SBIR Success Strategies

October 29th’s panel on Back 2 Biz will focus on success factors for the SBIR program from the corporate, SBIR program manager, and venture perspectives. Here’s an opportunity to hear from and interact with a diverse panel of experts who know SBIR success.

We’ll sit down with entrepreneurs, a federal VC and SBIR program managers for a session moderated by Jen Sovada, Chief Futures Officer and SVP/GM, MissionTech Solutions, where we will explore the current state of SBIR funding, how companies can successfully navigate the SBIR process, what federal VCs and program managers look for in companies that apply, and how they measure SBIR program and innovation success.

Congress created the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program in 1982 with the mission to support scientific excellence and technological innovation using federal R&D funds and the goal that those projects will become commercial successes. For small companies that qualify, the three-phase system can be lucrative. For example, first stage or Phase I awards can deliver up to $150K for 6 months of project feasibility research.

A video recording of the October 29 conversation will be made available.

  • Anusha Iyer | Co-Founder and CTO, Corsha
  • Dr. Manny Oliver | Director, SBIR/STTR Programs Office, Department of Energy
  • Riya Patel | Program Manager Government, Dcode
  • Jason Rathje | Director, AFVentures AFWERX, U.S. Air Force
  • Jen Sovada | Chief Futures Officer & SVP/GM, MissionTech Solutions | Board Member, Defense Entrepreneurs Forum
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Anusha Iyer
Anusha Iyer

Chief Technology Officer and Co-Founder of Corsha

Anusha is a technology leader with over 15 years of experience in security-minded software, analytics, and managed services. Prior to Corsha, Anusha was the Director of Software Programs at Galois, Inc., managing DARPA contracts in the areas of privacy, cyber-mission planning, and software diversity. She started her career in the Washington, D.C area at the Naval Research Lab, where she contributed to programs in the realm of tactical edge networking, program analysis and reverse engineering.

Anusha earned her Master’s degree in Computer Science from SUNY Buffalo and an undergraduate degree from Carnegie Mellon University. She did her graduate work in formal models for insider threat assessment. Anusha is passionate about making security accessible, easy to adopt, even self-assuring.

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Manny Oliver
Manny Oliver

Director of the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs
US Department of Energy

Manny Oliver is the Director of the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs for the US Department of Energy, Manny has reduced the time from application to start of R&D from 8 months to 4.5 months. He is focused on commercialization outcomes through revised application requirements, a revamped commercialization assistance program, and web-based tracking of outcomes. Manny is implementing a collaborative effort with technology transfer offices at National Labs and universities to leverage the SBIR/STTR programs to accelerate technology transfer.

Manny is an MIT graduate with a B.S. and a Ph.D. in Materials Science. Manny was also an Assistant Professor at MIT.

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Riya Patel
Riya Patel

SBIR Government Program Manager

Riya Patel is Dcode's Government Program Manager. Riya
- Develops and manages relationships with key officials at various DoD and civilian agencies
- Develops new and exciting ways to work with government, startup technology companies, and system integrator partners to advance government missions.
- Leads curriculum sessions for both Dcode's tech and government community on innovative acquisitions, engaging with tech companies, and conducting deliberate market research.

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Jason Rathje
Jason Rathje

Director of AFVentures, AFWERX
United States Air Force

Jason Rathje is the Director of AFVentures, AFWERX. AFWERX connects the US Air Force,, to innovators.

Jason is part of a team that implements novel initiatives to mature and transition "dual-use" technology ventures. Their approach is to (1) build relationships between commercial solution-providers and Air Force problem-owners and (2) scale successful problem-solution matches. They are successful if their initiatives accelerate product-market fit between the companies who are passionate about national security and Air Force users who need their revolutionary technologies.

Jason has researched the intersection of entrepreneurship, innovation, and national security in Stanford's Management Science & Engineering Department, specializing in technology entrepreneurship strategies. Specifically, Jason studied the effect of government partnerships, both as an investor and customer, on basic research through commercialization. This research heavily influenced my involvement in AF Ventures, as well sparked new research projects on how to expand the dual-use economy more intelligently.

Jason is an MIT graduate with a B.S. and an M.S. in Aeronautical and Astronautical Engineering.

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Jen Sovada
Jen Sovada

Futures Officer and Senior Vice President / General Manager for the Defense market for the Intelligence Community (IC)
MissionTech Solutions

Forbes Top 50 AI in Government Influencer Colonel (Ret.) Jen Sovada is MissionTech Solutions Chief Futures Officer where she is responsible for bringing MissionTech's model for integrating new technologies and best practices into government. While at MissionTech, Jen developed MissionTech’s Promethean Process™, a proprietary five-step innovation framework that drives the success of our projects and clients. Prior to joining MissionTech, Jen served as an Intelligence Officer for over 25 years in the Air Force and held high-level positions across the Intelligence Community to include serving as the Chief of Talent Management for the Deputy Chief of Staff for Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (ISR) and Cyber Effects Operations and as the Wing Commander of the Air Force Technical Applications Center.

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Bring your best ideas, innovations and SBIR funding challenges and enjoy the conversation!


Back 2 Biz is a series of engaging and interactive conversations examining how tech, entrepreneurship and innovation can improve our lives and bring businesses back — stronger & safely. Sessions are live and free to register. On-demand access will be available to all registrants. Overflow live stream on the MITEFDC YouTube Channel.

Back 2 Biz

Talk To Me Conversational Voice AI: Redefining the Customer Experience

A new channel has emerged: Conversational Voice AI, which some say will become as integral to our lives as the wheel and electricity. Voice AIs like Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant converse with us daily and can even detect our emotions and health conditions from the sound of our voice. Conversational Voice AI creates a powerful Customer Experience (CX), new business opportunities, and public policy challenges.

MIT Enterprise Forum Washington DC & Baltimore invites you to meet with successful local investors and entrepreneurs that are creating conversational voice AI solutions in the private and public sector.

When: Tuesday, October 22nd from 6:30-9:30pm

Where: Crystal City VA Accelspace (2611 Richmond Hwy, 3rd Floor)

What:  Come meet DC’s own investors and entrepreneurs that are creating and monetizing conversational voice AI solutions now.

Cost: $30 (Includes food & beverages)

RSVP Here: https:/ /

Investing Locally

XAPPmedia enables brands and media to connect with consumers through interactive voice technologies. Bespoken is a leader in automated testing & monitoring that makes testing voice apps 10X faster and deeper. A local investor and founder of both startups will share his perspective on conversational AI and the challenges that his two local start-ups have faced.

Making Money

Government Opportunities

International Business Panel

MIT Enterprise Forum Washington DC & Baltimore is supporting DC Startup week.

Members are invited to attend a free happy hour featuring networking and panel discussion on international business.

When: September 12, 2019 from 5:30pm until 8:00pm
Where: Le DeSales 1725 Desales St NW, Washington, DC 20036
Event Link:

An experienced panel of international business experts will discuss opportunities and challenges of conducting international business, especially in France and Europe. This broad ranging discussion will also cover governmental and cultural implications. Please bring your questions for the panel.

Hospitality and refreshments are provided by Le DeSales restaurant.

International Networking Locally!

MIT Enterprise Forum Washington DC & Baltimore is working with the French American Chamber of Commerce to create a fun, networking event. Come network with fellow Francophiles, French VIPs, diplomats, and business professionals in the wonderful Maison Française at the French Embassy.

Are you a Francophile? Or a business-minded person? Or simply a professional who enjoys a nice Happy Hour in one of the most beautiful Embassies in Washington? Then this event is for you! And of course, no need to speak French. Unless you want to!

  • French Dessert Buffet
  • Open Bar featuring French wines and beers
  • Dress Code: Business, Business Casual or Cocktail Attire
  • This is at the French Embassy: 100% ID check on entering

MIT Enterprise Forum Washington DC & Baltimore members will be paying the same price as FACC members for this event. Please check your email for the member discount code. Not a member? Not too late to join.

When September 6th, 2019 7:00 PM through 10:00 PM
Location French Embassy
4101 Reservoir Rd NW
Washington, DC 20007
United States
Contact Phone: (202) 640-1806
Fees $49 non-members ; $35 – members, check your email for discount code
Event Link
Register Link

DC Startup Week Sep. 9-13

MIT Enterprise Forum Washington DC & Baltimore is proud to partner with DC Startup Week.

DC Startup Week (DCSW) is the fastest-growing startup community in the DMV region with over 6,000 entrepreneurs. Once a year, we bring together our expansive community over 5-days to connect, collaborate, share resources and celebrate our thriving ecosystem. Throughout the year, we strengthen our united community by curating inclusive, thought-provoking, and meaningful events and partnerships.

This year DC Startup Week is in Washington, D.C. from Monday, September 9, 2019, 8:00 AM to Friday, September 13, 2019, 8:00 PM.

  • This is no charge for this event.
  • Meet fellow founders, entrepreneurs, developers and investors in casual venues to talk shop, share code and make plans
  • Be part of a culture that celebrates sharing and learning from one another
  • Learn from incredibly smart entrepreneurs and experienced mentors
  • Network with the entire DC startup community and interact with startup teams and hiring managers in meaningful and impactful ways

To learn more, visit

To register, use this Eventbrite link,

Nominations Committee Report: The 2019/20 Board

The nominations committee is happy to report on the new MIT Enterprise Forum Washington DC & Baltimore board. The board has been voted in and is already hard at work on the upcoming year. The committee is confident that this board will be successful in growing MITEF’s capacity to serve the start-up community here in DC.

The nominations committee was tasked with recruiting a new Chair as Matthew Falls was term limited. Matt had served as Chair for two successful consecutive terms of growth for the forum and we thank him for his enthusiasm and unstinting work on behalf of our chapter. Our ideal candidate would be someone who is part of the DC startup community, who is an experienced entrepreneur who wanted to give back to the community, and who had participated or supported MITEF Washington DC & Baltimore. Our search was successful.

Our new chair is a long-time friend of the forum Cynthia Traeger. Ms. Traeger has moderated panels and taught entrepreneur skills at MITEF events. Cynthia Traeger serves as CEO of Pacific, a diversified technology & media holding company, and concurrently serves as President of VSI Pacific.  She leads Pacific’s efforts across aerospace, defense, sports, entertainment, and other industries. Additionally, Cynthia serves as a Trustee to the Board of Trustees, Harrisburg University of Science and Technology where she chairs the International Affairs Committee of the Executive Board; and is a Mentor/Advisor to the NIH Commercialization Accelerator Program and Feedback Sessions. She was a participant and author with the American Bar Association’s Digital Evidence Work Group, and a contributor to the Journal of the ACM Special Interest Group on Graphics. Cynthia is a partner to the State Department’s Global Innovation through Science and Technology (GIST) program and is an active mentor for GIST companies. In partnership with GIST, she is an executive mentor to the Research Competitiveness Program for the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). She holds multiple patents in the areas of real-time data analysis for proximity and movement of objects.

Matthew Falls remains on the board as the Immediate Past Chapter Chair and is the Volunteer Chair. Mark Johnston has moved from Programming Chair to Vice Chair but will still be involved in programming. Andrew Polcha has moved from Vice Chair to Nominations but is still advising the programming committee. Our new Programming Chair is Michael Novak. Michael worked on the programming committee last year. A list of all the board members is below. We are currently working to update our website and when it is ready, we will add the new biographies for your review.

Our other goal was to recruit volunteers who demonstrated an enthusiasm for supporting startups in DC. To accomplish this, we recruited six new board members, 30% of the board. Complementing this change four board members changed roles, 20% of the board. Half the board is returning in their role from last year. We believe that by bringing new board members on board will not only diversify the capabilities of the board but will make the chapter stronger as we move into the 2020s.

Volunteer Title
Cynthia Traeger Chapter Chair
Matthew Falls Immediate Past Chapter Chair /
Volunteer Chair
Mark Johnston Chapter Vice Chair
Helen Shimbo Chapter Treasurer
Steve Britt Chapter Secretary
Shyam Chidamber Sponsorship Committee Chair
Andy Tucker Sponsorship Committee Vice Chair
Jason Ware Operations Chair
Michael Novak Program Committee Chair
Vered Sharon Program Committee vice Chair
David Beck Membership/Volunteer Chair
Mahesh Joshi Educational Partnerships
Scott McKeever Marketing co-Chair
Kirsten Johnson Marketing co-Chair
Ed Harrell Program Committee
Nir Adhikari Program Committee
Amu Fowler Entrepreneur Ambassador
Beverly Bugos Outreach Chair
Larry Trotter II Volunteer Coordinator
Andrew Polcha Nominating Committee Chair

Survey Says!

Our survey respondents have spoken. Thank you for your feedback to our summer survey. It will help us guide our chapter’s strategy and programming.

Thank You

We would like to thank the many survey respondents for the valuable information they have provided to the leadership team and the programming committee. Your answers will be used to help formulate the programming for our events this fall and next spring. Not only did the respondents help answer our set questions but they provided extra information to help us better define our events. Also, a special thanks to those who have volunteered their time and expertise to help our chapter.

What Is Important?

The first question helps us formulate the content of the events. The respondents overwhelming wanted networking at our events. We will make sure that each event has adequate time to network and is structured to bring in people who are active in the DC entrepreneur community. Second, the respondents wanted MITEF to support our local entrepreneurs. We will work to feature local entrepreneurs at our events.


Our next question focused on potential topics. Networking, this time as a topic and not an event theme, was a top priority for the respondents. We hear this interest loud and clear and will work to make our events great for networking. In the next group, the future of work is aligned with MIT’s Work of the Future initiative (, we are planning a voice/AI event in October, and we will work to have events on business growth and entrepreneurial leadership.

Event Locations and Times

This question confirmed that our typical respondent can attend evening events mid-week in Washington DC or Arlington. We feel that the location bias is due to our chapter’s focus on DC and Northern Virginia events over the last several years. We have met many entrepreneurs and their supporters from the Baltimore area and know that there is an interest to hold MITEF events there as well. This fall we will focus on holding mid-week evening events in DC and Arlington. Beyond that, we will work on developing or supporting events in the Baltimore and northern Montgomery county.