June 2020

OK, so you have found your way to my column – welcome to the SBIR Corner! This is where I will share with you my experiences with various aspects of SBIR program – from a standpoint of someone who sat on the NSF SBIR AdCom for many years, served as both technical and commercial reviewer on dozens of SBIR review panels, was a PI on a large NIH STTR grant, served as a reviewer for CDMRP grants from DoD, etc. And helped quite a few startups with strategic thinking through their SBIR approaches.

Every month SBIR Corner will bring you a new tidbit, and along with our short “war stories” videos, we hope that this will give you information and points of view that are not easy to find elsewhere. We will also bring guest columnists to provide a variety of opinions and advice in regard to developing a successful SBIR or STTR proposal.

Today I want to share with you what I (almost) always read first when I review an SBIR proposal (well, after I read the face page and project summary).

And it’s not your Specific Aims. Nor is it your Research Strategy (both are extremely important, and I will get to them soon, but that’s not where I start). Not even your bio sketch, that I’m sure is very impressive.

First, I scroll all the way to your letters of support. Not those from people who are a part of your proposal and serve as subcontractor collaborators or paid consultants. But letters of support from your potential commercialization partners from industry, investors (including potential ones), and such.

Strength of those letters sets a tone for my reviewing of your proposal. Those letters tell me if you have planned for what will happen after that grant is over.

For SBIR, your understanding of what it would take to bring your technology to the market is critical. And it will be much more than just funding – it will take partnerships. Starting to work on those early is important.

I will be looking for the right level of support – it doesn’t have to be financial, by the way. But it needs to be meaningful, and the letter should convey that. I wouldn’t expect a firm commitment, necessarily, but I want to see strong enthusiasm about what you are doing and how it would address a true pain point.

I want to see a real pain treatment (no pun intended), not a vitamin. But that’s a topic of another conversation, at a future time.

Until then – stay safe and healthy in these crazy times, andreach out to us via [email protected] or take our short questionnaire below to let us know how we could help you think strategically about aligning various SBIR/STTR and other non-dilutive funding opportunities with YOUR unique path to commercialize your technology or product faster, so that your innovation could make a difference in people’s health and lives sooner.

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Eugene Krentsel
Chief Scientific Officer, XLerateHealth, LLC