One of the best-kept secrets in the world of capital is that the federal government has billions of dollars it’s dying to give away to early-stage founders and inventors — and all you have to do is ask. Well, there’s a bit more to it than that, so here’s a guide to getting in the door of the massive Small Business Innovation Research program.
First, as a bit of background: SBIR is a large network of programs, spread across a dozen federal agencies and the military, established some 40 years ago as a way to help out any American with a great idea but little access to capital.
Over time it has grown to impressive proportions, with a total award budget in 2019 of nearly $3.3 billion. To be clear, this is money intended to be essentially given away to qualified recipients, and not as license fees, or orders, or equity; these cash awards, which range from hundreds of thousands to over a million dollars, come with remarkably few strings attached.
That said, it’s not as if you just reach into the SBIR cookie jar and pull out a million bucks. As with anything involving the federal government, there’s a process — and not a short or simple one. There are extensive official tutorials for later, but this article (informed by tips from officials in the program) should help get you up and running.
It should be noted that this is not the only tech-related government grant program by a long shot, but it is the largest, broadest and arguably the most accessible to small business entrepreneurs and inventors like you — or it will be once you read this guide. Just be ready to put in a little work.