capabilities—helping companies under- stand how to do business with the Army while also pursuing commercial- ization opportunities. The immersion events include mentors as well as experts from government, industry and venture communities who offer advice to the companies and provide best practices from their respective areas of expertise. Tis dual-use approach provides the compa- nies with a greater potential for success and exposes them to more potential partners from among Army and commercial inves- tors. “Tere’s a good chance other people might invest, besides the military, directly in your efforts; might partner with you; might provide you a way to take your tech- nology and put it into a larger system,” Dr. Bruce D. Jette, Army acquisition execu- tive, explained to xTechSearch participants at AUSA in October.

Te first immersion event—in Austin, Texas, in January—focused on the defense innovation ecosystem and brought together government agencies like the U.S. Army Futures Command, AFWERX— the Air Force’s innovation group—NASA and the FBI, along with more conventional prime contractors like Raytheon, Lock- heed Martin and Boeing, to help empower the startups by sharing their experiences, coaching through pitches, and doing their own pitches. Each company that partic- ipated in the event had conversations with prime contractors’ small business engagement divisions. “We’ve worked with many accelerators, but the quality of contact here brought together by FedTech and xTechSearch is something else.” said Alec Shkolnik, CEO of LiquidPiston, a Connecticut-based company that special- izes in power solutions.

A second event, in Boston in Febru-

ary, focused on the venture innovation ecosystem and included venture capital- ists, vertical focused co-working spaces


like GreenTown Labs and Te Engine, and corporate venture capital firms such as Philips HealthWorks, Verizon and Bayer. Te Boston event focused on accelerating the companies’ abilities to devise and act on a strategy to build their businesses and grow in areas other than defense. Each company that participated in this event gave their technology pitch to a room full of investors, and another round of pitches to a group of innovation leads from large corporations.

Many of the investors scheduled private meetings with the companies the day after the pitches, and the innovation leads gave each company advice on how to hone their pitch, understand the market opportuni- ties and refine business plans. Tis trip proved to be a strong mentoring experience for the companies, giving them confidence as they prepared for their live demonstra- tions at the xTechSearch finals. “Having seen these companies’ first pitch back in July 2019, it is amazing to see how polished they are today in front of these audiences,” said Topolosky, who attended the Boston event in February. “Tey’ve really honed their pitches to focus on specific Army use cases, but also show the growth potential of their technologies for the Army and in the commercial market.

“I don’t envy the xTechSearch Phase IV judges in Huntsville next month,” he said. “Tey’ll have an extremely tough time deciding between these companies.”

CONCLUSION Trough technology scouting programs such as xTechSearch, the Army continues to identify technologies with the poten- tial to revolutionize Army capabilities in the future. While the Army has specific collaboration and funding mechanisms such as ARL Open Campus, Small Busi- ness Innovation Research projects and later-stage acquisition processes, the xTech

Accelerator can fill in the gaps in devel- oping the small businesses behind the identified technologies.

Te xTechSearch competition can only have one grand prize winner, but “that doesn’t mean there are half-winners and half-losers. It means, this is about work, and you have to take advantage of the opportunities put in front of you,” Jette told participants at AUSA in October. Te xTechSearch program is investing in all the finalist companies by offering the xTech Accelerator program and providing them with opportunities to make connec- tions and to improve their technology, business models and pitches so that they can be successful in their future endeav- ors even if they don’t win the grand prize at xTechSearch.

Te road from “technology” to “deploy- able technology-based solution ready for Army acquisition” can be challenging. Te accelerator ensures that the identified tech- nologies make it to the finish line and can have a meaningful impact on the Army.

For more information about xTechSearch and to see the various opportunities avail- able, go to or follow them on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and YouTube @xTechSearch.

KRISTIN MCNELIS is an associate with Booz Allen Hamilton providing support to xTechSearch at CCDC – ARL. She holds a B.A. in communication from the University of Maryland.

Army AL&T Magazine

Spring 2020

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