Let’s talk TABA – what is it, who can provide it, how to get it?

I’ve had so many requests for TABA help, that I’ve started offering that support – and it’s been really great!  I have so enjoyed working with really cool teams from our community who’ve won awards already!  So thanks to those of you who have trusted me to help on both the proposal development side and on the TABA side.

I thought I would talk a little more about TABA.  TABA stands for “Technical and Business Assistance” and for a very long time a small handful of established consulting companies would get contracts to provide support (sometimes called CAP or Commercialization support, back in the day…).  They were paid directly by the agency.  At NSF, they used to have two such agencies and you were randomly assigned one of them and if you didn’t like one, you could request to switch to the other.  That’s it.  Those were your choices. And let’s face it, no one can be an expert in all things, and they had to make money to support a big organization, so the help varied from “a little” to “some”.

That said, sometimes an agency selected TABA vendor may be just what you need. For example, a recent Army solicitation offered the choice, the “army-selected” TABA vendor, or one of your selection.  In the case of a small biz not familiar with DoD and the Army, the Army selected vendor might have been perfect!

With the more recent reauthorizations, though, you can work with almost anyone or any organization you want for TABA support.  It cannot be someone otherwise included on the proposal (they really want to add some more horsepower to your team!) and there do seem to be some nepotism no-nos, which you’d expect of the government.  The specific solicitation will give you details.

Have Fantastic Legal AdvisersThe goal is a TABA provider who has some expertise that you need and who is willing to do the work.  Some providers will put together an hourly arrangement, but I’ve seen those fall apart!  I prefer to focus on the deliverables that you need (we discuss those!) and I put those deliverables in your TABA support letter. For Phase I TABA, I always recommend you focus on the marketing information and financial modelling you need for your Phase II Commercialization proposal.

I’ve seen a handful of other groups out there offering TABA support as well.  And I think it’s great.  One PI came to me because of my AI background – he wanted someone on the team who understood the complexities of the project.

What do you do if you want a specific TABA vendor to be part of your proposal?

What do you do if you want a specific TABA vendor to be part of your proposal?  All you need is a letter from the TABA vendor – we know how to write them so they’ll get approved.  In my case it usually takes a day or two to put one together, but unless I’m completely OOO, we can turn it around quickly for a deadline.

You need to know the TABA budget offered by your agency which sems to vary between $5000 and $6500.  Sometimes those funds are in addition to your main award, sometimes it is part of your main award.  It will say in the solicitation. At NSF it looks like they’ve moved TABA to be part of the main award, of course those awards are very good, and it’s the first time that anything like “marketing” could be funded directly at NSF.

I’ve even had groups come to me who’ve had a TABA provider drop out and they’ve received permission for me to step in without any problem.

So don’t forget to claim TABA support in your next proposal. Either the agency vendor, or a vendor of your choice. I do limit the number of TABA clients I can take on, so if you think I can be of help, let me know as soon as you can!

If you want more in depth help, either a proposal review or help developing your proposal, you can apply for a spot in our one-on-one VentureWrench SBIR Coaching after you’ve gone through our online course.  Email us at venturewrenchcommunity [at] gmail.com with questions.

And if you need help with any part of your SBIR process – proposal (Phase I or II), TABA, proposal management, or contract finalization, just email us at venturewrenchcommunity [at] gmail.com with questions.

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