The Booz Allen Hamilton’s Innovation Strategy

A few years ago, I was lucky to have attended a session at the State Department Day of Networking, where you get to meet contractors and outside vendors who offer in-house “innovation” services. I peeked into a few programs offered by Booz Allen Hamilton. Here I did my own analysis.

Booz Allen Hamilton is a leading consulting firm for business, government, and military in analytics, digital, engineering and cyber. They also have an innovation hub in Austin, in the DMV area, and provides a steady source of personnel to the government who hold active security clearances.

WAR GAMES AND EXERCISES

This one is called “War Games and Exercises” mainly for military services. Looking at the list of activities, it really looks like a whole design thinking exercises for military personnel. According to Booz, the “wargames and exercises empower creativity, simulate and test ideas in a safe environment, and discover the solutions that help organizations survive and thrive.” It worked with joint staff, military services in acquisition approaches, intel in “simulating future environments, civil agencies for …organizational resiliency and …risk management on a range of events and exercises to build preparedness, increase resilience, and sustain performance.”

Wargames

  • Alternative Futures and Scenario Planning
  • Wargame: A scenario based simulation with moves and countermoves in a controlled and competitive setting with team play and role playing
  • Red teaming/red cell: An independent adversarial group that challenges an organization

Exercises

  • Workshop: A discussion with focused group activities to develop strategy
  • Tabletop: A scenario-based discussion to test strategies, policies, plans, and approaches
  • Drill: aAn exercise with coordinated activities to validate a specific function or capability
  • Functional/Command Post: An exercise to validate and evaluate the synchronization of management with various operational capabilities (logistics, communications, command & control, coordination)
  • Full-Scale/Field Training: An exercise with high-stress, multiagency activities infvolving actual deployment of resources in a coordinated response.

Analysis

  • Wargame/Exercise After-action report analysis: analysis and subsequent improvement planning in accordance to existing plans
  • Real World Event Analysis: An After-action analysis and subsequent improvement planning of a real world or planned event in accordance to existing plans.

Here are some more familiar names like hackathons also dearly known as “Diplomacy Lab”, creating a platform to submit ideas, and a crowdsourcing platform. Without seeing the crowdsourcing platforms myself, I couldn’t really tell how effective the programs were. I wasn’t sure from based off the language for both Accelerators and Incubators the exact type of support they offered.

Hackathons

US Navy: Hack the Machine

The primary objective of the hackathon was build a robust community of maritime cybersecurity talent from among a diverse pool of candidates in Austin, Texas.

Delivered 10 solutions Navy could develop to improve the safety and efficiency of the maritime cybersecurity, data science for safer oceans and next-generation design for PNT alternatives.

Diplomacy Lab

As a follow-on to the Silicon Valley Tech Challenge hosted at UC Berkeley in 2016, Booz Allen partnered with the Bureau of Energy Resource to identify ways that technology and innovation could help improve energy access through a three-day Data Science Challenge in San Francisco. The challenge was to build a community and test how geospatial analysis could increase visibility into renewable energy development potential and help expand access to the two billion people who lack electricity or lack reliable electricity around the world.

Department of State: Silicon Valley Tech Challenge

  • Engaged 144 onsite attendees (117 participants and 27 subject matter expert mentors) and nearly 300 online registrants.
  • Built a crowd of industry experts, data scientists, designers, and those who are engaged in a follow-up crowdsourcing challenge
  • Booz Allen and the State Dept. jointly presented findings at UNSEE4ALL conference in NYC

Crowdsourcing

Booz Allen’s crowdsourcing approach is a methodology for assessing problem spaces in order to design both one-off and related series of crowdsourcing challenges for organizations across multiple sectors and industries. Our focus on every step of the challenge process, from problem space deconstruction to challenge communications to awards disbursement, helps organizations leverage crowdsourcing as a unique problem solving tool in their innovation toolkit.

Intelligence Community Client: Crowdsourcing and Innovation Management Platform

  • Launched flagship crowdsourcing platform, which led to increased speed to mission and saved over $2M collectively.
  • Generated new cross-team collaborative efforts and received recognition at an event with over 200 attendees and 5 agencies
  • Reached over ten thousand active participants spanning several government agencies

Challenges, Competitions, Prizes

Each organization has unique requirements and we emphasize understanding those details during the challenge design process, including facilitating communications, marketing, compliance, engagement analysis, and various other challenge facilitations. The right preparation in deconstructing the client problem space is critical to selecting the right tool to complete the job.

National Science Foundation: Challenge Platform Revitalization

  • NSF Chief Technology Officer sponsored a challenge and selected three idea to include as flagship initiative in NSF’s 2014 Open Government Plan (delivered to the White House in June 2014).
  • In the three months following re-launch, IDeaShare experienced the following results: 43 challenges launched, 4,136 new users, 451 new ideas, 43 ideas selected to be flagship initiative in the Open Government Plan out of the NSF potential user pool (2,300 staff and contractors.)

Accelerators

Accelerators can be achieved with effective program design and governance utilizing their existing assets and resource to achieve internal innovation results.

NASA: Internal Technology Accelerator

This effort is assessing the effectiveness of the current NASA accelerator model and the leadership team through observation and the stakeholder research.

  • Conducting a tailored innovation assessment in order to establish a baseline of the organization’s innovation maturity
  • Conducting external innovation accelerator market research through interviews with members of similar innovation efforts going on at federal, commercial and academic institutions
  • Assessing the potential benefits, cost savings, time savings, skills acquired, reputation, employee engagement, network size, associated with adopting innovative methods, tools, processes, and practices within NASA’s larger organizational context

Incubators

Incubators creates a space where new ideas can flourish and become a reality. Booz Allen iHubs are geographic concentration of accelerated ideation and entrepreneurship. Each iHub has a formal an informal network of investors, entrepreneurs, patents, and cutting-edge companies. Booz Allen’s physical presence in leading innovation ecosystems around the country accelerates our ability to source targeted capabilities and new thinking.

Booz Allen Innovation Center and iHub Network

  • Interdisciplinary teams work side-by-side with the clients, partners, and the innovation community to create integrated solutions.
  • Project teams provided with the customized curricula, mentorships, and technologies
  • The space serves as a working laboratory to test, showcase and measure how space and technology and promote collaboration, wellness, and productivity – while reducing the time to market for new products and services.
  • The space features in-person and virtual platforms to connect diverse stakeholders from the larger innovation community to help solve the world’s toughest problems. “

So my take on the Booz Allen innovation programs for government is that they took on a few projects as they came and had some resources to offer, but did not have a streamlined set of programming offices could lay on top of. I think when you’re approaching BAH, you do have to have a set objective as well as KPIs. I’m very interested to see how the Booz Allen’s presence in Austin, Texas might envelop along with SXSW.

Tipping the Scale: Restoring American Leadership from the COVID-19

Most of my days begin with checking the coronavirus counts for each country. I’m currently in Korea, and Korea has been generally doing better in interventions, but Korea also doesn’t have the friendliest tech policies.

Currently, autocratic societies or surveillance states are doing better with coronavirus interventions. I think It’s important for democratic countries like the U.S. to start making deliberate policy choices and that public and private entities can work together, set-up a model for other nations, and make sure the we do not commit irreparable damage.

Today, tech dominance is global dominance.  As former Google CEO Eric Schmidt has argued: “if the Soviet Union had been able to leverage the kind of sophisticated data observation, collection and analytics employed by the leaders of Amazon today, it might well have won the Cold War.”

  1. We need to act locally in a distributed approach and think globally. We need to infuse capital at the state level and find global partnerships with shared purpose. It’s important to show democratic societies are more sustainable in the long-run and exemplify how public-private partnerships can instrument the solutions that can be scaled.
  2. Create industry coalitions to detect future pandemics. There are technologies we can utilize today such as sensors or commercial satellites monitoring the patterns of life. We can mobilize this data with the partnerships with likeminded governments to predict the patterns of future biological threats.
  3. Educate. The advent of the internet and the data is that everyone can share information. The downside to this is that everyone can share information. Massive amounts of disinformation or misinformation about the coronavirus about. Information can be weaponized to polarize each other.
  4. Curate bilateral relations with critical allies on national security, diplomatic, technology, and commercial communities to identify and refine alliance challenges to pool data sets by each government. This could be an anonymous data sets to be used for begin an unmatched reservoir of data to offset China’s scale advantage in the arena or its potential deliberate policy choices, such as the coronavirus.
  5. As the US seeks to broaden its alliances in Asia, it should engage partners not just on trade and traditional security issues, but also on emerging “nontraditional” challenges. One principal area for America to collaborate constructively with Asian nations is in “natural security,” or the security implications of climate change, environmental degradation and natural resource dependence.
  6. Announce a government data pooling partnership. The United States and Japan should unveil an initiative to pool select, curated datasets held by each government for use by companies and innovators in each country.
  7. Leverage each other’s dynamic technology sector’s – Korea – 5G Within the realm of command, control and communication, Fahey said co-development of a 5G network would be welcomed.
  8. Establish bilateral national security innovation funds. These funds could support a range of initiatives, from quickfire seed projects to road test high-risk ideas to incubators for startups innovating at the nexus of defense and commercial applications.

In many ways, coronavirus is accelerating what has already been out there. It’s forcing us to think above and beyond for what it means for us – supply chain disruptions, teledocs, or cyber security technologies.

As a country, we should come together to think of the coronavirus as an opportunity to move ahead of the curve to keep scale in our favor.

스타트업 법인설립 101

사업체는 보통 개인사업자나 법인설립으로 나눠집니다. 법인을 설립하게 되면 우선 개인사업체와 개념이 많이 다릅니다. 개인사업체는 1인 책임자로 운영이 시작되며 개인 통장, 개인명의로 진행이 됩니다. 사업체와 개인이 동일하다고 보시면 됩니다. 하지만 개인사업자와 법인사업자는 세금을 내는 형식은 비슷합니다. 개인사업체는 법인과 다르게 다른 기업과 거래를 할때 악조건이 발생하거나 아님 거래측에서 법인형식을 요구할수도 있습니다.

통상시 처음부터 개인 사업체로 사업을 하는 경우가 많고, 규모가 커져 절세 또는 대외적으로 공신력을 얻기 위해 법인으로도 전환을 많이합니다. 개인사업체로 시작을 하게 되면 매출 추이를 확인후 법인으로 전환하게 되는데요. 통상시 총 매출액이 5억 10억 규모정도 이후 법인으로 전환되는 경우가 많습니다.

법인으로 전환하게 되면 우선 회사 법인이 새로 만들어지고 개인과 다른 주체로 만들어지는 겁니다. 그리고 법인카드가 만들어지겠죠. 1인기업은 의사결정을 혼자 할수있지만 법인은 같이 시작하는 사람과 함께 회사의 주체를 분배해 나눠가지는 형식이 되는거죠. 만약 5명이 있다면 20%식 나눠가지는 형태로 만들어집니다.

처음 시작할때 설립을 하는 형태, 조건등이 매우 중요합니다. 기업이 처음 가치가 없다고 해도 나중 이익이 나면 나눠가진 지분의 가치가 높아지기 때문에 주주중 한명이 나가게 되면 그 남은 주식을 분배를 어떻게 할지, 주식을 주주외 다른 사람에게 매도를 할지는 잘 논의를 해야됩니다.

법인을 만들때 자본금 비용은 서류상 정말 100월으로도 만들수 있지만 사업체를 운영하는 비용이기 때문에 어느정도 넉넉히 잡는게 좋습니다. 예전 법률상 5,000만원이 최저 자본금으로 지정이되었고 5,000만원에서 매출, 이익등을 계산하면 됩니다.

법인을 설립하게되면 법론사, 세무사, 변호사등 여러 도움이 필요하게 됩니다. 차후 차질이 없도록 각 과정에서 전문적인 도움을 잘 받는게 중요합니다.

국내 스타트업 같은 경우도 해외에 법인을 세우게 된다면 절차나 비용은 매우 싸게, 약 $100불정도로 세울수는 있지만 차후 IP등 회사 자산등이 노출될수있으니 손실없게 진행이 될수 있도록 도움을 받는것이 중요합니다.

Accelerating Impact from Strategic Partnerships to Policy Entrepreneurship

Where are we at?

How to accelerate innovation nationally

How to engage the world.

Four Approaches to Open Innovation in Korea

Open innovation in Korea is slowly moving away from building R&D capacities to reassessing business and operational models by either building its own corporate venture capital arm or working with an external consulting partner (typically a VC or an accelerator). The purpose for most Korean companies would mainly to have a testbed in innovating its business model or developing new technologies. And by running the open innovation program, the respective company would update its biz model, secure new talent, tech, market insight, and approaches to customer acquisition, etc.

Of course, a company may decide to buy a well-oiled startup with the range of technologies the company would need. For instance Hanwha Systems recently bought Satrec Initiative and plans to equip itself with the nut sand bolts to launch its own satellite.

In Korea, open innovation really used to be investing in a company one by one or expanding its social impact footprint and its CSR program, e.g., Hyundai Car’s pitch program called H-On Dream, but it is now opening up to a much more open collaborative approach. 

  1. Digital Transformation with a consulting firm: One of the most well-known open innovation consulting firm is called 로아 인벤션랩. Its most successful case studies are with KT 국민은행 and working with fashion & cosmetic brand companies that were relatively slow to innovate, e.g., LF and 신세계. Side note: It also began investing in startups, ~20 last year, via an angel-based VC, Big Bang Angels.
  2. MOU-based with VC/Accelerator: A large startup/accelerator/VC signs a partnership with a corporation to reassess its business model. The example I witnessed was the one with Hashed, a blockchain fund in Korea. It worked with an array of companies, banks, LG CNS, and those even remotely interested in learning about blockchain, including SM entertainment and CTIA, a mobile telecom company. And in doing so, the corporation’s tech or new business department could pilot a business model and the VC funneled its startups to partner with large corporations.
  3. CVC: The corporation could also decide to build its a raw datasheet of startups by opening a “신사업” or new business branch in industries it already does business in.The most successful ones I’ve seen are Kakao Ventures and Samsung Next. Most Korean CVCs do not have a very strong international base, except for the Korean conglomerates that already have a presence abroad. 한화생명’s Dream plus 63 has secured a network in Tokyo and Shanghai. Even Smart Study famous for its animation and its song, baby shark, has hired one or two investment analysts to review startups that they could be a part of. And it was quite successful at it so far. The interested company could soft-land by participating in one of KITA Next Rise’s programs as a judge/mentor. 
  4. Introduction-based: KITA has done this really quite well. KITA is the parent company that owns the space in Coex Mall and has a free lounge for startups. Annually, it hosts an annual conference called Next RIse for the purpose of assisting with open innovation. Another program KITA is famous for is a program called Fortune 500 Connect. KITA hosts an open invitation for startups interested in working with conglomerate contacts, notably BMW and Chanel, in the States, etc., to make introductions. 

Open innovation may seem tricky to enter, but there are many new mediums in which the startup could enter the field of open innovation. I suggest all those who are interested to start attending the startup-corporate meet-ups and or read case studies of successful programs or acquisition models.

Demystifying DoD Contracts

What the Department of Defense has achieved through the Defense Innovation Unit (DIU) and AFWERX is quite incredible – the flow of money from the government itself has not yet become predictable. Here are some recent observations on DoD contracting programs and how startups may enter the field.

DoD Purchasing and Contracting

DoD buys equipment and supplies across the caliber with three large investment areas: stretches of logistics to move equipment, medical facilities, and IT networks.

Open government contracts and DoD’s SBIR funding, reviewing the past 2-3 years, shows the range of government funding propositions. The government contracts consist of tires and other services. However, even if the technology is promising, if it is not exactly what the USG is looking for and thus detailed in the open contract or or it is a proven solution, then it is extremely difficult to fund it into the stream. And each contract often demands a proven solution than the maturity level of technology a seed-stage company may have.

SBIRs for DoD has a more flexible risk appetite. For instance, for new materials or technologies, the SBIR is designed to gain solicitation to test the market and to adapt them to the new solution.

The AFWERX Model

What AFWERX has done well is to get notice. After years of rift between the Silicon Valley and the defense community, the AFWERX has built the brand awareness and the dual-use open topics. Since the summer of 2018 pilot launch, which was successful, the value proposition for AFWERX has been that they could give money out faster – much like VCs and less like the traditional governments’ contracting cycles.

The two areas of struggles for AFWERX have been scaling the model and adopting the solutions. The government entities initially had attracted 150 proposals, which was followed-on by less, 100 or 50. The problem was the conundrum of the classic government innovation — slow, opaque, and difficult to follow. The government contracting process was not well set-up and was not entirely user-friendly. The second struggle was to get buy-in for the government customers. While AFWERX had given out the money to test out the solution, Air Force was not ready, either culturally or institutionally, to adopt the solution, the so-called Frozen Middle.

The flow of investment?

The investment into space startups is increasingly active. The startups who attracted the capital, high net-worth individuals, and institutional investors moved the money around to de-risk the capital allowing companies to win large contracts, such as Palantir to become multi-million dollar entities. However, selling to the large corporations could take easily two years to execute in the sale cycle, similar issue observed in governments.

If the government sees a company it likes, it would have to either introduce it in an existing contract or allocate new funding. A traditional government contract, which can be locked up for decades, is often with another larger supplier. They could ask the supplier to apply the company’s technology when shipping out the equipment. Or, they could create another contract, from which the government must find a budget. This could take one or two years of little or no communication with the interested company.

For small companies, the dynamic can be quite different. It is much more hands-on from the meeting to the adoption. It could take up to a month for a pilot and up to six months to commercialization.

Supporting Korean Businesses

Korean businesses can pave their way into DoD contracts through the SBIR dollars. To sell to the U.S. government, the Korean business would ideally need a U.S. subsidiary or create an LLC in the States. Setting-up the business itself is quite easy – only costing under $100 to create a company in Virginia.

However, the legalities of the business may be difficult to navigate. If the technology, however, is owned by a Korean, the United States has own the license to sell. The ownership of license is a matter of importance to the defense counterpart. Korean company would also need foot on the ground to build a salesforce and a team to sell on behalf of the company.

In short, the Korean business has to have a strong legal backing to establish its presence in the States and to navigate the difficulties of managing its assets, such as IP, in both countries. They also would need to set-up a strong salesforce to put the foot on the ground and to start generating revenue.

The VC Checklist

Here are some things you should know right away about VCs. Most VCs fail. They are just like startups. They have build and motivate management teams, source capital and strategic partners. They have to raise all the time from – pension funds, endowments, family offices, corporate and operating funds.

Here are some reasons why other funds though are not always the best idea. Accelerators/incubators get a huge volume of vetted opportunities and valuation can get inflated very quickly. AngelList stimulates the herd mentality of the stock market. You may need to spend a lot of time and money at University and tech R&D shops in investing into the idea. VCs model after PE practices.

Value comes from:

  • Cash
    • Does it have a meaningful budget? Does it use tech to share knowledge?
  • Brand
    • If it doesn’t have a strong brand image, is it co-investing with other shops?
  • Network
    • Does it have a CRM system? What kind of intros do portfolio companies need and can the team provide it?
    • Does it need to rely on external networks?
  • In-House Expertise
    • What is the fund manager’s background? Does the team have relevant background and operational expertise?
    • Does it have external consultants?

Good VCs come from:

  • Great management teams
  • Operational value creation expertise
    • Strategy scoping
    • Competitive positioning
    • Defining the target market
    • Scoping the product
    • Defining the right skill for each stage of the life cycle
  • Well-developed portfolio operator models
    • Optimize the team
    • Admin, accounting, legal, technical capabilities
    • Capital-raising
    • Recruiting
    • Identifying the right customers
    • Access to vendors and investors
    • Measure and understand metrics

Q&A

  • Q1. What is the sector size? AUM? The latest fund size? Latest progress, strategic partnerships, follow-on capital?
    • A portfolio size should have 10 – 30 companies based on sector and stage of investment. For software venture fund, it may have as many as 30 companies in its portfolio. The capital needs are lower, risks are deemed higher, and growth rate of companies is higher. In comparison, life science companies need larger amounts of capital and time to reach maturation, so life science fund may have a dozen companies.
    • On a portfolio basis, funds should target a 20% or more on an annualized basis rate of 2 to 3 times the invested capital. The internal rate of return (IRR) is to make 10 times in 3-5 years after the exit or selling a startup ideally after investment.
    • Most fund managers should have a diversified portfolio. Average total investment amount per company are typically no more than 10 percent of the fund to gain back the period within 4 to 6 years from time of investments with patterns of capital needs, company maturation and exit timing.
  • Q2. What do the investors look for depending on the stage of each fund?
    • Capital efficiency and target financial returns. Does it allow for generating venture-like returns?
      • Seed stage  – validate ideas, understand risk, connect to the market, help to find customers 
      • Mid stage – syndicate the investment, putting the rationale and leading the round
  • What is the market opportunity? What are key macrotrends? Is it large enough to source good deals? Does it have a competitive advantage in the domain?
    • The investment strategy should match skills and expertise of the team with the given market opportunity to generate superior financial returns. For instance, underserved regions can yield opportunities due to pricing advantages.

I also recommend checking out “founder NPS” the founder Bloomberg net promotor score.

Hope this helps!

The Business of Venture Capital

Tackling Climate Change with Machine Learning: the Due Diligence

ML can be an invaluable tool both in reducing greenhouse gas emissions and in helping society adapt to the effects of climate change. Climate change is a complex problem, for which action takes many forms – from designing smart electrical grids to tracking deforestation in satellite imagery. Many of these actions represent high-impact opportunities for real-world change, as well as being interesting problems for ML research.”

A community of researchers including OpenAI, DeepMind, Element AI together has started to explore the role that “machine learning can play in mitigating and adapting to climate change. They have published a research agenda, started to collaborate with climate experts, inspired faculty to develop courses on climate and ML, and organized workshops at the major ML conferences such as ICML and NeurIPS.”

Here from limited my purview, with the help of friends and a climate scientist, here are my thoughts on the four research ideas proposed to combat the greatest climate crisis of our generation.

Initial Thoughts:

  • I thought those were all very good ideas grounded in solid research with a team of unparalleled caliber.
  • $2 million may not be enough. A startup can burn $2million quickly, even in one year using Amazon Web Services. This would require a very good engineer to build a beautiful system, that would mean competing for someone with well-rounded startup experience OR 10 engineers in SF with salaries ranging around 150K to $2million/year easily.
  • Calling these tech/innovative components may not create the urgency for the burn rate for each the startups, which I think would be $500K each, which is doable, but needs entrepreneurs that can grind with the money. Great salespeople.

Here are the tech ideas:

  1. Improving energy efficiency of buildings by using ML to interpret building occupancy data, and reducing energy consumption on HVAC and lighting; 

The biggest problem in HVAC is energy waste is from dissipation (poor insulation or non-passive designs) and lack of renewable alternative fuels (heating). Renewable energy sources are generally very sporadic in power generation say 30% uptime, but the main solution so far has been to have fundamental breakthroughs in battery storage that could efficiently store and use locally the DC (generated via the solar/wind plants – local usage think powering the lights in remote mines that is right next to and connected to the DC power source), convert into AC and power other parts of the surroundings or even feedback into the grid. It’s a storage and/or distribution problem on a physical/chemical level and not too much of an info asymmetry level that feeding data overlaying utility rates can be solved.   

If forecasting is the best landscape for say wind/hydro generation entirely from a power generation efficiency point of view this application of ML can be interesting in improving planning because for hydro/wind. This can take years to construct and plenty of “collateral” geographical impact so proper prior planning prevents poor performance due to the high CapEx cost. Right application of data learning to process immense datasets and speed up/improve decision making in an expensive “wrong decision” environment.

2. Using model-based reinforcement learning for perishable inventory management to reduce the GHG emissions associated with food waste by supermarkets by 30 percent;

Supermarkets do not have a huge margin, so they may not be motivated to adopt new tech. There is an app called Damago, run by a Korean American doing this – a food app that connects customers with unsold menu items – at a discounted price.

3. Improving forecasting of solar and wind power forecasting, which increases the capacity of utilities to use solar and wind without undermining the reliability of the grid;

 4. Supporting the Measurement, Reporting and Verification needed to pay developing countries for forest conservation, using “interpretable ML” to analyze satellite images.

Ah yes, but also costly. Most of AI/ML is geotagging/grunt work – requiring CNN (convolution neural network) tech knowledge. There is a great startup by a close friend named Karina, former UNDP Consultant. She runs TaQadam with former Syrian refugees essentially geotagging satellite imagery data making them “AI-ready” in other words, much cheaper. But there are a lot of attempts to do this to improve satellight imagery data, I think also by the CTBTO. 

Forest conservation a really tough nut to crack because it involves the basic livelihoods for almost all commodity/land driven economies + political stability of the nation as a whole involving the employment of locals. A wide variety of economic-political factors are in play here so not something that a market enterprise approach like paying a dollar off to Indonesia’s lost land-related GNI can solve. 

Even if images were ready & AI definitively incriminates Indonesia/Brazil of killing Earth’s lungs, they’re not going to shut down their palm oil plantations or cattle ranches. And no developed country is going to be able to sustainably pay them to stop. for this one, AI will only confirm what we already know, a sustainable development problem. Real choke point is smoothing supply/demand mismatch cheaply, a la cheaper battery. battery chemistry problem.


9 Ways State Dept. Engages With Startups

*This summary with my own additions is drawn from my own experiences as well as those of my colleagues’ during the Obama Administration. They are results of the Secretary’s efforts to connect the capacity of U.S. startups to solve problems of interest to the USG. Results from many of these mechanisms have been transferred into functional bureaus, embassies, and into other offices.


U.S. small businesses and startups find it difficult and confusing to interact with the USG. Startups often do not have the revenue, funding runway, nor staffing capacity to understand or reach out to government that larger businesses do. Often the dynamic enterprises that develop the cutting-edge technologies that could enable the USG to achieve policy goals more effectively, but the interfaces between startups and the federal government can be weak.

Opportunities to apply the technical knowledge of U.S. startups to USG foreign policy goals cover the Presidential priorities, such as nuclear disarmament, food security, global health, and climate change. Sourcing innovative solutions from U.S. startups to support USG policy goals, such as the National Export Initiative, by providing more U.S. small businesses exposure to international markets at early stages in their lifecycle. These efforts implement various priorities of the Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review (printed every four years, it sets institutional priorities and provides strategic guidance as a framework for the most efficient allocation of resources. It provides a blueprint for advancing America’s interests in global security, inclusive economic growth, climate change, accountable governance and freedom for all) and the Secretary’s emphasis on utilizing “smart power,” economic statecraft,” and “whole of society” approaches.

  1. University Student Engineering Team Competitions: The fellowships is a low-cost way to bring expertise into the Department. It can start with expanding direct contact with student teams at universities across the U.S. Direct DoS participation, either as judges or participations, in competition such as the Idea to Products Global Competition and the Annenberg Innovation Lab conference to put DoS issues in direct contact with enthusiastic engineering student teams working on solutions we need. These teams align very well with the Grand Challenge interests in clean water, energy, food, and food security. The “First Way” has already led to the deployment of a multi-lingual Twitter traffic analysis tool called r-Shief (Arabic for “archive”) that has enabled Embassy Islamabad staff to differentiate between sentiment online and in the general media.
  2. Open Challenges: Based on the concept of crowd sourcing, open challenges involve a carefully constructed question that is put before the entire internet community to solicit ideas and solutions to the articulated problem.E/STAS has worked in close partnership with the Bureau of Arms on an “open challenge” workshop called “Can AVC use open challenges to derive ideas that can address arms control transparency regimes, despite the classified and sensitive nature of so much of the information? The challenge was together with Innocentive.
  3. RRTO’s Defense Venture Catalyst Initiative (DeVenCI): RRTO or DoD’s Rapid Reaction Technology’s Office administers this program to identify U.S. startups with capabilities that are highly desired by different offices. This program expanded into NASA and into the State Department that have worked from the Office of Geographer and Global Issues to Overseas Building Operations, Diplomatic Security. They selected companies to proceed to an evaluation and to the test phase. Embassies that provided direct input and involvement of the companies proceeded with implementation, which improved energy efficiency of the buildings.
  4. LAUNCH: Office of the Science and Technology Adviser to the Secretary of State (E/STAS) increased State Department involvement in partnership with NASA, USAID, and Nike with the addition of the Office of Naval Research as a Resource Partner. LAUNCH fostered rapid development of a mix of U.S. and foreign innovators targeting grand challenges of interest. One of the LAUNCH cycle – Beyond Waste sourced innovators around the world with unique and innovative approaches to reducing, converting, and otherwise transforming the mountains of waste produced globally into useful products.
  5. Technology Startup Engagement: E/STAS had established an informal relationship with In-Q-Tel, an organization that forms a bridge with U.S. startups and various USG agencies, which brought numerous startups to the attention of a variety of State Department offices. One interesting startup was Recorded Futures, a startup with capabilities of interest to the Office of the Geographer and Global Issues through the relationship with In-Q-Tel.
  6. S2S (Startups 2 State) Gateway: E/STAS partnership with Startup America connected U.S. startups with embassy officers to searching for solutions to problems identified as strategic to embassy’s goals. Startup America is an independent private-sector alliance intended to dramatically increase the development, prevalence, and success of innovative, high-growth U.S. firms. Startup America’s leadership includes CEO Scott Case, previous founder and CTO of Priceline, and board member Michael Dell, CEo of Dell, inc.
  7. Entrepreneur-In-Residence: Dr. E. William Golglazier, Science and Technology Adviser to the Secretary, created the role of Entreprneur-In-Residence (EIR) in his office to manage the continued engagement with the U.S. startup to serve as a focal point for innovation discussion that progress beyond the preliminary how-to discussions concrete implementation.
  8. Presidential Management Fellows: The Presidential Management Fellows (PMF) Program is administered by the U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM) to serve for two years in the following agencies. In 2018, one of the PMFs designed a “Better Government Movement” and appointed “Ad Hoc Sherpas” to lead a series of design thinking initiatives and open studio sessions to offer specific subject matter expertise in areas like Human-Centered Design, Lean Startup, Agile, change management, and pitch coaching to Design Challenge teams.
  9. The Office of Global Partnership: The Office of Global Partnerships is previously a Secretary’s Office is main portal to which each and every office of the State Dept. conducts partnerships with. They used to hold hackathons, Blockchain Central event, and thinking exercises. Certainly one of the few offices at State using the word “impact” and has an active partnership with Concordia Summit and USAID for public-private partnership for social impact. Every partnership and gift also is vetted through this office. They offer trainings, events, and solutions to which each office and leverage the public-private partnerships solutions creatively to each of the foreign policy priorities.

If you’re interested in reading more, feel free to check out the innovation forum.