Friday, April 10, 2009

New Hope on the Horizon for Getting Through the Valley of Death

Ever wonder where a week went? This was one of those. Fast and furious. Some things were extraordinarily frustrating. Others were exciting and invigorating. All of them had to do with energizing our American Innovation Economy. The most exciting was that Valley of Death thing, but I'll start with the frustration: NIH. Who else?

Monday was the due date to submit SBIR and STTR proposals to the NIH. I had several clients who struggled with the submission process for DAYS! The portal seemed clogged much of the time, and it took forever for information to move between it and the NIH's eRA Commons.

There are ALWAYS errors to fix, most of them trivial, and NONE of them have anything to do with the project itself. Each time you are forced to cycle through the morass again. So frustrating! (Has anyone figured out a sure-fire way of figuring out the proper "Federal Identifier" to use?)

The NIH claims proposal volume is down. Hmmm... wonder if it has anything to do with how difficult it is to get proposals submitted? Submitting to DOD is so easy in comparison -- and their proposal volume is up! Hmmmm...

I'm standing by my prediction that April 27th (the Challenge Grant due date) will be the Armageddon.

And then there's the NIH SBIR Stimulus Exclusion. The NIH just doesn't seem to get the Innovation Economy concept, or doesn't think it involves them. Basically they don't think small business deserves ANY of their R&D money. They cite all kinds of statistics to justify their position.

Bull-frog-feathers! I used to be a statistician, and I know how easy it is to manipulate data to support a premise.

The Senate Small Business Committee had a "meeting" with the NIH this week to discuss the situation (since congress is in recess it couldn't be called a "hearing".). The meeting was inconclusive (aren't they all?), but happily for us, the Senate isn't buying what the NIH is selling. More discussions are scheduled. Stay tuned. This isn't over by a long shot!

OK, now for what's been exciting and invigorating....

On Monday, the National Association of Seed and Venture Funds (NASVF) announced the intent, in a joint venture with a dynamic "innovation intermediary", Innovation America (IA), to create a National Innovation Seed Fund of Funds to help fill the investment gap faced by entreprenurial companies seeking to get through what's known as the "Valley of Death".

You can download the press release from my website, but here's a SHORTCUT. I'm a member of NASVF, and will be serving on its Public Policy Committee to help put this plan together.

This is big stuff. A Fund of Funds seeds other investment funds. The magnitude of numbers being talked about are using $Bs not $Ms. Control will be regional, closer to where the entrepreneurial companies are and where the investments will be made.

Read the NASVF's April 9th issue of NetNews and peruse the presentation on IA's website for details. Lots to be worked out. Stay tuned on this too.

By the way, Jim Jaffe, NASVF's CEO, and Richard Bendis, CEO of Innovation America, are both actively involved in the SBIR Reauthorization Advocacy. Good guys, both of them, and I'm proud to have been invited to join their team.

And then yesterday we dedicated The Center for Innovation at Arlington (I serve as their Business Coach). Texas' Senior Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison and Arlington's long-time House of Representatives legislator, Joe Barton, were there to help cut the ribbon. Both had been instrumental in making the Center become a reality. Read the press release HERE.

We are also involved in the Innovation Economy, but our scope is broader than just seed funding. We're looking at increasing investment deal flow at ALL levels for the entire mid-section of the country, attracting investors to locate in North Texas, and attracting executive talent to the region.

It also involves creating a Fund of Funds. I'm right in the middle of this big stuff too. More to stay tuned on.

I'm ready for a long weekend! Have a great Easter and Passover break.

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