Last week, I was in New York and decided to stop by the Air Force Pitch Day. What a great experience. It’s so nice to see when government organizations figure out how to effective engage with startups, and then scale it!
At Air Force Pitch Day, the US Air Force awarded 51 contracts, each in 15 minutes or less, valued at a total of $8.75M. And this event was just a portion of the over $75M that was awarded for 242 contracts in just 10 days. Wow! Talk about doing more faster!
Caution! Alphabet soup ahead, but don’t worry, I’ll translate as we go…
Those companies got to Air Force Pitch Day by engaging with something called AFWERX, which is an “open dual-use” program (meaning something that applies to both military and commercials worlds). AFWERX has a program called SBIR, which is a way that startups can work with the US Air Force with little or no hassles. In a nutshell, barriers to working with the Air Force have been “mitigated” (blown up sir! – mostly removed!) for this program, and include a “shorter application process, an accelerated contract award, and a shorter period of performance.”
The most interesting companies end up at Air Force Pitch Day. Wow, I was blown away. There were some really exciting companies there. But I noticed only a handful of my friends in the venture capital industry showed up, which baffled me. So, I wanted to help get the word out. You have to check this out next time they do it! Here’s the page for investors where you can register your interest in attending.
And, here’s the page you care about if you’re a startup. Startups: Don’t be confused by them calling you a small business even though that’s not your aim. They’ll probably figure out you’re called a “startup” instead pretty soon! They mean you! Applications open again on April 19th, and close June 19th. You can get $50k initially and up to $3M over time. You can also just email them to learn more.
Techstars also runs accelerator programs in partnership with the US Air Force. The most obvious one is aptly called the Techstars Air Force Accelerator. It’s focused on dual-use (now you know what that means!) technologies that detect, track, identify, characterize, attribute or mitigate unmanned systems, to include sensors, compute hardware/software, image processing, AI, sensor fusion, secure comms, trusted ID, power systems, advanced materials, and man-machine interface. In addition, we seek immersive-training technologies, to include AR/VR and adult learning methods, gamification, social delivery and self-directed learning, data-enabled recruiting, training and education. In this program, you can get US $120,000 in funding as an investment from Techstars, and our intensive mentorship-driven accelerator program. Techstars also recently launched a Space tech accelerator program with the Air Force in partnership with Starburst, JPL NASA, Lockheed Martin, SAIC, Maxar Technologies and Israel Aerospace Industries (an admittedly long but ridiculously cool list of partners). If you’re working on technologies either directly related to Space or in a relevant but adjacent industry like mining, automotive, or agriculture applications are open now.
I love it when our government and military gets it! And the Air Force really does. Techstars is proud to work with them to find new innovations that matter. Think for just a moment about the innovations that have come from our military. Our highway systems. Digital Photography. Drones. Radar. Night vision. GPS. Cargo Pants. Virtual Reality. Duct tape! And the Internet itself! Take a look at what they’re offering if you have any interest in engaging – it’s really terrific and well done.