How Training Can Help You Develop a Winning SBIR Proposal

The SBIR/STTR programs are supposed to be “easy” government contracting and a great way to fund your tech startup.  And SBIR/STTR grant funding it is “easier” than general government contracting, but it’s not easy.

I remember (quite a few years ago), I went to my first SBIR training to get some SBIR success tips, back when training was in a conference room all day!

Looking back, it became clear that it would not have been possible for me to write a winning SBIR proposal, either for our company or for clients, without that training!

I just recently finished working closely under our VentureWrench SBIR Coaching program with a very talented software team which had a strong vision and great technology foundation for a Phase I proposal.

Unfortunately, the draft proposal they sent me to review was completely unfundable.  NOT because of the technology, but because the proposal was not appropriately framed, budgeted or described.  By working together, we were able to focus the proposal so that the work proposed fit into the proposed budget, and to clearly define the compelling elements in the proposal.

If you are proposing work that is “too much” for the Phase I budget, then reviewers WILL NOT recommend your proposal for funding!

As someone who has reviewed many proposals, I was able to immediately see that reviewers would see that the work proposed was too much for the budget, and therefore they would not recommend it for funding. This surprises proposing teams.

In business, if you overpromise, many mangers say ‘great, have at it’ (and assume you’ll just work a LOT of extra hours!)  But experienced SBIR reviewers want you to succeed, and they know that over-promising leads almost always to failure.  So you won’t be recommended for funding.

The truth is, it almost always requires training to learn how to write a successful SBIR proposal, and I have helped teams which have applied, and not been funded, retool existing proposals, just by applying the principles I have learned both as a proposing team and as an experience reviewers.

Don’t forget that the majority of SBIR proposals are unfundable – don’t be one of them!

Do you know how to structure a proper budget? Here’s one important tip.  ALWAYS take the 7% fee.  Even if you need more in the another area, take the 7%.  That is your FREE MONEY – your profit, the money you can use for any business purpose. It does not give you any advantage to cut that down, and just shows you are an inexperienced proposing team. My one on one VentureWrench SBIR Coaching clients get my magic budget spreadsheet! With it, you can create an entire SBIR/STTR budget in minutes!

If you haven’t gone through our SBIR course, Develop a Winning SBIR Strategy – Insights From The Review Process, I invite you to do so.  Remember that my perspective as a reviewer of many, many proposals gives you an advantage as you prepare your Phase II proposal.  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 the course.  Email us at venturewrenchcommunity [at] with questions.


Interested in creating an SBIR proposal?
Click to Get our free guide “40 Ways to Improve your SBIR/STTR proposal!

Nicole Toomey Davis Awards Interviews