Request For Proposals – Making the Extraordinary Difficult Simple

Great ideas come from addressing problems.

During Startup Weekend Bloomington in May, a side discussion led to one such idea. Two small business owners were discussing the DOD RFP system. One owned a small contracting company and was working on responding to their first prime contract. They had an internal team to respond to the RFP and were pulling in outside support to help with the response. The amount of resources spent on responding to one single contract was astronomical. The other small business owner had recently looked at responding to his first small contract. He spent three days attempting to understand what the RFP was asking for and how to respond to it before the mind numbing frustration caused him to throw up his hands and return to more productive business development strategies.

Companies spend up to hundreds of thousands responding to RFPs, between outside support and internal staff, resources, and overtime. Businesses that are not built around responding to government RFPs rarely respond to them due to their massive learning curve. RFP responses must respond in often excruciating detail and a single mistake can mean an automatic rejection of the proposal. On top of it all, large portions of a RFP response can be reused, which makes the process ripe for automation.

Todd Park, the CTO and Entrepreneur-in-residence of the Federal Government, has even identified the Federal RFP system as one of the major change initiatives as part of the Presidential Innovation Fellowship program. The RFP-EZ initiative is designed to build a platform that makes it easier for small high-growth businesses to navigate the federal government, and enables agencies to quickly source low-cost, high-impact information technology solutions. The streamline process or platform will leverage the simplified acquisition threshold which covers small contracts with values under $150,000. Todd Park explains the details of the initiative here.

With successful entrepreneurs recognizing the problem on a national level and local entrepreneurs expressing their difficulty using the system as it stands, it points to a great potential opportunity which demands a closer look.

As part of the Entrepreneurial Crash Course series, the Startup Weekend Crane Organizers will develop a product around the RFP problem and present their findings and results each week. Join us in person each Tuesday starting July 17th at the Stimulus Westgate Training Facility from 11am to noon for the Entrepreneurial Crash Course and seeing how the lessons are applied to the development and refinement of the RFP solution.

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