The person in the uniform asks, “How can your technology solve my problems?”
You respond, “I’m not sure…what are your problems?”
If you work on the leading edge of technology and are marketing to the Department of Defense, you have, no doubt, had this conversation too many times.
Too often, this conversation ends with an exchange of business cards, an earnest promise to keep in touch, and then…nothing.
Here is the problem…the decision makers in the military are steeped in decades of operations and warfighting, not physics, data science, coding, or your game-changing tech.
Tech companies who work on the edges of physics, data science, and coding generally do not have an understanding of the problems facing warfighters around the globe. Despite nearly two decades of continuous war, less than 10% of American adults have any military experience. Tech innovation requires specific skills, attention, and energy of time, and military service often doesn’t fit well with this path.
A quick look at the unclassified version of the National Defense Strategy shows the Department of Defense believes the solutions to today’s and tomorrow’s operational challenges will come from the tech these innovators are creating.
The current strategy says, “New technologies include advanced computing, ‘big data’ analytics, artificial intelligence, autonomy, robotics, directed energy, hypersonics, and biotechnology—[are] the very technologies that ensure we will be able to fight and win the wars of the future.”
The team at Bright Apps is creating technologies that solve some of the military’s hardest problems. With experts in quantum encryption, artificial intelligence, machine learning, and blockchain, Bright Apps can turn theory and potential into operational advantages for the Department of Defense.
In recent years, the military has been putting its money where its strategy is. In 2018, the Department of Defense made nearly 2000 awards under the Small Business Innovation Research and Small Business Technology Transfer programs totaling $850M. (2019 numbers still being compiled)
Companies with the right technology for the right problem can accelerate product development with this non-dilutive funding.
How do you connect tech to the right problems?
As a tech company, here are three things you can do today to better understand your military customers’ problems and improve your chances of accessing this funding.
1. Read military-focused online journals. These aren’t as dry as you might imagine. A good place to start is War on the Rocks or The Strategy Bridge. Both of these sites also produce podcasts, so you can understand the vocabulary the military uses to talk about their problems while you are on the go. The contributors focus on the toughest problems and the toughest adversaries. The articles written here are both a result of and stimulus for conversations in the Pentagon and other military headquarters around the globe.
2. Join the Defense Entrepreneurs Forum. This is a hidden resource of smart, engaged, innovation-minded “insurgents” working in the national security space. The DEF mission is to inspire, connect, and empower. They do this through local agoras, national conferences, and a robust Slack group. Members include active duty military, career civil servants, industry, and academics. DEF is free to join, and your ROI is determined by the time and authenticity you invest in the community and in creating relationships. Those who intentionally connect with the community find a great resource of helpful expertise and connections to those military organizations who may have the problem your tech can solve.
3. Hire a Translator. There are some defense professionals who combine operational military experience and the ability to understand the current state of the art. I am proud to put these skills to use with Bright Apps. After a 25-year career in the Air Force wrestling with operational challenges, I understand the substance, vocabulary, and bureaucracy of national security. When combined with an educational background in Computer Science and an enduring interest in evolving technology, I bridge operational problems to tech solutions. Where do you find these folks? See 1 and 2 above, or message me on LinkedIn.
Make no mistake…America is in a technological arms race with its potential adversaries. The winner will be the nation who can not only create next-gen tech, but apply it to the right problems. This doesn’t happen by accident. With a little work and networking, America’s tech companies can be our competitive advantage.
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