or not youshould move towards the DC market.4. Do you see other firms with similar capabilities in the federal space? Look over our 
CTOlabs.com
site as a reference. Watching them may help you decidewhere you are on the federal readiness curve.5. As CEO, are you ready to personally invest time and energy working on thefederal market? If you are dedicated to this market you may want to stand upyour office earlier vice later. If you are not going to be able to focus personal timeand energy it may be that you should not aggressively work the federal office atthis time.6. What is the nature of your relationships with the federal systems integrators? Doyou have personal contacts at very senior levels? The strength of these

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