Developing experiences to do business with the DoD.


Compass is the latest pilot program from the National Security Innovation Network (NSIN) and is unique in its focus of working with incubators and accelerators in low-income states to source new participants to engage in national security problem solving opportunities while developing experience to do business with the Department of Defense (DoD).

The Challenge

DoD leaders are increasingly seeking new ways to engage with non-traditional partners to solve DoD problems. Unfortunately, the DoD “valley of death” acts as a barrier causing some of the most promising startups and technologies with potential dual-use applications to steer clear of the DoD. This has critical impacts not only on national security, but also on the growth potential of the local economies those startups call home. To successfully bridge the valley of death, startups must receive specialized support to help them understand the nuances of engaging with and selling to the DoD (SBIR/STTR, subcontracts, OTAs, etc.), and develop the tools, resources and networks to grow their commercial businesses.

The Solution

Compass Pilot Program States

Compass will recruit startups from low-income states by partnering with local incubators and accelerators based on the specific technical needs and application problems of NSIN’s DoD partners. Selected startups will receive services, resources and education to help them engage with the DoD to mitigate funding risks and better understand DoD mission needs.

How it Works

NSIN’s DoD partners will work with the Compass team to review and select a small cohort of early-stage dual-use startups with relevant solutions. Those startups will move through a 3-month custom business accelerator program. Throughout the program, DoD partners will assist those startups in making their products a better fit for DoD end users. The startups will also receive mentorship, education and access to a deep network of business development and technical connections. By the end of Compass, startups will be better positioned to deliver solutions to the DoD.

DoD Timing & Engagement

Compass will be implemend through a phased approach:

  • Phase 1 (1-2 months): Program planning/design and partner relationship development; DoD Engagement: Periodic planning calls/meetings
  • Phase 2 (1-2 months): Recruiting and selecting startups; DoD Engagement: Review, judge, and select cohort companies
  • Phase 3 (3 months): Compass program execution; DoD Engagement: Periodic planning calls/meetings
  • Phase 4 (Ongoing): Ad hoc interaction between DoD and Compass graduates