DoD Contract Academy
Top 3 Interviews of 2022! #1 Oliver Noteware CEO of Street Smart VR (Podcast Transcript)

Top 3 Interviews of 2022! #1 Oliver Noteware CEO of Street Smart VR (Podcast Transcript)

business development federal marketing government contacts Jan 17, 2023

[00:01] Richard C. Howard: Hey, guys. Happy New Year and welcome to DoD Contract Academy podcast. This episode we are going to bring you one of our top three interviews. So we've had a lot of interviews with subject matter experts and successful small businesses throughout the year, and we've got a lot of great feedback. We've actually risen to the top 5% of all podcasts. So our goal is to continue to do that climb this year. And we have a lot of amazing guests coming in. But I wanted to present to you our top three interviews. I'm going to start off today with Oliver Noteware of Street Smart VR. If you haven't heard this episode, it's a great one because he used the SBIR program to start growing his virtual reality training business in the US. Military. You're going to find out how he got on over 50 installations and what some of his challenges are and what his prospects are for the future. Now, if you haven't subscribed to our podcast, we ask that you do that. Absolutely. Please leave us a review. Whether it's a positive review or a critical review that helps us make better improvements to the podcast, we can grow throughout the year, keep growing, keep bringing you valuable content. Also would like to urge you check out Dodcontract Academy. So our academy resides there. We have a lot of great programs that help small businesses sell to the government. So whether it's your first time out, you're just starting and you're looking for that guidance that will get you on contract faster, help you avoid mistakes, or if you've been at it for a while and you're just looking to get that competitive advantage and improve and increase the number of contracts that you are winning, head on over. I'm sure there's a program that we can help you out with. And without further ado, let's get on to the interview we had with Oliver. All right. Today I have hopefully someone that considers me a friend, someone I've worked with a little bit in the past, someone who's killing it in the defense sector with his business. Oliver. Welcome to government sales momentum.

[02:06] Oliver Noteware: Thanks, Ricky. Good to be here.

[02:08] Richard C. Howard: Yeah. So of everybody and I'm not just saying this, I know we had a little conversation prior here. Obviously we have worked a little bit together in the past. I know more about your company than others, but really it is one of the most interesting businesses that I've interacted with since I've gotten out of the Air Force. And we've consulted with probably close to 400 companies at this point. It's really interesting and you're doing great. So I have a ton of questions. I know people listening are going to have a ton of questions, but before we get into your business, let's talk a little bit about you. Like, hey, where are you from? What did you do and then what led to you starting your company?

[02:50] Oliver Noteware: Sure. So by way of background, I grew up in Houston, Texas, and went to school on the East Coast. That led me to living in the Middle East for a couple of years. This would have been in 2008, 910 and eleven, lived in Beirut, did a bunch of interesting stuff in the Middle East and then decided that I didn't want to sit behind a desk anymore, and so joined the Marine Corps and went through the full pipeline, became an infantry officer.

[03:18] Richard C. Howard: I don't want to break your chain of thought there, I'm but this is most people, when you start talking about living in the Middle East for a couple of years, I immediately thought, oh, well, he skipped the plot where he joined the military and lived in the Middle East for a couple of years. It's not standard for someone not in the military, especially right after school. What were you doing out there if you could talk about it a little bit?

[03:36] Oliver Noteware: Yeah. So during undergrad, I studied Arabic and economics, and I thought, hey, the best way to really understand the language and culture is to go be boots on the ground. At the time, it was more like tennis shoes on the ground.

[03:47] Richard C. Howard: Right.

[03:47] Oliver Noteware: So I was able to find a job in Lebanon. They have banking secrecy, kind of like Switzerland used to have. So I worked at a bank, and it was phenomenally interesting. But after a couple of years of doing that and realizing that private wealth management and helping rich folks protect their investments and make more money just wasn't my calling. I wanted to do something a little bit more physical. I was an athlete growing up. I wanted to do something a little bit more outdoors, a little bit more service oriented, and started looking at public service.

[04:17] Richard C. Howard: Cool. What sport did you play? I wrestled. Okay, great. I think you told me that before, too. No. Very awesome. Well, I'd say the Marine Corps is probably a good branch to jump into. So you made the transition into the Marine Corps, and so I cut you off when you started talking about it. What was your job in the Marine Corps? Did you enlist? Were you an officer? What was your progression?

[04:39] Oliver Noteware: Yeah, so I commissioned in December of 2011 and went through the officer candidate school, the basic school, and then chose to be an infantry officer and got selected for that. So just over a year of formal schooling and pipeline and then was stationed, fortunately for me, in the Pacific, which I didn't want to do. I wanted to be on the East Coast to go back to the Middle East. I knew nothing about the Pacific, but the Marine Corps and its infinite wisdom stationed me in Hawaii, which was great. Well, lots of complaints, but phenomenal experience living out there. Training was really tough. I mean, Hawaii Oahu is a small island. There's not a lot of opportunities to get live fire ranges the same way you would at 29 Palms or NTC or other bases.

[05:23] Richard C. Howard: Right.

[05:23] Oliver Noteware: So we got told all the time, use the simulator. Use the simulator. And it was probably what a lot of folks are conditioned to a legacy flat screen system. You stand there, you point your weapon at the screen, it shows you a scenario. You can't move, you can't fix your six. To me, as a young lieutenant, it created a lot of training scars, and so I was very wary of using the simulator.

[05:46] Richard C. Howard: Sounds like Duck Hunt. I don't know if you played that when you were a kid.

[05:50] Oliver Noteware: Exactly. So we did a couple of deployments, trained a lot of foreign militaries in Asia and supporting national security and foreign policy, and then in 2016, made the decision to get out, because while I was offered great promotion opportunities, I was a real millennial, and I said, that's not the thing I want to do. I want to do something over here. And my higher up said, no, that's not the path to general. And I say, well, okay, so got out, went to business school, and that's what led to the genesis of Street Smarts.

[06:23] Richard C. Howard: That's really awesome. Were you a captain when you got out?

[06:27] Oliver Noteware: I was a super senior first lieutenant, and then I pinned on captain in the reserves, technically, I got you.

[06:33] Richard C. Howard: Are you still in the reserves?

[06:34] Oliver Noteware: No.

[06:35] Richard C. Howard: Okay.

[06:36] Oliver Noteware: I did the IRR, and then that expired. And, yeah, my greatest added value is running the business, not in the reserves.

[06:43] Richard C. Howard: Yeah. No, I hear you. I mean, look, I bless everyone that stays in for that career general officer path, but that is a commitment that I don't think most people realize exactly what's involved. This is a lifelong, lifelong commitment that you and your family have to be really cut out for. And I think a lot of people start walking down that path and don't realize that they're not happy until they're, you know, an six, a colonel, full bird colonel. And then they realize, hey, I just spent 25, 30 years, you know, dedicated to the military, which I love, but maybe there are some other things that you want to do, and, you know, getting out a little bit early can enable some of that. Well, that's great. Obviously, things have been working out for you, so I think you kind of set up maybe what your business is a little bit when you're talking about your frustrations with training. And obviously, everyone just heard how you were fluent in Arabic, Arabic and all of this, so they know you're wicked smart, as we would say up here in Boston. And that's a great way of putting a business together. You recognize the need, and we're going to fix it. So how did you fix that need with Street Smart VR? And what were some of your first steps.

[08:00] Oliver Noteware: Sure. We were looking around the landscape, and while there's not how do I say it? What we wanted to achieve was to replicate the physical and the psychological and the emotional aspects of being in the real world in a moment of crisis, whether you're police or military or federal law enforcement. And we thought, what's the best way to do it? Because flat screens weren't doing it from personal experience. And meanwhile, in 2016, virtual reality was just coming on the scene. It had been a great idea for a long time. Palmer Lucky had just sold Oculus to Facebook. I mean, there was a lot happening, but when we looked around it sort of the tactical application of it, it didn't seem like there was very much happening. So we started building it. We built a prototype. We took it to local police departments in the tristate area. Of course they beat it up, but as you know, that the best path, is create the MVP, the minimum viable product, get it out there, let people beat it up, and then iterate and keep building. And keep building. So we started doing that, worked with a number of Northeast police departments. And then we got a call from somebody at Afric saying, hey, we saw what you're doing. Love this. We have security forces here in the Air Force. Would you be interested in working with them? Would you be interested in finding a way to collaborate to bring adapt your technology into the Air Force? So that led me to take a trip down to Joy Bay, San Antonio in Lackland, where the security forces in the Air Force have their MoS school like their after boot camp. You go and do your technical training, met with some great captains and seniors listed there who were all about technology and innovation. And that was really our first step into working with the Department of Defense.

[09:41] Richard C. Howard: Interesting. So Africa is a great organization, and then I think a lot of people, a lot of companies and even sales professionals don't realize how many options there are within the Department of Defense as a civilian for selling your products and services or as a profession. I think a lot of people, they watched war Dogs or something and kind of got this idea that about war profiteers or something shady going on. But in reality, the government is the single biggest purchaser of goods and services in the world. And then when you break it down and you look at who's doing the purchasing, in a lot of cases it's the Department of Defense that is spending outspending by a long shot. The other agencies. And as you know, every base, I always say this, but every base is like a small town or small city in some cases. So everything from training to movie theaters and entertainment. In fact, the only thing I couldn't find that the DoD was buying, I had a marijuana cannabis company approach me, I'm like, hey, I think this might be the one thing, since it's federally illegal, that we're not going to see. But lo and behold, I found some purchases there where they were buying it for I don't know what they were doing with it, but I did find some. So even that there is a ton of opportunity out there. But one thing I like to ask people is, so for you, why target the Department of Defense? What is it about it? Is it the contract sizes can affect your business in a positive way? Is it helping the troops? All of the above?

[11:16] Oliver Noteware: Yeah. I mean, honestly, it was trying to make things better for the guys that came behind us, right? Like, if there's a way to make it better. I remember being at Kanye Bay, the base in Hawaii, and the simulator was broken. And I said, hey, boss, don't worry. We've got some marines. We can fix or steal just about anything. Like, we got it contracting, came down and said, absolutely not, you're going to void the warranty. And so then we had to wait three months for a contractor to fly from the mainland to Hawaii on the government dime to go fix this thing. That was very silly. It's a projector and a screening. It's not rocket science. And I remember thinking, man, there's got to be a better way. So in deciding to work with the DoD, a lot of it is just passion for the folks who are at the pointy edge of the spear. There's a lot of talk about systems of systems and sensors and sonar and radar and sensor integration. It's incredible. But what do you do when the sensors tell you that there's a bad guy at the gate or that there is an imminent threat, like in your immediate AO? Well, you send the security forces, you send the infantry, you send the MAS in the Navy. Okay? And then the next question was, who's training them? What are we doing about increasing their level of proficiency and making sure that they're ready to respond to the fight and not the fight from 50 years ago, but the fight of today? So when you think counter drone, when you think drones and counter drones, when you think all kinds of indirect fire, that's what we thought out to try to help solve.

[12:43] Richard C. Howard: Got you. No. And that's awesome. So you had this capability, you're testing it with the police, different police departments, and whatnot kind of making it better. Then Afworks reached out to you. And it's always a good time when the government reaches out to you initially, but app works. And I may have done a podcast on AfWorks or DIU in the past, but let's talk about what the mechanisms were for use. Maybe your first couple of government contracts. Maybe we'll avoid talking about specific units. Right. And we'll just kind of keep big picture. Right, meaning like afworks. For those listening, you have organizations, acquisitions organizations within Air Force and the other services that a lot of them will focus on innovative technologies and whatnot, but even within them, they're not really the end customer. Typically they're a government customer who has a requirement. Typically they have funding or they're getting the funding from somebody else. But with Afworks, what type of contracting were you looking at? I think I know. And what were the first couple of wins for you guys?

[13:50] Oliver Noteware: Yeah, so we had the classics of phase one and phase two. And as part of the phase one and phase two. So you're talking about new customer discovery.

[13:58] Richard C. Howard: Sorry, you're talking simmer. So talking about SBIs, small business innovative research. So for those listening that are unfamiliar, this is a different way of going on contract with the government. Typically you need a solution that is both commercially viable and viable for the government. And you're talking about the phases and I'm going to let you get into that. But typically you're either creating a new technology or you're modifying something that's existing for government use. Does that about sum up what you know about it?

[14:29] Oliver Noteware: 100%.

[14:30] Richard C. Howard: Okay, so let's get into the phases. So phase one, what was phase one that you guys were working on?

[14:35] Oliver Noteware: Phase one was basically Afwork saying, great, you have this commercially available solution. Here's a little bit of money, go do customer discovery in the Air Force. And so I think we went to six or seven different bases and it was sort of classic business development. You talk to a bunch of people and out of ten people you talk to maybe one's interested and they become your champion and then they connect you with other people who are interested and you just pull the thread and see where it goes. And after going to a handful of bases, we've met some folks who said, hey look, we know this isn't ready for primetime yet, but we like the direction it's heading, we like your mentality, we see the future, we're on board. And that led to us applying for and then receiving a phase two contract.

[15:18] Richard C. Howard: Got you. So the phase one, usually we don't have to get into what you guys are paid, but typically a phase one, like you said, it's a small amount of money. It's usually under a couple of hundred grand where you might have a white paper or something or some type of report that's due. But like you said, typically you're going out and you're kind of looking for a customer, right? Looking for, hey, is there somebody in the government where this fits their need? And usually AppWorks or whatever organization is going to have an idea that it does or fits within like a mission that they're focused on trying to provide solutions for. Then the phase two, that's usually a much larger contract, but you need a government sponsor and that's what you guys found so everything's a little bit more difficult with the phase two, but so how did you find that phase two? How did that go for you guys?

[16:05] Oliver Noteware: It went well, all things considered. In the application part or process of the phase two, we said, hey, here's what our existing technology is, here's what we think the warfighter needs based on our conversations with those tactical units, and here's what our proposal is to adapt from commercial to DoD needs that got approved. And then we spent about twelve months working with the schoolhouse down in San Antonio to ensure that we could adapt some of our solutions to their needs. It was a fascinating process. It was just as new to us as it was to a lot of our defense stakeholders because they were, like I said, captains and senior enlisted. This was brand new territory for them and they were really excited, which was great for us. They leaned in. In fact we had an Airman come hang out with us at our office in New York for a couple of weeks, unit let them go TDY specifically to help us make this transition. It was phenomenal.

[16:59] Richard C. Howard: Yeah, no that's awesome. And you're right. It's something we focus on a lot in the DoD contract academy where one of your goals really, if you're trying to sell to the government, in this case the Department of Defense is making it easy to make a purchase because most people can't make a purchase in the government. Right. 99% of people are not going to spend, you know, over a couple thousand dollars on anything because you have to, you need a contracting officer and there's a bunch of regulations and whatnot. But as a business owner or a sales professional understanding where you fit in to the mix, right. So you don't need to know everything. You just need to understand, hey, if this is, like, for you guys, you have an innovative new technology which opens up a lot of creative ways to try to sell to the government. So you can, like it's interesting, because a lot of people in the government, that the users of what you sell, typically, they're not involved with the buying process. Right? They can help a requirement. But with SBIR, what's interesting is they can sponsor you so a user can sponsor you. So now they get a little bit of say in the process and a lot of times they don't have to have any money or contracting officers or anything because if you're going through SBIR, you might be using the Sipper program dollars and their contracting officer or whatever. You just need somebody to sponsor you. So it is, it's a great way to kind of build that not only go on contract initially, but kind of build some of that momentum among the users and get it in the hands of people. So a lot of companies struggle to win that phase two. SBIR, you guys managed to do it. And then the next struggle is what comes after a sip or phase two when you graduate. Why don't you talk a little bit about that? So you graduated from the phase two. SBIR it sounds like everybody loves what you guys built for them during that phase two phase part.

[18:42] Oliver Noteware: Yeah. So that then began the uphill struggle. And so on the one hand, we had our foot kind of in the door with the DoD, but we needed to go out and generate sales because SBIR yes, the money is green, but it's not a real sale. The upside was that there were a lot of tactical units, a lot of squadrons that liked what we were doing and started purchasing from us, and that led us to doing basically a bottoms up motion in enterprise sales terms in the DoD. The tough part, though, was there's not a program office that covers what we do. So we went to one program office, the simulators program office, and they said, hey, we love what you're doing, but it doesn't touch aircraft, and so it's not within our parameters.

[19:27] Richard C. Howard: Right.

[19:27] Oliver Noteware: Go talk to someone else. We went to another center of Excellence, and they said, hey, we love this, but we don't do simulators. Go talk to someone else. So one of the nice things about Africa is they can get a lot of folks on the phase one and phase two, but transitioning into some sort of program office is really tough in contrast to the way that the Navy does it, where it's it's a much tighter filter from the beginning. But once you're in, you're in. So even now, in 2022, we're on something like 55 or 60 military installations, and all of those purchases were at the Squadron group or magicom level, which is awesome. Obviously, we take that as a badge of faith, and to us, that's a big signal. There's a demand, there's a need, there's a willingness to pay. But transitioning to any sort of enterprise contract has been it's something we're continuing to work on.

[20:14] Richard C. Howard: Yeah, no, and I mean, that's a process, right? I mean, selling to the US. Government is not a fast process, right. The no, sir. The, the contracts can be very lucrative and they can be very stable. But, you know, a typical large contract could take twelve to 18 months to work out. And then if you're talking about something new and I guess this is where you guys are, right? You have a new, innovative solution that has obviously been met with great fanfare by probably multiple services at this point, all the different units that are buying from you. It's now a question of, okay, because now we talk about funding, right? So how is the government, how is the military going to program dollars into their budget with a requirement for virtual training for security forces? Right? How does that happen for you guys? And that process could take three to five years, depending on what's going on. But you also have those other sales kind of keeping you going from the units, which is amazing. Have you had so has it been mainly purchases? Do they utilize because after you're SBIR phase two graduate, there's typically a way that it alleviates some of the sole source contracting restrictions. For those that don't know, sole source contract usually means that only one company can do the thing or that one product can do the thing. And typically that means that you're not competing it amongst other companies. And that's a part of what takes a long time to put something on contract is the farm makes the government basically they don't want there to be any undue influence, right. They want it to be, to be fair purchasing. But there are ways to relieve some of those sole source restrictions. So for me, as a program manager in the Air Force, it was a huge pain to try to do a sole source contract, even with a company that was clearly in that sole source category, because we had to. Go through to great lengths to prove that we don't need to compete. This to the general, to the contracting staff, to everybody that had to check the box. But Sipper phase two lifts some of those restrictions, makes it easy. So does eight A, if you're eight A certified and we could talk about Sdvosp and how that can help a little bit as well. So are they taking advantage of some of the benefits, I guess you could say, of being a Sipper phase two grad?

[22:37] Oliver Noteware: They are. We've had to spend actually quite a bit of time educating contracting officers, resource advisors, because again, the purchasing that's happening of our product is happening at the tactical level. So these are a lot of contracting officers and Ras who may not be familiar with what a phase three is, what is a Sipper? They just haven't been exposed to it yet in their career. So we spend a lot of time educating them and helping them. But the short answer is yes, we've been able to leverage phase three contracts by virtue of being in the pipeline for phase one and phase two.

[23:08] Richard C. Howard: Okay. No that's great. Yeah, you're right. That's part of educating the people that you're selling to. Right. Hey, how can I make it easier for you to buy from me? And we've generated the exact words you should give to a contracting officer on the other end just so they know what they can actually legally make a purchase. Well, that's great. Now you're at the point where you said 50 or 60 units that they're making direct purchases from you, you're working on, hey, how do we get the enterprise contract? What are some next steps for you guys?

[23:42] Oliver Noteware: Yeah, there's a variety of next steps. We are looking at opportunities to team and partner with Primes. We've been contacted by a couple of them to support contract bids into other service branches because there is a big adoption throughout the DoD of AR and VR. A lot of times it's for pilot training, it's for maintenance training. And so some of the primes are looking at how can they provide a one stop shop for any sort of operator in the DoD working on the teaming and partnering side, we've also worked with a number of other small businesses who may have contacts with their local law enforcement agencies. There may be a business based out of, I don't know, Seattle that does something remotely related to law enforcement or remotely related to force protection of both the DoD and the municipal side. We have similar customers. Our products are non competitive and we'll actually team up on different bids because it makes our joint offering that much more compelling to the buyer, which makes it easier to sole source and moves the needle. So that's a piece that we're looking at. We're also starting to hit a lot of the trade shows now that COVID is over. We're going to a lot of the conferences and the Expos. Takes a lot of money, takes a lot of planning, takes a lot of hours. But as you know, just any sort of prospecting, if you can build the pipeline, if you can build the funnel, it should pay off. And those are some of the steps we're taking currently.

[25:06] Richard C. Howard: Yeah, no, that's awesome because there's so many units that could probably use what you have. And I've done a couple of episodes on conferences, but it's a huge part of moving forward. And you're right, it is expensive. It doesn't have to be like breaking the bank expensive. But if you can go to a conference that is sponsored by the agency that you're trying to sell to, that is primarily I like to go when I'm bringing in a company to one of those, primarily to a conference that is going to be attended by government personnel, by military personnel, whatever. Because then you're not just getting a bunch of other businesses that are there. Now, first of all, you're getting users of potentially what you're going to have, especially with something that you have, which is awesome, right. You have your booth. Typically they're going to have times where people are walking around taking a look at what you've got. Almost everyone I've been to has had some type of happy hour associated with it. So it's great to have generals that are in charge of big picture efforts and requirements and colonels that have buckets of money to spend, acquisitions officers and then users, which could be flyers, could be enlisted airfield operators. But you get all of them walking around and they got a drink in their hands and you get something like a really innovative solution. That's a win-win that really pours gas on the fire if you want to, especially with what you're. Trying to do, right? Like, hey, how do I get the requirement? The funding, the acquisitions guys and the users all in line. They're all in the same place you could do in a couple of days at a conference, what could take you a year and a half. Just trying to set up meetings and kind of push the needle forward that way. That's awesome.

[26:50] Oliver Noteware: Yeah. Throughout COVID, our team was boots on the ground. We were beaten the street trying to meet people. Our mentality was, hey, if our customers, federal law enforcement, military police, local law enforcement, campus safety officers, if they have to be at work doing their job because community safety is important to everyone, then we're going to meet them where they are. We're not going to sit back and say, well, the world is upside down, let's just pool our jets. We looked at it as an opportunity to really lean in and I think that's paid dividends.

[27:22] Richard C. Howard: Yeah, no, that's great. Talk about you guys are doing everything that you're supposed to be doing. Probably doing a lot of things that other companies aren't doing. So that's great. So what do you think some of the big goals for you guys are going to be over the next couple of years?

[27:36] Oliver Noteware: Yeah, look, we want to unlock enterprise contracts so that we can more effectively serve the warfighter. When I say more effectively, it will cost us a lot less money to have one contract as opposed to going out and having all of these contracts that ultimately will save the DoD money. They can also unlock some economies of scale and essentially bargaining power against us, which is great. We intend to work with every service branch. We currently have contracts in both the Air Force and Space Force. We're looking at the Marines, we're looking at the Navy, big army, and then, of course, working into the federal space. We're currently the partner of choice for Virtual reality for all federal law enforcement officers. They have a union. We are partnered with them, which we're really proud of, and then continuing to serve municipal law enforcement rather than going really broad and starting to try to target maintenance and other specialties, we want to go really deep. We want to continue to serve these guys. I mean, the number of requirements and the expectations that most citizens have of a first responder are massive. I mean, they have to deal with everything from how do you respond to an active shooter to how do you deal with mental health episodes to how do you deal with stray kitten? I mean, the sheer variety on a daily basis is pretty awe inspiring. And so we know that there's a lot of work left to do for us to be able to help support them fully. We also know that VR, which is our medium, is not the best way to train for everything. Live fire should be done on a live fire range. When there's a time to sit down and read the manual and read the case law and the pubs, you should go do that. But there's a big gray area and us helping provide training for anything that's in that gray area where you need muscle memory and you need repetitions on a regular basis. That's our sweet spot.

[29:22] Richard C. Howard: Yeah. No, I'm glad you got into that because we didn't get super into the technology itself. And I remember you showed me a demo. This was months and months ago when we kind of first got together. But it's more than just, hey, practicing how to use an M Nine on the firing range and do a target practice.

[29:40] Oliver Noteware: Right.

[29:41] Richard C. Howard: You actually have almost like a really in depth video game where you do have these de escalation drills that you can do and the responses from people that you're talking to and whatnot talk a little bit about that. Like some of the things that you're really excited about within the technology and some of the training you're providing.

[29:59] Oliver Noteware: Totally. Yeah. The way that we approach training is we want to make sure that the medium that we provide matches the reality or the training needs. So case in point, if you're going to conduct a car stop, for example, in the real world, you're going to exit your patrol car, you're going to move either on one side or the other up to that vehicle. You're going to engage with the driver or the passengers. Right. There's a series of steps that have to happen. Well, how do you train for that? Right now, you could train in front of a flat screen where you're conditioning yourself to stay in one place. Okay, that's not very realistic. You're conditioning yourself to follow the prescriptive outcomes of that training scenario. Okay, that's a little bit limiting. So with virtual reality, what we can allow is for users to move in any direction. They can take cover, they can get in the prone, and they can interact with avatars. Is it going to pass the Turing test? No, we're not Google. We don't have billions of dollars to throw it towards AI, but it's good enough, and it's better than a lot of the legacy offerings. Similarly, for the more high end tactical stuff, we've built a reconfigurable shoot house in virtual reality so the instructor can click, I want a straight hallway, or I want a T shaped hallway, or I want a door on the left or doorway right. I want good guys here or bad guys there. I want furniture. They can really customize and tailor that virtual training environment for their trainee. Trainee, they put on the headset. They're wearing all of their duty gear. They're using training weapons that are exact same form, fit and function. So your M Four, your M 18, whatever it may be, the instructor clicks go and all of a sudden you've got a new look again, that stands in stark contrast to a lot of the way that things are done currently. And it's not a total indictment of the status quo. It's just a recognition that technology and software can make things better. And so that's what we seek to do every day.

[31:49] Richard C. Howard: Awesome. Yeah. Not only is it innovative, but you can see so many use cases for it. Right? I'm just thinking about a guy on a ship, like on the Navy ship, where you have no room to do any of that type of training. Now all of a sudden, you could be in your little room that's the size of a garbage can and maybe do some of that VR training and kind of keep your skills up.

[32:14] Oliver Noteware: Exactly. At the end of the day, we're all human beings. We all have a brain. We have a prefrontal cortex. Our skills degrade over time. Atrophy is a real thing. And so if we can help put training in the hands of users, I mean, there's a logistical aspect as well. We've shrunken the size of everything. We've made the user experience really easy and intuitive. That way an E Three can set it up, jump in the headset, train, and get reps. And if we can keep their skills sharp, that's a win.

[32:41] Richard C. Howard: Yeah, that's awesome. That's great. Something that we don't talk about too much on the podcast, but we've actually had a lot of professionals within DoD acquisitions, defense sales, public procurement, going through our courses at the academy and whatnot, and doing coaching programs and whatnot. I know you mentioned that you were hiring at the beginning of this, and probably just a plug for anyone listening out there that is in and I don't know what position you're hiring for. We could talk about that. This could be pretty interesting and exciting positions. There's so many different companies out there and selling to the Department of Defense. Not only do I see it as a place where it can be lucrative for a salesperson for a company, but you are also making a difference when you're putting a technology like yours in the hands of somebody that needs it. So you want to talk a little bit about some of the positions that you might be hiring for?

[33:37] Oliver Noteware: Absolutely. Yeah, we're hiring across the board. So that's everything from enterprise sales. So anybody who's got deep expertise in DoD sales, awesome. Give us a ring. We're hiring on the operations and logistics side because as our salespeople go out and generate more deals, we need to make sure that we can fulfill that order. Right. So the headset, the Pelican case, the weapon systems, how can we continue to shrink that down, make it easier to use and more user friendly and then software developers, honestly, I don't want to say we're fighting Meta and all the big companies, but in a way we are. We just happen to have a real mission and social impact that's very tangible for a lot of folks. And we have on our team everything from a former six in the Air Force who worked at the Pentagon all the way down to an E four. We have every service branch represented and we have a lot of non vets on our team. We have a lot of folks who they just really care about community safety or they have family that was affected by some of the things that we're seeing in the news related to law enforcement. And it's basically a coalition of the willing of folks who want to try to make a difference. Cool.

[34:41] Richard C. Howard: Very awesome. Well, I'm going to put your contact information in the podcast page and in the link whenever I send it out. Is there anything that we haven't talked about that you want to discuss? Anything? Message for small businesses out there that are just getting started and maybe struggling in this space. Like, what would your advice be?

[34:58] Oliver Noteware: Yeah, just that these are really long sales cycles and there's a constant tension between what investors might want quarterly or annual results. They want to see traction. Of course they do. Right. It makes sense. But we as small businesses and as startups, we can't push the DoD to go faster than it's going to go. And so finding that right balance when you think about cash flow, when you think about profitability, when you think about hiring, is super important. So we've made a concerted effort not to hire until it's really, really painful because every month that we are hiring somebody that they're not fully ramped and we don't totally need them. That's kind of money out the door in a way. So just trying to find that balance is tough. I empathize with everybody that's trying to figure out, okay, we've got this pipeline, we don't know if it's going to close, we can't really pull it forward, but we're trying to hire and we can't really scale sales until we have more people on the product and sales team. And so, yes, if anybody wants to chat about that, happy to. The struggle is real every day.

[35:57] Richard C. Howard: Okay, what is the best way someone could contact you if they want to chat about that?

[36:02] Oliver Noteware: Yeah, you guys can email me directly. It's [email protected]. Okay.

[36:09] Richard C. Howard: And that's Street-smarts with an S at the end of smart.

[36:11] Oliver Noteware: A lot of smarts. Yes, sir. Plural on the smart.

[36:13] Richard C. Howard: I could tell by the couple conversational, hey, man, this has been great. I definitely look forward to the next talk and yeah, if you have anything else, now is the time.

[36:22] Oliver Noteware: No, just love it. Looking forward to continuing to serve. And any other small business owners out there, give me a shout.

[36:28] Richard C. Howard: Sounds good, brother. All right, take care.

[36:30] Oliver Noteware: Thank you.

If you enjoyed this episode, you can also check out the episode on How I Manage my Pipeline and Why I Never Worry about Selling where I talked about why I don't worry personally about my sales to the federal government and how to make sure that we have discipline and that we are consistently engaging with the government.

If you have any questions, feel free to reach out to us here and we will get back to you as soon as we can.

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Ray Sefrhans


"DoD Contract Academy helped us identify and win a spot in the AFWERX Challenge showcase! I highly recommend to all companies looking to sell products, services or a new technology to the US military."

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