From Event Summaries

DARPA Tells Roboticists How to Get their Robots Funded


If you have a robotics idea that could change the world, DARPA wants to hear from you for its Robotics Fast Track Program.

That was the message from Mike Micire, a DARPA Program Manager, at the Robotics Fast Track event Sept. 22 at the TechShop DC-Arlington in Crystal City, Va.

Micire discussed at the event what DARPA looks for in proposals and also met one-on-one with those who were interested in applying.

The ideas that robotics entrepreneurs submit “need to be revolutionary,” Micire said at the event supported by TandemNSI. More specifically, ground, air, maritime, and space are the main areas where DARPA is looking for robotics proposals.

What sets the Fast Track Program apart is the time it will take those who apply to receive an answer. Normally, government contracts can take months to be processed in order to receive a reply. In the program, Micire said DARPA aims to be in touch within three to four weeks with a yes or no answer.

Jonathan Aberman of Tandem NSI.

Jonathan Aberman of Tandem NSI.

“If it is a nay, we try to provide constructive, not necessarily criticism, but advice,” Micire said.

That advice could help entrepreneurs refine their idea and resubmit and a new proposal to DARPA. Jonathan Aberman, founder of Tandem NSI, pointed out that this advice can be invaluable for either reapplying or trying to sell their idea later on in the commercial world.

“There’s no substitute for somebody who comes in and has a clear idea of what their technology is about and what they want to do,” said Aberman, who also founded Amplifier Ventures.

Micire wants to attract those who may want to use other funding sources, like Kickstarter, simply because it’s easier as there is no government bureaucracy to go through. The benefit of applying to the Fast Track Robotics program, however, are the problems and missions entrepreneurs could be asked to solve and ultimately help the U.S. government.

“My hope is that with a program like this, you at least see that the government is trying to work with these smaller companies to find ways for you to have these good experiences,” Micire said.

For those in attendance, a main concern was who retained the intellectual property rights if their project was selected for the program. Micire was clear that the applicants retain all property rights so that they are able to sell their idea in the commercial arena after finishing DARPA’s program.

Micire encouraged those at the event to apply, whether or not an idea was concrete yet, as DARPA is looking for great ideas to build upon.

DARPA is “looking for that nugget of awesome” in proposals, Micire said.

— Chris Kelly

Gen. Stanley McChrystal sits down with Tandem NSI found Jonathan Aberman to discuss networks and leadership.

Gen. McChrystal Discusses Building Teams with Tandem NSI


On June 22nd Tandem NSI was excited to host retired Army Gen. Stanley McChrystal as he talked about some of the concepts in his new book Team of Teams. He made himself available for an invitation-only reception at Marymount University with local entrepreneurs, and then for a public event where the first 100 folks through the door got free copies of his book.

McChrystal is comfortable in front of an audience and was quick to get a laugh when he cited the infamous Rolling Stone article as a life-changer that caused him to pause for clarity. He learned a lot about himself and the people who care about him during that time. Aberman commented that the sign of a true leader is their ability to “fail upward” and he admired Stan for being true entrepreneur.

McChrystal talked about how invigorating it is to be part of a high functioning team and was complimentary of the group he has assembled at the McChrystal Group. He believes that convincing participants that they have ownership in where the team is going affects performance. “People will perform to whatever standard is established” he said. His personal experience in the Joint Special Operations Command helped him understand this idea.

McChrystal is a believer that having a greater percentage of the population serve in some form would produce better citizens. That idea has been ingrained in him since childhood having come from military family. Audience questions focused on his military service and strategies. We have a brief snippet of video of Stan answering a question about the way the military nurtures leaders.

Click to see all event photos.