State of Tandem: Our Community Has Spoken

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J-AbermanOver the last month we went out to our members to learn how our first ten months of operations have gone. We did a representative survey of our members, and organized a subsequent roundtable with a core group of TandemNSI community members. What we learned was interesting, and we think illustrative of both the opportunity and challenges of working to develop a national security product community in the Greater Washington Region. Overall, our message is that there is interest, TandemNSI is making a difference and there is lots more to do in 2015!

Here are few things were learned about how our members feel about the national security establishment and its relationship with entrepreneurs outside of the establishment:

  • Our members believe that there are viable opportunities for them to work with the national security agencies in new ways – 72% of our members, in fact believe that there are opportunities for them if they are provided in a way that allows them to engage.
  • But, they do not believe that government has been successful in reaching out to them.
    • On a scale of 1 to 5 (not very successful to very successful), our community scored the national security establishment as follows:
      • Supporting the growth of new innovations and industries around national security – 2.6
      • Finding ways to reach out to nontraditional sources of innovation – 2.3
      • Facilitating technology transfer and company formation – 2.1
      • Streamlining procurement and contractual rules – 2.0
  • From our roundtable discussion we learned that our members:
    • Have a generally favorable impression of the government representatives that have participated in the TandemNSI community. Members have been often surprised as to how friendly and engaged the government representatives have been.
    • Do not trust the government contractor community.
      • They express significant concern that if they expose their technology to a large government contractor it will be stolen from them.
      • They see them as competitors rather than collaborators.
    • Are concerned that any effort by the national security establishment to provide them with research dollars should also provide opportunities to grow and scale a business either in national security or the private sector. They are most interested in:
      • Access to additional funding or contracts from the government.
      • Preservation of IP rights for commercialization opportunities.
      • Access to private capital.

Regarding the operation of TandemNSI itself we learned some useful things that will drive our programming for 2015.

  • Our events and social media/email activities were deemed the most successful and useful, when compared to our other initiatives.
  • The venture advisor program was deemed to be the least valuable portion of the 2014 programming, although this might have been somewhat constrained by the limited number of entrepreneurs touched by the “hands on” aspect of the program, when measured against the other activities which touched the community as a whole.
  • For event themes the community clearly favored opportunities over resources:
    • Opportunities for partnering or networking, creating new businesses or meeting government personnel that could facilitate startup growth was most favored.
    • Educational opportunities around procurement or understanding the “rules of the road” were also valued.
    • Access to resources such as mentors and capital were given less importance, due to a belief that these resources can be obtained elsewhere when compared to TandemNSI’s opportunity creation which was unique.
  • With respect events our members suggested a broad range of activities for 2015, including:
    • Meet ups with government agencies PMs and POs.
    • Promotion of specific business opportunities.
    • “Pitch days”
    • Teaming opportunities.
    • Hackathons, tech throw downs and access to technology.
    • Case studies
    • Vertical days – robotics, Internet of Things and similar.
    • Roundtable events similar to the roundtable with Governor McAuliffe.

As you can see, we got a lot of great feedback from our members. We are happy with how far we have come, but we also see how far there is to go to achieve our vision. The TandemNSI team is already hard at work on executing against these suggestions and building TandemNSI 2.0 for 2015. Have a great holiday break and we’ll see you in the New Year!

Jonathan

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