We’re back! The last year has been tough on everyone, and the Texas Defense Innovation Forum (TDIF) hasn’t been exempted. Like many of you, we spent the last 12 months adjusting business structures, operations, and products, and figuring out a new work/life reality. The surge of online events, accessible from anywhere, suppressed the need for yet another “Defense Innovation” organization hosting events.
Over the past 12 months I personally designed, programmed, and executed a number of such events – large and small – as the VP of Defense at Capital Factory. We learned a ton about how people can engage with virtual content, and most importantly with each other. Further, it became clear that the core constituency TDIF serves wasn’t getting the focused attention of these other venues. Just as we did back in late 2018, we decided to do something.
What we did was launch the “Advanced Engagements” events series, bringing together GovX and DoDX programs with entrepreneurs and established technology companies in the national security marketplace. True to our core, we wanted to provide relevant, actionable information and relationships to non-traditional companies, and provide a pathway for mid-market companies and partners to have a voice.
To execute this series, TDIF made two key moves. First, we partnered with the Defense Innovation Network (DIN). Given the proliferation of ecosystem supporting organizations, and the reality of remote and virtual, consolidation through a strong partnership made sense. DIN delivered a first-rate event platform and production experience, as well as an impressive brand and broad network of innovators. This partnership with J.D Stanley and Prescott Paulin is only beginning! Second, through sheer luck we were able to convince Amanda Henninger to come on as Community Manager serving TDIF and DIN, and to produce the Advanced Engagements series. The success of this first event and the partnership is owed mostly to her brilliance and dedication.
The first event was wildly successful! Thanks to the partnership and sponsorship of Ward & Berry, PLLC we assembled an awesome array of speakers and drew a packed crowd. The Honorable Patrick Murphy, 32nd Undersecretary of the Army, kicked us off with a keynote chat about the evolution of the innovation ecosystem and top-of-government level challenges that the Biden administration will have to continue tackling. We wrapped with Jackie Tame, Deputy Director of the JAIC, Will Roberts, Director of Acquisition for JAIC, Rich Leonard, Director of the new Tradewind effort, and Joanne Johnson, Technology Acquisition PM for USSOCOM, to reach and source non-traditional AI companies.
Between the headliner bookends, we heard from action-level experts in the fields of government contracting, SBIR Phase-III, intellectual property, cybersecurity compliance, trusted capital, foreign influence, export control, and teaming agreements.
- Tim Furin and Alan Apple, partners at Ward & Berry, PLLC, brought expertise in all things related to government contracting
- Ryan Connell from DCMA discussed Commercial Item Determinations
- Diana Jordan-Baldwin represented Army Futures Command Office of Small Business
- Lauren Bedula from Beacon Global Strategies discussed FOCI
- Jeff Farrah represented the National Venture Capital Association
- Mike Madrid, Executive Director of DEF, represented the DEF community
We were blown away not just by the array of speakers, but the response from our community! This first event had 500 registered attendees, and roughly 200 participants engaged at one time. Speakers and networking hosts represented DoDX, Army, Air Force, Navy, Special Operations, academia, venture capital, innovation ecosystems, and startups!
What sets the Advanced Engagements series apart from other events is the focused networking sessions between the panels and at the conclusion of the event. The event platform allows us to create and curate a room filled with networking tables, and participants can float from room to room to engage with the experts and each other. These are real, person-to-person interactions in rooms of 8-10 people.
What a great experience! We’re so proud of what Amanda put together and excited to launch the next one. And thanks especially to our network for making it possible!