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Join Bryon Kroger in an enlightening conversation with Lori-Ann Rissler and Victoria Wyler about the evolution of software contracting in government sectors. This retrospective session dives into the lessons learned from their time at Kessel Run and Platform One, exploring the challenges and successes they experienced in contracting for software factories.


Bryon Kroger (00:15):

Alright. I'm really excited for this conversation. This is actually four years old. We're talking about something that's four years in history. But I think very relevant, and why I'm excited to talk about it is because we're going to be talking a retro of a sort on the contracts put out by software factories. And I have two of some of the original architects of some of those contracts, and they're both now on the commercial side, and I've seen them from both sides. This is a really interesting opportunity to talk about what worked, what didn't work, and where we went from here.


So I have Lori-Ann Rissler, who is one of the original contracting officers at Kessel Run and responsible for a lot of amazingness there. And then Victoria Wyler, who was the architect of the Platform One BOA, and awarded that. So I think maybe I just want to start out, I'll have each of you introduce yourself, talk about what you're doing now just very quickly, and then we will do a little hype. We'll talk about all the good things because then we're going to talk about lessons learned. So Lori-Ann, start with you.

Lori-Ann Rissler (01:19):

Yeah, sure. Good afternoon, everyone. My name's Lori-Ann Rissler, as Bryon said. Prior to my current role, I was with the Air Force as a civilian for over 11 years. Spent that whole time in contracting, so I was a contracting officer with Kessel Run from almost the beginning. Joined a couple of months after the team formed, and then I departed 18 months ago. I work with a venture capital firm now called Decisive Point. We invest in companies in the national security space. So I'm still very much involved in government acquisitions, just from an industry perspective now.

Victoria Wyler (01:51):

And that's hard to follow. Name's Victoria. I spent just shy of 10 years Active Duty Air Force, where all I did was acquisitions, whether it was operational contracting or contracting for major weapon systems. Probably the favorite part of my career is when I got into this DevSecOps space, I got to be involved with this DoD DevSecOps initiative.


Loved it so much that when Air Force said, "hey, need to move you to some staff position," I was like, "thanks, but no thanks." Made the jump to industry, now at Defense Unicorns with this wonderful guy named Doug, where I manage kind of our Growth Department, so end-to-end, customer journey flow. Been vastly different. Anything from social media to contracts, a little bit of everything. So excited to come talk about those, what, four years ago, feels like yesterday, but it was probably the best part of my career.

Bryon Kroger (02:43):

Awesome. So I'll just say at the outset that both organizations have contributed, Kessel Run and Platform One, incredible things to the community, and were responsible for a ton of innovation and acquisitions at large, but especially in contracting. So there's a lot of good things that we could talk about, and we could pat ourselves on the back and tell everyone how great we were.


But I do want to say that at the outset, I do want to get into the lessons learned, but no matter where we go today, I just want everybody to know I'm super proud of everything that's been done in not just those two organizations, but really the rest of the software factory ecosystem. But we can't learn as a community unless we talk about the things that went wrong.


So I want to focus a little bit on that. Maybe one of the first ones, and I'll ask you, Lori-Ann, we had some pretty strong opinions about modular contracting, and I think there were things about it that worked, but there were certainly some that didn't. You want to talk about some of the things that you've noticed with modular contracting?

Lori-Ann Rissler (03:41):

Sure. And I think a common theme of things I'll talk about is, I've been out for 18 months now. I think the first year, I was just trying to figure out how to work on the industry side of it, but really the last couple of months, I've realized there's been some moments where I've been, "wow, I can't believe I did that when I was a contracting officer," which growth is good, and being able to talk about those things I did that I wish I didn't do or could change is good as well.


With modular contracting, I think being on the acquisition side of it, my perspective is certainly different than Bryon's or anyone else that was on the tech team. But the acquisition team in the early days, and even to some extent now, I'm sure, doesn't understand the technical work that's happening. So we were trying to support a modular strategy, which meant that instead of having one contractor do everything or maybe two or three do everything, we had 20 companies. So we were breaking the contracts into much smaller pieces. In some ways, it was great because we were able to get experts at what they did for those very niche technology areas, but that meant that the government was then the integrator in managing how all those companies came together.


And I think, conceptually, it's still a really good concept, but when the government team administering all that work doesn't understand software development, you're just set up for failures in some ways. And I think the tech team saw what some of those failures were when the acquisition team didn't understand what they were buying. So the contracts weren't always reflective of what we needed because we didn't understand what we were buying.

Bryon Kroger (05:13):

I like that. Have you thought of any potential solutions or maybe a good work around?

Lori-Ann Rissler (05:16):

Yeah, yeah.

Victoria Wyler (05:17):

Oh, yeah.

Lori-Ann Rissler (05:18):

Yeah, absolutely. So it was actually a project I started working on before I left, and sadly, was never picked up. But a few of us started a training course that would be asynchronous. People could take it at their own time, and it was training for acquisition team members, the whole acquisition team, so not just contracting, to learn about software development.


So if you're a go-getter, you might go out and learn some of those things on your own, but we know in the government space, sometimes training has to be brought to the acquisition team members. And so even...we had people come up to us being like, "I was responsible for buying cloud services in my organization, and I didn't know what a cloud was." So just that fundamental knowledge gap can have detrimental effects. So providing that training to help them understand what it is that they're buying.

Bryon Kroger (06:08):

I love it. And Victoria, you all went with a bit of a different strategy with Platform One BOA, which, if you don't know, a basic ordering agreement has a vendor pool aligned to a set of services that you can award task orders on, so you can still be fairly modular. But what challenges did you see?

Victoria Wyler (06:28):

Okay, where to start? Okay, let me clarify something. Those BOAs, and Lori-Ann was a part of this journey, so I'm going to pull you with me. When we were brought on to scale DevSecOps across the DoD, we were told, "hey, I want you to come up with a DoD enterprise-level vehicle. I want you to do it in 45 days. And by the way, you have no money."


So when you look at that problem set, you're like, "oh, alright, so kind of limits your options here. Oh, and by the way, we don't know what the requirements are because we don't know what program offices are going to use this or what they're looking for. So good luck. And with that problem space, that's what we came up with was the Platform One BOAs, and they actually started with BPAs. Fun fact.

Bryon Kroger (07:05):

Oh, wow.

Victoria Wyler (07:05):

And what we looked at is what do we have? We didn't have any type of special authorities. We had the FAR. We had a very small team. And what we did was we just locked a room full of acquisition people in a room and said, "we are going to have something at the end of this week." And I say that because one of the challenges within acquisitions is sometimes you focus so much so on picking the perfect contract, right. You spend so much time figuring out, like, "oh, I have to have this requirement very, very clearly defined. I have to have my strategy defined. I have to brief it to 20-plus people." And you hyper-focus on that versus just executing and doing and learning, right?


So our whole mentality was how do we put something out there that we know is not perfect but that is flexible enough for us to get the feedback that we need so we can iterate on it? And we went with agreements because they're just that. They are agreements, right? And we leveraged a lot of the ordering procedures to provide that flexibility. And the whole focus of it was how do we create something that's flexible that we can learn from. It sounds great. One of the lessons learned is it's a lot harder to do in implementation. When you think of... we chatted about this earlier...when you think about just the world of software, you can iterate and take feedback in minutes, if not seconds.


In the acquisition field, oh man, you're talking months, if not years, to make any type of change. And I don't think we truly appreciated that the amount of lift that it takes to be flexible within acquisitions, and even if you start a simple thing like change your personnel, or even changing a slight requirement, can start a modification. It takes 30, 45 days just to get something back out on the street. So what we quickly realized is that the world of acquisitions still has a lot more to catch up for to just keep pace with the world of software.

Lori-Ann Rissler (08:48):

And I think to that point, we realized, I think this is probably related to your first question, with the acquisition team not fully understanding software development processes, we were writing contracts both at KR and P-One based on requirements.

Victoria Wyler (09:01):


Lori-Ann Rissler (09:01):

We weren't focusing on outcomes. And so we would have services contracts to provide people to come help support the mission, but there were no outcomes tied to those contracts. So then issues doing the work became a lot more difficult to navigate because our contracts weren't set up to support the outcomes that the organizations needed to be successful.

Bryon Kroger (09:24):

Yeah, that's an interesting segue into a lot of time and materials-type contracts or firm-fixed-price labor hours. And I think both organizations have largely utilized that model, but there's two things that I'll focus on. Let's start with maybe price pressures. So one of the things that I've seen, and it's interesting because I know Kessel Run, I don't know as well, you have to tell me if this is true for you all too.


Prices is not really a factor. It's pass-fail, but there's no judgment call made on price. So you could be higher priced with a similar score and still win, or that could be justified, but we see vendors still racing to the bottom on price regardless. First, am I right in that? That's my outside observation.

Lori-Ann Rissler (10:10):


Bryon Kroger (10:11):

But I'm curious what the inside looked like and what do you do about that?

Lori-Ann Rissler (10:14):

Yeah. I mean, I don't remember too, too many specifics about price, but I remember that vendors were typically very close to one another in price. And again, price wasn't a factor. But now, being on the industry side of things, if the government says price is not a factor, everyone always thinks it's a factor even if the government says that. So I think the best way for government to try to break down that preconceived notion that price is always the most important thing, is be a better partner to industry, right?


There's a lot of projects where we have a defined budget, but the government never shares it. I remember there was actually a couple instances where I really wanted to share the budget for something and was told no, but there was never any reason behind the no. And when you're working in an innovative unit, you pick your battles. And that was one that, in hindsight, I wish I had picked a little bit harder and fought a little bit harder because now, being on the industry side of things, when companies see a budget tied to something, they get super excited because they know what the expectations are, and then that allows them to bid something that they can afford to do within that budget.


I think the government has a preconceived notion that sharing the budget means that companies will just bake in higher profit margins or just everyone will come in at the max price. And that's really not the case. It's just another way to communicate to industry what you have available for the effort to be a better partner and to be a little bit more transparent in what you're doing.

Bryon Kroger (11:37):

That's interesting, you know, tying that to the outcomes piece.

Lori-Ann Rissler (11:40):


Bryon Kroger (11:41):

If you've got a set of outcomes you have to achieve and you just allocate budget to each, that seems like a way to avoid the idea or the perception on the government side that you're not going to get what you wanted at the end. But I think it's really hard to define those outcomes. I think early on the time and materials was almost necessary because we were in an exploratory phase, trying to figure things out, but maybe there needed to be a transition to more outcomes-based, whether that's from fixed price or cost or something. But what kinds of things did you see?

Victoria Wyler (12:11):

So we predominantly did fixed-price contracts at Platform One when I was there. So not speaking for Platform One now.

Lori-Ann Rissler (12:18):

Yeah, I realize I didn't say that -

Victoria Wyler (12:19):

Let me clarify.

Lori-Ann Rissler (12:20):

neither of us speaking for either org now.

Victoria Wyler (12:21):

Yeah. But what... the similar issue that we kind of face was more on that talent, that key personnel side. So when we think about the acquisition timeline, it's so much focused on just getting the contract award. What people don't realize is post-contract award. So when you look at the full acquisition cycle, it's from, "hey, I have a requirement" to actually butts in seats someone is executing on this contract. It takes forever. And I say that because rather than looking at price, we looked at "how do we get the best people on our outcomes?"


And we went down that key personnel route. And you're looking to get these fantastic people, you're doing oral presentations. But what happened is, after these oral presentations, it would still be months before a contract award. If you're looking at key personnel, these are the best people a company has to offer, and you're telling them to hold on to those people for an unknown amount of time. That's not... That doesn't work, right?


And then by the time you finally make that contract award, you got to wait 30, 45 days. Maybe they'll get a CAC. Maybe...right? They don't... or you have to wait for a DD 254. So no one is thinking of the full end-to-end lifecycle of how long it actually takes to get the right people in the seats. I don't think I fully appreciated that until I came on the industry side, and I looked at like, "oh, we have to have this key personnel available, but they're sitting on overhead until we get a contract if we get a contract." It's not right, you know?

Bryon Kroger (13:47):


Victoria Wyler (13:48):

And I don't know what other words to put it in.

Bryon Kroger (13:50):

Yeah. The key personnel thing, an observation that I had, a lot of people would ask me for advice as they were bidding on Kessel Run, and this is what really... It actually has led to us being on this stage together. A big realization for Matt Nelson and I. Matt used to be on the Rise8 team. He's back in government now, but we helped design a lot of those competitions.

Victoria Wyler (14:13):


Bryon Kroger (14:14):

And the oral presentation was heavily weighted at Kessel Run, and a key personnel had to be one of the main presenters and usually the only presenter allowed in the room.

Victoria Wyler (14:26):


Bryon Kroger (14:27):

And what we found out people had started doing to game this system was, they would take a technical product manager and put them in the lead engineer position as a KP even though they're not an engineer. But they could talk technically enough and had a technical enough resume. Then they would give an amazing oral presentation compared to an engineer, who typically your best engineer is not your best public speaker, and these companies were winning. That was a best practice that they found. And it's obviously not our intent to have our key personnel, the lead engineer on the contract, be a non-engineer.

Victoria Wyler (15:00):

And to add to that, on the government side, I know we dealt with the issue of KPP swaps, right. You finally get on contract, you get this key personnel that you're super excited about, and then a week later, the company is like, "oh, by the way, we're swapping them." Right? And at that point, you're just so grateful to have a contract in place, you're like, "fine, give me whoever at this point." But I love the concept, and I think there's different ways that things were being gamed on both sides. So I would love to see that fixed.

Bryon Kroger (15:27):

Yeah. So if anybody's got ideas to fix that one, all ears. There's kind of an accountability-related thing that I know we saw at KR, and maybe you saw it too, was we had a hyper-modular contracting strategy, and we did short pops. And the idea was, if you weren't giving us great talent, we wouldn't exercise the option.


But at least up until a couple of years after I left, I haven't kept track, but there was never a case where an option wasn't exercised, even though there were clear performance issues. It's like a hard thing to do. So what kinds of things did you see there?

Lori-Ann Rissler (16:01):

Yeah. I mean, I agree, and usually, it was because the acquisition team couldn't support a new acquisition. So it was like, "okay, they're not...we don't really love their performance. We could not exercise the option, but then we have no one for X amount of months for the ACC team to do another contract..." So I think it's... yeah. That's a... just based on that was a strategy they picked. That's a hard hole to dig out of. But I think a lot of that comes down to just the acquisition team spent, at least at KR, we spent a lot of time in the early days trying to hack the acquisition process to make timelines shorter. I think if we had focused more on how do we make better outcomes for our contracts, that could have avoided some of those situations.


I remember being in a room with our core acquisition team members. We were mapping out the entire acquisition process, and granted it was when we were at 200 Portland, it took the whole length of the room to map out this process. And we were trying to figure out how to do it shorter because we were looking at situations like that where we needed a contract and we couldn't get it done on time. So, I think, in the moment, we thought we were focusing on the right thing. But looking back, if we had just figured out how to write better contracts, focus on better outcomes, we wouldn't have needed to worry about shaving a week off of the process - like, focus our efforts elsewhere.

Bryon Kroger (17:17):

And I feel like I should just stop at this point and say again, despite all of this that you're hearing, these are some of the highest performing contracting organizations that I've seen and been a part of, but still making mistakes every day, to this day. I would assume they would stand on stage and say the same thing, but you all were really fast. And at least when I was there, I could say I felt very supported both in speed and, they were much better quality contracts than what came before, even if-

Lori-Ann Rissler (17:46):


Bryon Kroger (17:46):

... looking back on it, you could say, "I wish they were higher quality." So what about you? Did you see anything similar to that?

Victoria Wyler (17:55):

Where to start? So yes, and I want to reemphasize what you stated. You focus on the wrong things when it comes to acquisitions. And I know from the Platform One perspective, we were looking at "how do we actually buy down the front end of the acquisition cycle? What can we do to streamline processes?" And there was overarching asks or approvals. And in reality, that works maybe one or two times. And then what we were finding is, as people transition in and out, people wanted to own the process, they wanted to own the actual strategy, and it's really hard to get someone bought into a strategy that they weren't a part of creating.


And it's unfortunate to say that, but it's the truth. And we spent so much of our time trying to streamline that front, and we left so much up to interpretation. And when you do, what happens is people are going to interpret it the way that you don't want them to. And it kind of defeated the whole purpose of what we did in the beginning. And I say that because I think there's a lot of goodness in what we are trying to do, and I think that goodness can easily be lost just by transitioning personnel or transitioning thoughts. And so I want to put that there.


The other thought I want to add...when we talk about contracting - and the Kessel Run was fantastic. Platform One's fantastic - what I would love to see is, "how do we scale this goodness beyond a few organizations?" And I say that because Platform One was super successful, is super successful because there's a lot of oversight, there's a lot of attention. Kessel Run, same thing. Once you don't have that oversight and attention, which is most program offices, they don't have that ability to kind of take the risk that we did. So how do you scale this goodness beyond these small organizations?


And I know on the Platform One side, what we really saw is, you'd have these program offices that want to onboard, and nine times out of 10, they'd be like, "hey, really, really want to do this, but if you could just go ahead and do the contract for me, that'd be great. I don't want to use my contracting organization." And that was a fact, right? I was like, "that's not going to scale any of what we're doing beyond one or two organizations."


And it goes back to Lori-Ann's original point where it wasn't that it was a bad contracting officer. They just had no idea what they were trying to buy. They don't have technical backgrounds. I didn't go to school for software engineering. So bringing them along in that journey to actually break down, "this is what we're trying to do, and this is why it matters to you and your role. I need you to think creatively on how you can adjust what you're doing to better match my outcome." It's a whole journey. So I hope that answered your question.

Bryon Kroger (20:20):

Yeah, absolutely. I think another interesting thing is - you mentioned a couple of things there that got me thinking about how both organizations had really strong branding and marketing.

Victoria Wyler (20:31):


Bryon Kroger (20:32):

But I think we took for granted - we just assumed that then everybody knew about us. I don't know if this is true for Platform One, but I know at Kessel Run, I don't think we did enough market research, industry outreach to get new vendors because I look at the vendor pool today, and it's the same as it was four years ago.

Lori-Ann Rissler (20:51):

That's something I love talking about now that I'm in industry because I was... we were both completely guilty of this, and I think a lot of contracting officers we work with would agree with this as well. Government acquisition teams confuse quantity of interested vendors with quality interested vendors. And I still see it all the time now on the industry side of it. We will talk to an acquisition office, and they say, "well, we're getting... we've gotten outreach from 50 companies, we can't talk to anyone else."


It's like, "well, that's great, you've got 50 companies, but how do you know you're talking to 50 companies that are actually qualified in what they're doing? What research are you doing to validate that those are the companies you should be talking to versus they were the first 50 that reached out to you?" As Bryon said, we were guilty of doing that as well. I think it just goes back to the government and industry having a more transparent, good partnership so that the government knows what's out there in industry too. Because just because you have interest, doesn't mean it's good interest.


I've worked with companies in my current job where they're awesome founders, very highly educated and smart in their field, great products, and then they have a couple interactions with government and just completely drop out of their federal line of business. And so that's an awesome technology that just walked away from this market because of, I mean, this is a whole other topic, but how difficult it is to work with the government sometimes. But if you're the contracting officer for that product, you still see 20 companies. You don't care about the one that walked away, but maybe that one that walked away was the one that can solve all your problems. So yeah, quantity versus quality.

Bryon Kroger (22:29):

And I'll start with you on this one, Victoria.

Victoria Wyler (22:30):

Oh no...

Bryon Kroger (22:31):

If we could do it all over again, knowing what we know now, you could go back and do it all over again, how would you think about contract types and competitions to get... Let's just say you're still trying to get the best talent, still that kind of T&M model, what would you do differently?

Victoria Wyler (22:49):

I would spend a year in industry first, right? Maybe. I say that because I... talking point I want to make sure we touch on is that I think it's invaluable to actually spend time in industry to understand how industry operates so you can reflect the practices in the government. We were chatting about this earlier. If I could throw something at my former self, the things I used to ask from industry, I am so frustrated with the former version of myself and what I thought was reasonable for industry. So when you think about what would I have done differently, it would've been... I thought we were being very transparent and good partners.


I would've taken that to a whole other level. Truly be transparent. If we want to be partners, treat them as partners and work together towards a common solution. Lori-Ann mentioned sharing budget, sharing the money that we have available to actually do something, getting the actual feedback and ideas of how we could be structured, and hearing from industry what works well for them, even from a startup perspective. How do you have to be structured so we can best support you too? And looking at the strategy from that perspective, I think, would've been invaluable and would've found the right companies that truly wanted to serve the mission.

Lori-Ann Rissler (23:55):

Yeah, I agree. I think once you solve some of the things Victoria just mentioned, the contract-type conversation becomes, I want to say, less important. Not that's not important. But once you have a more empathetic, strong relationship with industry, I think a lot of other things start to fall in place, assuming, of course, outcome-based contracts are in the mix as well. But yeah, same. We were talking about things that we did on previous competitions that horrify current Lori-Ann and Victoria-

Victoria Wyler (24:22):


Lori-Ann Rissler (24:23):

... how we would never do it again. But to me, it all boils down to being a better, stronger partner with industry from the government side.

Bryon Kroger (24:31):

So I have a hot take, and I bet you disagree with me, but I want to know how you would fix the issue that I see. So I have become very opinionated, and if I ever were to go back to government, that competition is bull$%@!.


And it's not because competition itself is, but the way that we run competitions. I can't figure out a way, and I've racked my brain to try to figure out a way, to run a good competition that actually measures the things that I want to measure.


And so I've become more opinionated that people should just do really thorough market research, and then figure out how to award to the people they want. But that is a very unpopular opinion in government and should not be repeated. But how do we run better competitions?

Lori-Ann Rissler (25:14):

I mean, I think the market research is part of it, right? When you get 20 proposals from qualified contractors, then parts of that evaluation is kind of a crapshoot. But if you're doing better market research and being more transparent with what it is you're actually looking for and what you actually want them to do, companies are going to start self-eliminating.


But when you have a somewhat vague solicitation for FTEs in software development, just very vague things, you're going to have tons of companies proposing to that. But if you actually had... if you can share more about what the company would actually be doing, what the outcomes are, you'll start naturally losing companies that know that that's not a good fit for them.


So I don't know if I'd go as far as saying, "figure out just how to work with companies one on one." I think that is useful for certain situations. And there's programs out there already you can leverage like SBIR Phase III and the 8(a) program, but I think competition will always be around in some shape or form.

Bryon Kroger (26:10):

Fair enough.

Lori-Ann Rissler (26:11):


Bryon Kroger (26:12):

What about you?

Victoria Wyler (26:13):

One, I'm shocked you're opinionated. Shocked.

Bryon Kroger (26:17):

We spell that with an eight at Rise8.

Victoria Wyler (26:21):

Yeah. Okay.

Bryon Kroger (26:21):


Victoria Wyler (26:22):

Okay, got it. And I actually kind of agree with you, and I say that from the perspective of even working for a startup. When I look at competitive bids, not interested. Because the chances of winning that and being able to actually communicate the value proposition in some arbitrary format that they want - they want a five-page technical volume and 20 other random documents that have no value, that I guarantee no one's going to look at - it's a waste of my time, right?


What I'd rather do is look at avenues where I can find an opportunity to go direct with an end user, show the value I have, and then continue that engagement. From a company that wants to actually serve a mission, that, to us, is a better value proposition. So I don't necessarily think the way competitions are structured today, you're going to get the best talent that you want just because of how you're incentivizing things, right?

Bryon Kroger (27:07):

Mm-hmm. Yeah, that's interesting. I can tell, especially for government folks in the audience, and I know this space, right? I came out of it, as did both of you, so I know how to navigate it. I know how to win competitive bids, but I'm at the point where we have decided from a strategic perspective that we will not bid on competitive bids anymore unless a partner is priming. We will follow along, but we're not doing competitive bids at all anymore. I'm completely pulling out of the market from that respect.


So for all of the people out there, and most programs are doing competitive bids, you're not just losing access to startups that are annoyed trying to enter the space. You're losing access to people like you, and Rob, and the team, myself, that know this space too. And we're just like, "it's not a good value proposition anymore." And a lot of times, when you do end up winning those bids, the thing you have to do to win them means that you can't perform the way that we want to perform the way that our brands align.

Victoria Wyler (27:59):

Yeah. Or it's not structured on how you would actually do the work, right?

Bryon Kroger (28:02):


Victoria Wyler (28:02):

Yep. And I'll also say this because competitive bids are such a huge lift. There's literally a market of companies that support small businesses and even how to bid for the government. And so... And there's nothing wrong...that is a market that exists. But that, to me, that market existing shows that government acquisitions actually hasn't fixed the problem. The fact that we've created a demand for another market to actually get companies to bid for the DoD, that's a problem in and of itself. So that's my only thought.

Bryon Kroger (28:39):

Anything to add?

Lori-Ann Rissler (28:41):

Anything to add? I don't think so. I mean, I think that all kind of ties back what you were saying, not bidding on competitive pursuits anymore. It goes back to just transparency between government and industry because just because dropping out of certain types of acquisitions that maybe you would've bid on before, there's still 10 companies bidding. The government's going to be like, "okay, see you later, Rise8. We don't care." But they should care, right? They should know what companies aren't participating because the process is so arduous and so time-consuming.


And I can honestly say, being the person releasing solicitations, going back in time like we were talking about this earlier, I had no idea how complicated I was making some things for vendors previously. But now, being on this side of it, I think everyone in acquisition should have to spend at least four weeks with industry, particularly with a startup, like a non-traditional startup, to understand the bid and proposal process. Because if that was possible, I think a lot of these problems we're talking about would naturally resolve.

Bryon Kroger (29:36):

Yeah, it's interesting because we're having this panel together because you've now left, and we can reflect on it, and there's a lot of people that have left the software factory ecosystem. I'm excited to see the next round that goes back, particularly the ones... It's one thing to go to industry and come back, but to go into a startup and be involved in BMP activities, managing a P&L versus just like, "oh, I went to Lockheed for a year and came back."


I think those people, Matt Nelson's one of them, I don't know if he's here in the audience right now, but he's here if you can find him. Probably a great resource for government folks who, was at the start of Kessel Run, led acquisitions, came and led here at Rise8, and is now back leading acquisitions at BESPIN. Those people, I think, are going to be game-changers in the next evolution of what we need to see. But they still need ideas from all of you, and from you, to make those competitive bids better to pick...maybe contract type doesn't matter, but making sure leading up to that, we have a much better relationship. Alright, we have a couple of minutes left.

Victoria Wyler (30:39):

One thing I want to add. I don't want this to seem like we are bashing government acquisitions. I love acquisitions. I'll talk acquisitions to anyone any day. It's one of my favorite topics. I say that I left the military because I wanted to keep doing what I was doing in acquisitions. I love the momentum that we were building when we were in the government. I want to see that momentum continue.


I think there's such an opportunity to really be game changers in acquisitions to continue that evolution - to your point. So I want to emphasize that what acquisitions has done to date has been phenomenal. I just want to keep that momentum going. Just because there isn't the same level of oversight as there once was, we can't stop because there are companies that want to support the DoD mission, and it really starts and stops with acquisitions.

Bryon Kroger (31:24):

Yeah. Alright. We've got a minute and a half left. Anything we didn't say that you want to make sure the audience walks away with?

Lori-Ann Rissler (31:32):

I think so.

Victoria Wyler (31:35):

SBIR Phase II proposals are due next week. So if anyone is learning... wants to learn how painful it is to submit a proposal for government acquisitions, happy to have someone shadow...jokes aside.

Lori-Ann Rissler (31:45):

Yeah. Or, if you're a government acquisition person and want to understand the pain that companies go through for SBIRS, go check out the portal and see what's required, particularly from the Air Force. I don't know why the Air Force is a lot harder to work with as a small company than Navy and Army. But yeah, check things out. Pretend you're a small business. Try to navigate a solicitation on your own. See what you're putting your counterparts and industry through just to get a little bit of their perspective.


Or even better, if you're here, you're government, go ask your industry counterpart for feedback on how things are going. When was the last time you asked them for feedback, if ever? Actually, before coming here, one of the companies we worked with at Kessel Run, I run into them from time to time. So I asked him last week, "hey, I'm doing this panel. What's your feedback?" And he brought things up that I never would've thought of. So always a great idea to get some feedback from those on the other side of the table that you're working with now.

Bryon Kroger (32:37):

Alright. Well, I just want to close by, again, saying, despite the fact that we focus primarily on lessons learned, and I'm so grateful for both of you having an open, honest conversation, but these organizations have done amazing things, continue to do amazing things. Everybody's still learning on a learning journey, and I'm excited to see what the next evolution looks like. So thank you for joining us and giving us these lessons learned.

Victoria Wyler (32:59):

Thanks for having us.

Lori-Ann Rissler (33:00):

Thanks for having us.