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A Safe Bet

If your company's technology could make our country safer, a new federal program may help you connect with potential buyers in Washington.

The Defense Venture Catalyst Initiative, or DeVenCI, program helps managers at the Department of Defense and other national-security agencies look beyond the usual big-company defense contractors as they seek new rapidly deployable technologies.

DeVenCI director Bob Pohanka says the program matches defense managers who have problems with small companies that can offer solutions. Currently, DeVenCI focuses on IT but plans to consider small-business offerings in biotechnology, sensors, energy, electronics, space, and nanotechnology in the near future.

The matchmaking occurs primarily at events that DeVenCI holds several times a year in and around Washington, DC, where companies pre-sent their technologies to an audience of defense- agency managers. One March event participant, 2-year-old SailPoint Technologies Inc. of Austin, Texas, presented its identity risk-management product, says co-founder and CEO Mark McClain, 45. The result? The 25-employee firm is in talks with several potential government buyers and has been invited to working group meetings to learn more about defense-agency needs--invaluable information that may shape future SailPoint product offerings.

To screen proposals, DeVenCI enlists the help of volunteer VCs around the country. Roger Novak, co-founder of Novak Biddle Venture Partners, says VCs receive extensive briefings on defense-agency needs, then work their networks to find relevant companies.

Don't know one of DeVenCI's chosen VCs? No problem. You can submit information directly to DeVenCI through the company information form on its website and receive equal consideration.

Presenting his company's defense technology at a DeVenCI event helped Mark McClain secure possible buyers--and invaluable advice.

The author is an Entrepreneur contributor. The opinions expressed are those of the writer.

Carol Tice, a freelance writer, is chief executive of TiceWrites Inc. in Bainbridge Island, Wash. She blogs about freelance writing at Make a Living Writing. Email her at

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This article was originally published in the October 2007 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: A Safe Bet.

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