How does AwardIT safeguard a client’s confidential information?
Firstly, all of our reviewers sign a Non Disclosure Agreement (NDA) as part of their Reviewer Agreement Form, which you can view here. (see Section 8 in particular). Note the terms of the AwardIT NDA are more stringent than those concerning the disclosure of proprietary information in actual SBIR grants.
Secondly, we do not ask our clients to divulge any more information than they would in working with a typical grant consultant (and less than what would be required in actually applying for an SBIR).
I'm still concerned....what else can I do to safeguard any proprietary information in my grant?
Many companies will establish at least provisional patent protection prior to sending in a grant application. For most clients the NDA is sufficient, but you could do the same before working with AwardIT. That’s a conversation to have with your IP attorney.
Still not enough? We get it…some companies—and maybe even some Reviewers—may want to use their own bespoke NDAs tailored to their own individual requirements. If this is something you want to explore, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and let’s start the conversation.
On a related note: AwardIT does not divulge the identity of our Reviewers to clients. We do this so our Reviewers may express their opinions freely and make the review process as objective, and therefore as valuable, as possible. This also helps to simulate an actual Agency review as closely as possible, where the identity of the Reviewers is generally unknown to the Applicant (even when the roster of the Study Section is public, who exactly reviewed your grant usually is not)
Wont I get a review for free when I submit my SBIR grant?
Yes, of course, you will—not, of course, before you submit your grant for the first time (until someone invents the time machine, that is. We hear DARPA is working on it 😊). The agency review of your initial submission will take, on average, months to arrive (results vary from agency to agency, staffing, workloads, etc). Often it will not arrive even in time for the next submission deadline, leading to delays of many months before the benefit of the review can be applied.
Your review form “looks like” an NIH Summary Statement. But I am applying to a different agency—is the AwardIT review still as relevant?
Grant review formats differ from Agency to Agency, but all SBIR grants stand or fall in the categories of Significance, Innovation, Experimental Plan, Team, and Environment (see “Understanding Your AwardIT Review). The NIH Summary Statement is conveniently broken up into these groupings, along with a numeric score that helps clients easily assess their strengths/weaknesses in these areas. Although the AwardIT Review form was (obviously) derived from the NIH approach, we believe this format is relevant across all US Agency SBIR programs.
In addition to the numeric score for each category, there is also space for Reviewers to provide specific commentary for ways to improve the grant. Our clients use this info to “course correct” and make their grant as good as it can be prior to actual applications.
How will getting an AwardIT review improve my SBIR application?
The benefit of quality, domain specific, objective feedback for a highly technical and competitive grant like an SBIR should (we hope!) be pretty obvious. But getting that feedback is a challenge for most small businesses. Either they don’t have access to people with the right domain expertise, or those people are too close to the SB to be objective. Neither really simulates an actual agency review panel, where participants are drawn from a variety of professional backgrounds.
In addition, there are numerous studies showing that the scores of grant applications significantly improve upon resubmission following an Agency review. One study at the NIH, for example, found that the mean impact score of resubmitted SBIR grants improved by 9 points over the original set of submissions. Other studies have shown an almost 2:1 improvement in hit rates of resubmitted grant applications.
When and why do you ask Reviewers to fill out a W9?
You do not need to sign a W9 to onboard as an AwardIT reviewer. When you have completed your first paid review, we will send you a W9 form via HelloSign. Yes, we could have just put together a form of our own. But to maximize security we chose to work with HelloSign, a recognized leader in electronic signature software, for our W9 forms (and, for that matter, our NDAs). You can learn more about Hellosign’s security policies here: https://www.hellosign.com/trust/security.
The why is easy–our reviewers are independent contractors, not employees of AwardIT. We need the W9 info in order to pay them.
What is Reviewer compensation? Is it by the hour or flat rate?
We do not specify an hourly rate, but instead, pay our Reviewers a flat rate of $400 per review. This is well above typical US government compensation for participating in an Agency review panel.
How long will your Reviewers spend reviewing my grant?
The only stipulation, timewise, is that they provide their review to a client by the date specified. As a rule of thumb, we expect Reviewers will spend at least several hours reading/reviewing a single Phase I SBIR grant, but they are free to take as much time as they feel is required for a thorough and professional review.
If you have ever participated in an Agency review panel, you will know that the two answers above represent substantially higher compensation, and a substantially longer time/review ratio, than a typical SBIR review process. There’s a reason for this: we expect the highest standards of professionalism from our reviewers. We know how important SBIR grants are to startups—after all, we are entrepreneurs too. Our goal, our Reviewers’ goal, and our clients’ goal should be all the same—maximize the chances for a successful award.
Finally, we like to think that our Reviewers are compensated not just by dollars but also in being able to give back to, and improve upon, the unique SBIR funding programs that also nurtured their careers (but the money helps too 😊)
Do you review grants other than Phase I SBIRs?
At the present time, no. We may look to expand into other grant areas in the future, and perhaps consider special projects on a “one-of” basis. Email email@example.com to learn more.
Can I be both a Reviewer and a Client?
Absolutely! Just note that for security purposes you can’t use the same username or email for both accounts
You mention AwardIT is like “Uber for grant-reviewers”…are you affiliated with Uber?
Nope, AwardIT is not affiliated with, or endorsed by, Uber in any way. The phrase is just an easy way to understand our basic value add.
How many Reviewers can I use?
At the moment we are limiting the maximum number of Reviewers to three. This, in our opinion, most closely matches actual agency review process—for example, NIH study sections will typically assign drafting of the Summary Statement to three reviewers.
However, we recognize that burn can be a big issue for many startups so if you want to keep the number of Reviewers to 2 or even 1, that’s fine.
What if I am not sure which Reviewers to select for my grant?
If you want, we can assemble a panel for you—all you have to do is tell us the number of Reviewers you want, and we will take it from there.
When is the best time to submit my grant for review?
Keeping in mind that it takes about a week, on average, to assemble your Review team and get your review, we recommend two to four weeks prior to submission. This should give you plenty of time to “course correct” your application as needed.
Happy (Grant) Hunting!!
The AwardIT Team