As more and more startups come to life and search for a spot in the federal contract game, law firm Lowenstein Sandler has introduced a solution to better connect the private sector with the government.
The firm, whose DC office near Foggy Bottom is one of several throughout the country, created G-BRIDGE to provide that crucial link. The program’s name is an acronym for “generating business relationships in the defense and government environment.” Per that meaning, G-BRIDGE aims to facilitate connections between tech and other companies, whose own products could solve government problems, and must-know players in the federal contracting ecosystem.
Jeffrey Jones, counsel in the DC office and the program’s creator, said the idea followed his own two decades of government experience. Over the past few years, he noticed the federal government making an effort to do more outreach in the commercial and private sectors.
“This whole idea of G-BRIDGE came up based off of those 20 years of experience,” Jones told Technical.ly, adding that he witnessed “the difficulties the government has, with regards to coming up with innovative ways of solving problems that the [it] just doesn’t have the wherewithal or capability on its own to come up with.”
After being selected for the program, startups and larger companies have a few meetings with Jones and the Lowenstein Sandler team. That team then learns more about the company’s work, strengths, weaknesses and any avenues it may have pursued with government customers. The idea, Jones said, is to complement the work a company has already done. Participating companies aren’t required to make an upfront payment, but the law firm will get a success fee when and if the company receives a contract.
“Ultimately, what we’re trying to do is put these two folks together and see if we can get to a point where both people can help one another out,” Jones said.
While it works with multiple companies at once, the program is designed for personalization and holds individual sessions based on a company’s needs. Some that are more accelerated can move right along to introductions with government officials and stakeholders. Others need to start at the beginning with tasks like creating capability statements. G-BRIDGE also helps founders network with similar companies to share information and create fellowship in the community.
“We’re trying to try to find those really inventive companies that have a solution that we know or we think: This is a really cool, great capability that is going to really resonate with a government customer,” Jones said.
Plugging holes and tackling inefficiencies
The program encompasses all parts of federal government contracting, and eligible companies aren’t limited to one industry or product type. Jones’s particular expertise lies in the Department of Defense and affiliated industries like cyber, drone technology and video capability; His other team members have expertise in other departments.
But for many, just what industry or agency they should be targeting is part of the problem. According to Jones, some of the current disconnects between the government and private companies is the reliance on the SAM.gov website. While he said it does a great job in what it tries to do — connecting companies to contracts — several different portals make it difficult for companies to locate opportunities, especially when agencies work jointly on a project.
He also noted that while the government holds many industry days, which help companies understand what the different agencies do, the agencies don’t always use them to identify what they need from tech contractors. Jones thinks many commercial companies are intimidated by the cumbersome and even burdensome processes.
“Until they’re able to iron out some of these inefficiencies that are working through the system, I think the government might potentially have some problems ultimately getting the full embrace from the commercial sector that they really want and crave,” Jones said.
The program currently has about a dozen partner companies, with hopes to add more. Since it’s starting small, the firm is currently only accepting companies that it thinks truly have a solution that the government might want. But there’s room to grow as companies land contracts and the federal government continues outreach.
“The government has recognized that now they’re trying to figure out a way to now right the ship, and try to be able to court or attract these really great companies to do business with them,” Jones said.-30-