Last week, the Air Force awarded contracts to 51 companies in a matter of minutes at its inaugural "Air Force Pitch Day".
The Air Force Pitch Day is modeled after commercial investment pitch competitions that attempts to deliver a faster (and presumably smarter) approach to compete for ideas in technology. The process is a significant departure from the lengthy contractual process typically expected of the military. If focuses on rapidly awarding Phase I SBIR (Small Business Innovation Research) contracts to companies based on a simpler streamlined evaluation of white papers and in-person presentations.
How does a pitch day work?
Prior to the pitch day, Air Force contracting officials reviewed 417 submissions received during a 30-day application period and then invited 59 businesses to pitch their proposals in person. Of those 59 companies, 51 received an initial award of up to $158 thousand with an initial payment within minutes of their presentations.
The average amount of time to award contracts and pay companies (using a Government credit card) was a mere 15 minutes. Under traditional contracting practices, the average amount of time to award SBIR Phase I contracts is 90 days - a period where many small businesses and startups cannot survive through without funding.
Besides the 51 contracts awarded on the spot, the Air Force, the previous week, through a series of "rapid contracting sprints", awarded 122 Phase I SBIR contracts and 69 Phase II contracts. The Air Force wants to organize and do more of these type of activities all across the country where the Air Force performs acquisitions.
The prospect of obtaining funding immediately upon contract execution is a great benefit to small businesses who, with funding in place, can concentrate on contract performance rather than figuring out cash flow problems.