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America's Seed Fund: Up to $1.5M for Zero Equity (nsf.gov)
379 points by mimixco 8 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 92 comments

As I see a number of posts negative on the NSF SBIR, so let me speak up in its defense. I'll discuss my experience as well as address some of the criticism I see above. I'll try and answer some follow up questions for people in the replies if I can as well.

My company (zeroK NanoTech) probably wouldn't exist if it where not for this program.

NSF SBIR can aid in the translation of technology that sits in the no-mans land between basic research and commercial technology. In my case the basic potential for our tech had been developed when I was a postdoc, but the federal lab where I worked (NIST) wasn’t going to be able to translate it. At the same time, there was not a great chance to obtain venture or similar funding because the market was a bit too small.

Building off the results of our SBIR-funded research we were able to obtain additional investment from a larger company interested in our technology.

The Phase I program is competitive, I recall about 15% of applications are accepted, but the application here isn’t so onerous, btu the funding amount isn’t very large; this is just for ‘proof of concept ‘ work. The odds of matriculating to Phase II and a much larger pot of money are better, about 40%. There is a decently long gap between your decision to apply and beginning of the project, but I know the NSF is working on this. The NSF is also unique in that you can apply with just about any kind of technology; most other SBIRs are not anything like this.

I’ve also served on review panels for these grants. While it is the case that some applications come from largish companies who seems to subsist on SBIRs, the NSF makes a big effort to invest in 1st time applicants if they have a solid plan. My ‘company’ in our first application was just myself and my cofounder and very little other resources and we won our award. Once you are an awardee, I found the program officers to be very helpful.

Agree with your sentiment. Although it's not perfect, it fills a gap that no one else fills. Given the lack of competition on this funding, they're doing decent.

Maybe a big initiative from another country would light a fire under them.

If this program is so good it should probably take equity or be structured as a loan so that society can get more out of it with its funding.

You should not be getting downvoted. There is nothing wrong with the government taking equity (or at least dividends) in the companies it invests in that nobody else wants to. It's taking a risk. It should get a reward.

Successful companies pay a lot in taxes (through employment if nothing else), so technically the government does see dividends (albeit in a non-traditional form). However, given the nature of government, it should technically be enough if society benefits more than the expected investment amount, regardless of the government payback.

It's not that simple; every company pays a lot in taxes, so the government doesn't benefit more than if a random VC had put the money in instead.

There's also the opportunity cost of the investment; the yield has to be compared to things like food stamps, education, basic research etc. There's a lot of low hanging fruit a well run government could be picking.

I would also tend towards the view that if the government invests like a VC it should take equity. If these companies genuinely have no other option, I don't see why this would be a deal killer. If they have VC they could take instead, the government shouldn't be offering free money.

The more companies though, the more times the same dollar can be taxed.

We shouldn’t set profit expectations because of their future consequences on how the program will be judged.

The financial goals of this program shouldn’t be profit — or even break even. Any profit expectations will undermine the the way this program is evaluated.

Right, but it also seems irresponsible to completely ignore an obvious revenue opportunity where it exists. IMO with proper branding as some type of "Give back" tax on successful graduates, it wouldn't need to be close to break even, and could help the program grow.

Screw the profit, give the money back to US citizens via a general social dividend.

We're talking about a tiny investment fund. It would be good if it just managed to break even.

Yeah but then you have to have that same agency deciding when it wants to sell shares, how it wants to use any voting power, etc. It adds overhead to the program that will negate some of the returns from equity.

I imagine that equity would involve complexities the government is not set up to handle. The overhead of maintaining hundreds of equity stakes in startups kind of boggles the mind.

If government wants an equity stake, they’d be better off investing in a fund of VC funds - like what the BC Renaissance fund does in British Columbia. They stuffed $100M (pocket change, I know) into a fund of funds and let the VC manage all of it.

> complexities the government is not set up to handle

Compared to the IRS? National security & intelligence? Social services? Monetary policy?

It's just not setup for making a profit.

Society will as the resulting company will pay taxes.

These companies are still benefiting from the same government services which is what the normal corporate taxes are paying for. Saying the taxes paying for those services are also somehow pay back this free loan is very much double dipping.

On top of that, this is early stage funding and most of these companies will fail paying back little to nothing.

PS: Corporate taxes are down to 9% of the federal budget. They really don’t pay much in the way of taxes vs the services they benifit from.

...in theory. In reality, corporations use loopholes to defer taxes as much as possible while taking more state and federal subsidies.

Apple got public money from Small Business Investment Company.

Nike, Ben&Jerry's, FedEx, and Chipotle got SBA loans.

Google's search algorithm was funded by National Science Foundation.

Apple, Google, Facebook and Amazon receive billions from American states in data tax breaks.

Tesla and Space X are heavily subsidized too.

These are just a few famous examples.

The American economy would likely be a lot smaller were it not for public subsidies of various types. Fanatic capitalism is based on a myth, or at least a massive exaggeration, of what private initiative achieves on its own.

Our startup is currently funded by multiple SBIRs (DOD, not NSF), and I'm amazed at the backlash against the program here.

Sure, if you have easy access to VC, your life would probably be simpler. The process is not easy or quick, and if you think you'll win on your first try, keep dreaming. Each proposal cycle is like the Olympics. And spoiler, even if you win dealing with government compliance is a huge pain, and it could easily take 9-12 months to see the first dollar.

We're not insiders (some but not all topics have a recipient in mind), and beyond the NSF there's heavy bias against young, small startups. But if you're a subject matter expert and can clearly communicate a realizable benefit to the warfighter (again, DOD), it is possible.

Doing hard tech out in the Midwest and having funding (VC is a myth here) is an awesome thing. Without it, I'd long since be back on the job market.

Having gone through some of this, the timelines, requirements, selection process, etc. make the SBIR largely non-viable for a serious outsider tech startup effort and without outside primary funding.

It's great, for example, for professors not fully committing to a venture, but wanting to run it on the side over a prolonged time. Likewise, for a contractor shop cranking these out every year, or a stable non-startup wanting to get an R&D engineer covered. If you are indeed coming from inside the system, it can be a great supplement!

But for most startup folks here, your effort would go out of business before the successive funding rounds materialized, and there is too much risk that they don't happen to rely on them. You can read between the lines on the success stories reported even here. Your limited time is better spent on non-SBIR investors & customers.

Note that some of this is by design. For example, I'm in this category: 'It's great, for example, for professors not fully committing to a venture, but wanting to run it on the side over a prolonged time.'

Most startup land-friendly funding mechanisms aren't well suited for that.

Note: I've applied for SIBR funding in the past. Huge waste of time.

"The catch" Application process takes several months

Similar to an RFP, by the time a SIBR request is written, the preferred vendor has already been chosen.

Government agency usually gets perpetual use license of your product.

Pros: Received an actual written response (months later) with detailed rejection reasons. Something a VC would never do.

For DoD projects and vendors with TS clearances, a SIBR contract can be parlayed into 5-10 year deals.

> Note: I've applied for SIBR funding in the past. Huge waste of time. Similar to an RFP, by the time a SIBR request is written, the preferred vendor has already been chosen.

This is misinformation. SBIR funding is the #1 source of early-stage funding for certain industries. Any startup developing a life-saving medicine or medical device is using SBIR for things like clinical trials. "The preferred vendor has already been chosen" is utter nonsense; it's like saying the government has already decided which drug is going to work.

To be effective at applying for SBIR grants you do need a good program officer. They will let you know whether it's worth spending the time to apply.

I’m a panel reviewer for NSF SBIR and the comment about a “preferred vendor already being chosen” is absolutely not true. In fact, firms that have been funded for years by govt grants are at a disadvantage compared to “true” startups.

IIRC to qualify for SIBR a startup must have annual revenue < $10M (?) which excludes larger vendors.

Anyway, a better wording may be "vendors in specific geographies with specialized skills".

The process is not as open as it appears. There is a strong bias for specialization.

I've found a couple of SBIR/STTR RFPs while I was responding to another question, and the ones I've found read:

Has, including its affiliates, not more than 500 employees and meets the other regulatory requirements found in 13 CFR 121.

That's from a DOE SBIR/STTR Phase I application.

hmm only less than 500 employees. Sounds legit.

Open a new "unrelated" subsidiary. Happens all the time.

Wrong. I could tell you stories Buddy, you would not believe. I could complain, but this could easily backfire and could get me and people who benefited from SBIR grants, into trouble. So no, nothing happened and I just dreamed this up when I was smoked up.

I just submitted another SBIR application. Not a really happy about would I delivered in the application, but in the end, to use the words of two of my friends who got an SBIR I +II "It is not an open race". Unfortunately. So the other option is to get funded for the project is China. They shit you with money there if you bring tech.

The SBIR process is based on solicitations. Each solicitation is associated with its own instigators, and there are also a multitude of USGov entities that participate in the program. It's entirely possible for what you experienced to be true and also for other solicitation processes to have been conducted as ethically as one would hope.

> Government agency usually gets perpetual use license of your product.

Misleading. The agency, in this case NSF, obtains march in rights for patents (not data) developed using funds received from them. They will only exercise that right in the most extraordinary circumstance. Basically, if you develop a cure to cancer and then decide not to commercialize it or make it publicly available, they may exercise march in rights and take it over. No agency, not even the DoD, has ever exercised it, to my knowledge.

You're competing against shops who make it their bread and butter to do tons of SBIR. So if you don't plan ahead and have the right connections/know-how, you're at a significant disadvantage there.

"Pros: Received an actual written response (months later) with detailed rejection reasons"

Yes, this may be indeed helpful. But many reviewers browse your application only. Let me phrase it this way: An idiot and google is a very dangerous combination. He gave an argument about costs and was basically two magnitudes off. And I explicitly wrote that is mass produced (10k units) this item would not cost 50k but 300-500 US$ per Unit. But yes, he googled it and found that a single unit with many features would cost 50k US$.

Its a Government agency, so it moves pretty slowly.

I've seen these programs used by existing businesses to secure funding to work on research-y stuff which would be hard to justify for a small business. My impression of it is that its a pretty amazing program for the right audience.

It may also depend on your company. I have written a bunch of SBIRs (http://seliger.com/Should-your-startup-seek-Small-Business-I...), and, for hard tech companies, they may be more desirable than for other kinds of companies.

The time involved and bureaucracy is true.

Government agency usually gets perpetual use license of your product.

Is that true for non-STTR applications? I'm doing some command-f through some old SBIR RFPs and am not finding the language (could be there). I am finding language like this:

Copyrights—The grantee may copyright and publish (consistent with appropriate national security considerations, if any) material developed with DOE support. DOE receives a royalty-free license for the Federal government and requires that each publication contain an appropriate acknowledgment and disclaimer statement.

But that's for a copyright to a publication.

Also, this applies to patents, not to the product itself:

Patents—Grantee may retain the principal worldwide patent rights to any invention developed with Federal support. The government receives a royalty-free license for Federal use, reserves the right to require the patent holder to license others in certain circumstances, and requires that anyone exclusively licensed to sell must normally manufacture it domestically. Information regarding patent rights in inventions supported by Federal funding can be found in the Code of Federal Regulations, 37 CFR 401.

As I said, I'm not sure that you're correct, but the statement does not jibe with my immediate memory.

Great writeup. Thanks for sharing.

For the particular SBIR I applied for 15 years ago, I recall having to accept a perpetual licensing outcome that capped the license profit margins to 10%-20% actual costs. Maybe that's changed.

It seemed like a fair deal. The gov funds the R&D, they of course want returns.

Wow, I had the exact same experience. Would never bother with it again.

I just applied for this grant from the National Science Foundation and was invited to submit a full proposal. Maybe other founders on HN would find this helpful. Good luck!

This appears to be SBIR, which has quite a few requirements. However, are definitely worth it if you can apply for the grant.

I know in Champaign, IL (where I live) there are resources to help you submit an SBIR grant. I opted to go down a different path after completing a training regarding how to submit one. However, if I was working on implementing anything bio-tech related, I'd definitely submit an SBIR grant.

For what it's worth, I worked on improving this while at 18F.

A big problem with this program was that the funds distributed were disproportionately allocated to coastal cities. As a result, places like silicon valley, north east (Boston) and NY. The goal of the project revision was to help make sure more money was going to less recognized universities and research entities.

This is definitely worth pursuing if there are areas of research that you or your company are exploring that have potential to go to market with a infusion of capital.

The drawbacks, like any type of investment, are mainly the distribution cycles of the funds. Unlike private equity, you may need to wait longer than a quick VC seedfund to get money. If you are already burning capital, then this is likely not the ideal investment for you.

This program is great. Massively helpful if you have risky technology. It was our primary funding source for the first few years.

Does anyone have experience receiving funding through this sort of thing?

It's a bit of a disaster. Government processes aren't rational; they're bureaucratic, with specific (and complex) procedures intended to guarantee fairness. The government receives a set of proposals, and must evaluate them based on objective criteria. Unless you know what those are, you won't be competitive. You basically want to be an expert grant writer; that matters more than anything. Proposals can be rejected without being read if you, for example, format your document incorrectly, or use the wrong way to project expenses -- nits no VC would care about.

The result is that much of the funding goes to SBIR shops -- organizations with no business model aside from operating from government grants. They write proposals, and use those to fund operations. They keep going for many years with products tailored to the SBIR process rather than to real markets.

If you want to play, my advice would be to talk to someone who has done it, and have them review your submission. My other piece of advice is talk to the program officer. Their job is, in part, to help you navigated the sometimes-byzantine process.

All that said, I don't feel bad having my taxes spent there. Despite the mismanagement, it seems to have a positive ROI for the world.

I remember looking into and applying for SBIRs many years ago. My comments reflect the programs as last I interacted with them, so they may be dated in understanding.

There are many issues, not the least of which are the very long lead times. From submission to decision/notifications can be 6+ months.

Another issue is the Phase I/II gap. Sure, you can get more money, but there is another (at least) 6 month interval for that. And there is no guarantee that you will get the Phase II. You have to show very specific positive forward motion in Phase I to get Phase II. And Phase III, commercialization, is similar in that you need to show a nascent market.

Back when I was looking into and applying for these, the VCs I spoke with suggested that they were a signal, albeit not a strong signal, that there was "something there". Not enough on its own to pull them off the couch to write a check, but enough to keep them interested if others did.

This said, having participated in my fair share of government sponsored small business innovation programs, and seeing the most politically connected applicants get funded for fairly poor ideas, I'm kind of jaded about these programs. As bad as they are VCs have the right incentive (profit) albeit in the wrong structure IMO, to invest. The government is all about box checking to show their effectiveness.

This is pretty accurate. I have both won and lost SBIR proposals with different agencies, and farther back in time was a reviewer of SBIR proposals from the government side.

We've written a bunch and describe some ups and downs here: http://seliger.com/Should-your-startup-seek-Small-Business-I...

This blog post is excellent. Thanks for re-sharing! I plan to send this to companies considering SBIR grants in the future.

Glad you find it useful; while on some level there's a temptation for us to say, "SBIRs are the best! Hire us!", the real situation is more complex, and there seems to be a fair amount of misinformation or just misunderstanding about SBIRs and their strengths and weaknesses.

They have a list of over 300 current awardees on the site - if nobody on HN has any direct experience, you could certainly take that list and start making some calls to ask about the experience.

Yes, our first company (Ksplice) got an NSF SBIR Phase I. We had bootstrapped the company, and the grant was definitely helpful!

(Having said that, the application process is pretty onerous and so are the bookkeeping/timetracking requirements.)

My mom runs an SBIR company. Happy to answer questions. It is in the hardware space, don’t know much about software SBIRs.

No, but I know two people who had SBIR I+II grants. Again, this is not an open race. The mathematical chances that you get it are 10%. The real chances as an not insider? Probably below 1%. But ask. What do you want to know.

We are funded by the nsf sbir and I must say if it wasn’t for this mechanism our company would not exist. Effectively it funds reach science that can have translational applications. The value of the sbir is to get you to mvp ( phase I) and scale out to prove traction in phase II

Effectively it provides capital when vcs aren’t willing to either because you’re too early from rev numbers or they just lack the alignment on vision/market or some other reason

I believe that ThousandEyes, a very successful Bay Area start up now funded by tier 1 Sandhill Road folks was initially funded with this or something similar.

Is there anything like this for non-US residents?

Other countries have similar funding available. For instance the Danish Innovation fund: https://innovationsfonden.dk/en

Get a US Partner and give him 51%. Possible.

The biggest problem with these grants is that GE (and other big companies) have entire divisions dedicated to opening a "startup", writing the application, getting the money, and then folding the company back into the parent.

They are a shotgun while you, at best, are a rifle. Success probabilities are corresponding.

an effect I've noticed on this forum is that people come out against something just for the sake of making an argument. I've done it. so to get a gauge on a true measure of sentiment you need to correct for that effect. my guess is about 80% of the negative bluster is argument based and not sentiment based. meaning that if you could measure the same people's true feelings on the matter in another context when removed from the motivation to argue I think you'd see at least 80% reduction in negative sentiment on any topic. the medium of this forum is just polarizing but don't be swayed by that. The truth is much closer to the center on many issues I think.

For the record I’m neutral on this topic.

I’ve written and participated in a number of (successful and unsuccessful) Phase I&II SBIR & STTR grants via the NIH; can anyone who has done both NIH and NSF grants speak to any substantive differences between the two agencies?

I only have first hand experience with NIH SBIR/STTRs, but I have heard good things from acquaintances with NSF funding. Sounds like NSF has put more resources into startup resources and mentorship, like its i-Corps program. I've also heard that NSF program officers are more open to NSF SBIR PIs pivoting their projects along the way, in order to suss out product-market fit. (Note that my impressions may be some years out of date.)

Do we really need this? Is there some lack of private venture capital that this is overcoming? As a taxpayer, I'm not cool with this. I would much rather this money be granted for research that then becomes public domain. Why should our taxes be handed out for risky business endeavors with no direct public benefit, when the private sector already has the means to handle this?

"But the government gives tons of handouts to existing companies" isn't a good answer, either. Two wrongs etc.

> Do we really need this? Is there some lack of private venture capital that this is overcoming?

- VC funding is a thing only in SV and a few other cities. Most cities do not have a vibrant ecosystem that is accessible to Small Businesses

- VC's only invest in ideas that have both a high likelihood of success and a large payout. SBIR focuses on ideas that have a high likelihood of success without a large payout a.k.a the vast majority of small businesses in America

> I would much rather this money be granted for research that then becomes public domain.

Y not both?

> Why should our taxes be handed out for risky business endeavors with no direct public benefit, when the private sector already has the means to handle this?

- its not risky

- private VC cannot be relied on to fund certain kinds of businesses. American Bank loans are decidedly low-risk too (and can't be swapped for equity)

> "But the government gives tons of handouts to existing companies" isn't a good answer, either. Two wrongs etc.

That is not the answer. If that was, I agree it wouldn't be a good one.

In general, grants of Capital to small ventures that have good foundations is not a "waste of taxpayer money". The success of those businesses creates jobs, that pay taxes, support the local economy etc. They're a waste only if you think giving grants is literally burning a pile of money, which it is not.

"- its not risky"

It is super risky and we had this discussion before on HN. SBIR grants are often given for "blue sky" projects. You could say that is the definition of "risk".

A statement like that, without linking to any of said conversations on SBIR grants, provides very little value to the discussion. If you could link to said threads that would be lovely.

My post: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=17995933

A guy who agreed with me: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=17997184

Matthew Weinberg, former Special Advisor to the SBA's Office of Investment and Innovation, disagrees with you. With respect to the SBIR program, he said:

"It’s fundamentally astounding that the federal government—not private venture capital firms or banks—is the entity backing these moonshot investments that end up changing the world[1]."

That quote comes from this Fundera blog post [1], which speaks positively about the SBIR program:

> If your small business focuses on developing scientific or technological breakthroughs, we’ll tell you exactly how to get the SBIR funds you need to change the world.

Given that, I would assume Matthew Weinberg agrees with GP, and means "astounding" with a positive connotation.

[1] https://www.fundera.com/blog/sbir-program/

Your characterization of VCs is highly inaccurate. VCs generally invest in businesses with a very low chance of success but with a high potential payout.

>is not a "waste of taxpayer money"

If the premise is that inefficient markets and long time horizons inhibit investments that provide a net-return, then why does it need continued taxpayer funding?

> If the premise is that inefficient markets and long time horizons inhibit investments that provide a net-return

Haven't you answered your own question? Or perhaps I'm not understanding your statement.

Inefficient markets and long term horizons _do_ inhibit investments by private sector entities which are more focused on short term plans. This _is_ why it requires taxpayer funding.

What I was trying to say was that if those are profitable investments then they will return their principle and even earn a return. So the program would not need continued taxpayer money.

It depends on what you mean by “returns on taxpayer money”. This seed investment is creating jobs, funding technology that creates even more jobs, that contribute to the local economy thus increasing tax receipts.

Private Capital can’t reap such benefits, which also tend to be longer term investments, and thus is not interested.

Ah, yea they teach that even in uni courses in econ: The public extarnalities offer a great return on investment in private businesses.

Of course it is wonderful in theory. In practice, my own opinion is that it's a really bad idea.

> VC's only invest in ideas that have both a high likelihood of success and a large payout

In my experience, venture capitalists are often willing to invest in ideas with a low likelihood of success as well.

> Why should our taxes be handed out for risky business endeavors with no direct public benefit, when the private sector already has the means to handle this.

SBIR/STTR money is primarily used for R&D work for high risk technology. The risk being that it might not work, or might not solve the problem you're trying to solve. You don't spend the money on marketing and sales. It's meant for technologies precisely in the stage that the private sector is not good at handling, for similar reasons that the private sector isn't good at funding basic research. This stage is referred to as the funding gap or the valley of death[0][1].

[0] https://www.nap.edu/openbook/18944/xhtml/images/p37.jpg

[1] https://nsf.gov/eng/iip/innovation.pdf

Do we really need this? - This is a major way that academic discoveries get moved into the private sector and into the commercial space. And, in my mind, one of the least harmful ones when compared to corporate funding of research directly or corporations just outright buying faculty-run startups.

Is there some lack of private venture capital that this is overcoming? - VC has some very specific requirements, and often has some expectations that many of the things funded through SBIR won't meet. VC money is not the be-all, end-all of small business finance.

I would much rather this money be granted for research that then becomes public domain. - A bunch of my research is in the public domain. But there's a leap from basic (or even highly applied) research to an actually commercially available product in the world.

It’s a hell of a lot better way to spend money than our military industrial complex and tax breaks to wealthy individuals and corporations.

You know that many SBIR grants actually go to the military industrial complex, right? There are 1000's of small-ish government / defense contractors that get some funding through this...

Whatabout-ism is very a good line of thought.

Moreover, a lot of this money (maybe even most) is going to the military industrial complex.

VC funding is completely inappropriate for early stage startups, and it's a last resort even if you're mature enough.

Aside from that, there are entire industries that VCs don't touch until after SBIR, such as life sciences startups, where you're looking at 10 years of R&D and regulatory approval processes before you can launch on the market. That's way too long for VCs.

I empathize with your general sentiment, but non-profits and governments exist to fill in gaps that the free market cannot.

> Why should our taxes be handed out for risky business endeavors with no direct public benefit, when the private sector already has the means to handle this?

The private sector's way to handle risky businesses is just to not fund them at all, or else to fund them in exchange for a huge percentage of equity. Both of those result in a net loss for society, so I don't really see how this is something the private sector even addresses let alone well.

There is a significant public benefit. The very existence of silicon valley is a testament to the effects pouring in government funding can have. That's of course not to say that it always works.

But such funding is also quite low risk for governments: even when the funded companies fail it serves to build talent pools, and a substantial proportion of every dollar comes back to the government in taxes because they get spent on things like salaries, and the remainder gets spent on products and services where a further proportion ends up paid in tax.

And when they succeed, the economic activity has a massive ongoing value both in taxes, reductions in benefits payments due to increased overall employment and indirect economic boosts (the successful companies increase other economic activity by buying products and services).

It's not either/or - there are many types of projects that are not suitable for VC funding for various reasons that can still have long term beneficial effects to society.

This provides stable, consistent funding from a relatively unbiased source. Imagine investors got really hesitant and started pulling cash out; the tech industry would collapse. Government grants are a long-running driver of innovation.

Plus, many areas of the country have limited access to capital. This helps alleviate that.

No, the tech industry wouldn't collapse. That's how it works for everyone already. The tiny, tiny number of SBIR grants isn't propping up the industry. And if your business sucks, they should pull the money out. This program is so small that it's not having any real positive impact. It's just a handout.

You're making a lot of random assertions with no basis in research at all. These programs weren't created on a whim. They've been created based on research that funding small businesses ultimately generates more value than the initial investment, which I rely more on your gut feeling (or wherever the fuck you're getting these ridiculous notions from).


It’s hard to justify an investment that has both significant market and technical risk as a VC. SBIR is a great mechanism to help fund technical development when companies are too early for investors and too applied for academia.

>I would much rather this money be granted for research that then becomes public domain

That's not how it works though


Research from publicly funcded universities gets patented then turned around to fuck you and make you pay for it twice all the time

This falls under two wrongs.

Any US citizen interested in zero equity seed money from the US government should investigate SBIR (of which this is the NSF component), a program overseen by the Small Business Administration, but run through the departments. (You end up paying in other ways — but you should be aware of it as an option.)

Every US government research program must provide 3% of its R&D to small businesses, with the goal of seeding American innovation outside of major conglomerates.

Personally, I view results driven government seed money as a viable answer to many questions the US faces — but it requires we pull together behind a vision of free people engaged in small commerce, something the US left wing seems to vehemently oppose.

I’m a capitalist, though: I believe the best way to cause human flourishing is expansive commerce coupled with individual freedoms, and suggest anyone disputing the social value of that show me a system that’s uplifted as many minorities out of poverty as, say, McDonalds franchising.

> uplifted as many minorities out of poverty as, say, McDonalds franchising.

I appreciate your overall message, but I believe that one would need to have non-poverty level assets to even be considered to open a McDonald's franchise. Odd example.

At least no room for corruption

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