My Thoughts on the GovCon Industry
During our bi-weekly team meeting, my CEO asked me why I hadn’t thought about writing a blog — after all, I’ve been in this industry now for almost 9 years, working with a diverse set of clients.
So, here I am, giving this blog thing the old college try. What do I think of this industry? Number one, as with all things, it has evolved. Especially with regards to resources available. There are a multitude of newer business intelligence tools on the market. Are they good? Verdict is still out. Number two, it doesn’t seem fair, but as my mother always told me, “life’s not fair” and number three, it is complex.
To address number one — I have worked for a few federal business intelligence companies in my past. When I started, INPUT (now GovWin IQ) was the main player. Then, INPUT got acquired by Deltek and Deltek followed up with acquisitions of FedSources, Centurion and the latest Onvia. The INPUT product became GovWin IQ and remains the standard in the industry, mainly because they were the first company to offer these services and have been around the longest.
I left GovWin IQ at the end of 2013 to join Govini — a well funded, SF startup. At the time, I thought they were one of the only other competitors in the industry, albeit new. I was aware of BGov, which is a unit of media giant Bloomberg, who quietly entered the business intelligence market around 2010 after acquiring Eagle Eye, but that was it.
In 2016 I received a call from Fedmine while on maternity leave. I didn't know much about Fedmine; I recall having just heard one thing about the company; they had subcontractor data way before anyone else did. I saw a demo of the platform and was quite frankly blown away. The amount of data and the ways you could view that data was like none other. The sheer depth and breadth of their sophisticated data aggregation processes on Amazon Web Services (AWS), and the way it had been integrated into a seamless federal spending and business opportunities platform was instantly recognizable in a league of their own.
Since my time at Fedmine, I’ve become aware of a handful of other competitors and quasi competitors in the industry. After having experience at 3 different business intelligence companies, I can hands down say Fedmine is the most robust, comprehensive and real-time — thanks to it's huge investment in the AWS cloud. Fedmine has been in business since 2004 and went live in 2007. The founder of Fedmine never accepted any funding and chose to keep a low profile all of these years. The company began taking off soon after it released its highly modern application version around mid 2016 which funny enough, coincided with my arrival. Stay tuned for more exciting things from our company and make sure you have the right business intelligence platform — it makes all the difference.
So…number two. In my almost 9 years in working in the industry I have come across many startup or established companies who want to break into the space. They come in with starry eyes and quickly realize that government contracting is not THAT EASY. You register with SAM and start mining FBO, respond to RFP’s and don’t get anywhere. We hear it time and time again, when the solicitation comes out on FBO, it is too late. I would not disagree with this statement, which is why you need a good BI platform to help you get in front of the solicitations. Fedmine has a great Opportunity Search tool which allows you to look for expiring contracts and task orders and do the legwork before the opportunity hits the street — if it even hits the street at all, as 80% of solicitations are not made public. This brings me back to the Fedmine Opportunity search, all expiring contracts have attached solicitations if they were previously made public, this includes all historical documents, task order details and subcontractors. Having access to robust incumbent profiles and contracting officer details is extremely helpful, no matter which way you approach it. You can get in touch with the incumbent for teaming purposes or reach out to the previous CO to find out details on the recompete.
In Fedmine, there are over 100k companies that have registered with SAM in the past 2.5 years. These are new companies who want to work with the federal government. Or rather, maybe not NEW but they are new to working with the federal government. Of these 100k companies, only 11k have actually won a prime contract. That is only a little more than 10%. What do we think about that statistic? Fedmine has a reporting suite called First Timers which allows you to search for first time contractors based on a number of different criteria. I pulled a report for contracts awarded to first time contractors from FY16 – present within the Civilian Sector. Overall, contracts awarded to companies doing business with the federal government for the first time have gone down about 20% since FY17. In addition, the contracts awarded to small business contractors doing business with the government for the first time has decreased. This supports my theory that the same pool of contractors continuously win business and it seems harder and harder to enter the market.
Now, to bring in my third and last observation, this market is complex. I’m sure many people already know this, but working at Fedmine, I’ve now experienced it firsthand. In addition to providing BI to government contractors, we are ALSO a government contractor. Contracts between businesses are relatively straight forward. You want to procure a good or service, you have a standard contract. You generally don’t have to compete, or if you do, you are competing with one or two other vendors. As a government contractor, you constantly have to be on top of new solicitations and expiring contracts and then from there be prepared to write an in depth, often times very lengthy proposal. A good majority of the time, the proposal goes nowhere. This process is time consuming and can also be very discouraging, especially for those new government contractors that continue to try and try again. Then, once you win an award, it’s time to deliver. This is where the REAL work begins…
Those are my three initial observations, although as I write this blog, I realize it could quickly turn into a novel. Stay tuned for more from me in the future. J
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