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Students vs. Startups Episode 29: How to drastically increase your business with the federal government

Students vs. Startups Episode 29: How to drastically increase your business with the federal government


Featuring Repperio

Read Time: 15 minutes

Welcome to Episode 29 of Students vs. Startups. This week, moderator John Gilroy talks with the CEO & founder of Repperio, June Marshall. With the use of Repperio, contractors will have a well-fortified basis of data when comparing various contract opportunities. Read below to learn more about Repperio's data-driven analytics, and how their strategies can help increase contract profitability!

[audio src="https://easternfoundry.files.wordpress.com/2017/07/students_vs_startups_podcast_episode_29-final.mp3"][/audio]

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John Gilroy: Welcome to Students Versus Startups showdown on the Potomac. My name is John Gilroy, I'll be your moderator today. Let's have a big round of applause for show number 29. Okay, I can't believe it, no? I don't know if the FCC's gonna pull us from the air, but this isn't the FCC. This is Al Gore's internet isn't it? So this is Al Gore's project so maybe he's gonna pull us from this. If you've listened to this podcast before, you know exactly what we did. We went into the Eastern Foundry in Rosslyn, Virginia and we liberated a room; we got a conference room here. On one side of the table, we have three students. On the other side of the table we have a startup. They have a 26 minute conversation; we walk out of the room fast friends. It's real simple.

On one side of the table, our students let me begin. Our students today are from the Georgetown School of Continuing Studies and they are in a technology management program and a systems entering management program. Our first student is Jimmy McAndrews. Jimmy tell us about your background please.

Jimmy McAndrews: Hi, I'm a strategy and operations consultant with Devoy, a federal contractors supporting a federal health agency and a recent graduate of the systems engineering management program.

John Gilroy: So you got your piece of paper, huh?

Jimmy McAndrews: I sure did.

John Gilroy: Well, great. Great. Obi.

Obi: My background primarily stems from strategy work in fin tech, financial services and product development. I'm a recent graduate as well of New York University, the school of business there. I currently doing a lot of good freelance work for the ecosystem in the D.C. area, working with some early startups, Seed and Series A.

John Gilroy: So you're in the middle of getting your Masters in Technology and Management?

Obi: Yes, I just finished my first year, so I'm a second year master's student.

John Gilroy: Great. Great. Matt Pearson, your background please.

Matt Pearson: Yes, I've worked for Georgetown University for about four years and currently taking a masters there in Technology Management. Hopefully, be finishing up in August, so just about done.

John Gilroy: Okay.

Matt Pearson: And a Georgetown support the non credit certificate program so we offer to professionals in the area.

John Gilroy: Good. That's a pretty good line up for you June. Do you think you can handle it?

June Marshall: Ooh. I'm pretty intimidated. I'm very excited.

John Gilroy: [crosstalk 00:02:12] She's never intimidated. Believe me I've had a ...

June Marshall: Great to meet you guys.

John Gilroy: She's got radio [inaudible 00:02:15] she never gets intimidated. June tell us about your background please.

June Marshall: I am June Marshall, CEO and founder of Repperio, previous to starting with Repperio I did federal business development for AEC Contractors and Technology Companies. And previous to that worked in commercial real estate, supply chain, global logistics, emerging technology and financial services in sales strategy operations; roles from fortune 500 to high gross start ups.

June Marshall June Marshall, CEO & Founder of Repperio

John Gilroy: So the name of your startup is Repperio? How do you spell that please?

June Marshall: R-E-P-P-E-R-I-O. Repperio.

John Gilroy: How'd you come up with that name?

June Marshall: It's Latin for to find out or discover. It's actually the URL that I won at dot IO. I thought that was really cool.

John Gilroy: Good, good, good.

June Marshall: I found a bunch of data science-y really cool domains that I took and so ...

John Gilroy: So my question I want to discover is what business problem that you solve?

June Marshall: Repperio is a market intelligence platform that reveals basically the competitive landscape of federal contracting. It helps contractors have a basis of comparison when they're evaluating one opportunity versus another.

"The competitive landscape is a very significant impact on win rate for federal contractors."- June Marshall, CEO & Founder of Repperio

For the first time it helps contractors have a really data driven solution to very fast identify opportunities that they're gonna have the highest probability of win, highest profit projects, and also their most likely to win partners and subcontractors in any market across the world for federal contracting.

John Gilroy: Obi we're here at Eastern Foundry, which is a hub for over a hundred different contractors of the federal government, kind of an appropriate place for June to waltz in. Got a question for her please.

Obi: Yeah, sure. Being in the space of the pursuit of federal contracts, I've recently learned about a utility of the block chain technology. One of the major cryptocurrencies currently being the used, everybody knows Bitcoin, but a huge one behind it is Ethereum and they focus on smart contracts. So to decrease in that red tape between the business and the individuals and companies that want to come to contract themselves thinking, being in that space have you thought about employing that technology? Or seeing how you can use different up and coming features and technologies within that space to employ in your future?

June Marshalls: So, I am fascinated with blockchain.

Obi: Yeah.

June Marshalls: And I have been for many years and when it was at forty dollars. But my IP attorney would not allow me to discuss it at length.

Obi: Okay.

June Marshalls: But definitely, I'm definitely fascinated and if you go in my Twitter, I pretty much exclusively post about AI and blockchain, it's fascinating to me. It's definitely a space that we're watching.

Obi: Jimmy do you want to jump in?

Jimmy McAndrews: Yeah. So coming from that federal contracting background myself, there's a huge emphasis put on relationships and that driving businesses forward and driving new and lasting opportunities. What is a tool or service like Repperio mean for an industry that has been so focused on long term relationships to build the base of its business?

June Marshall: Oh, definitely. Federal contracting is such a relationship business. It will never stop being a relationship business for sure. Generally teams, especially that the contracts are getting larger and they're being co-mingled with some of the other contracts, and the past performance requirements and the evaluation criteria of these large contracts require newly assembled teams with just a precise mix of capabilities and past experience to come together to be number one, technically acceptable. And number two, best value to the government to win. Most contractors that we talk to are looking at new markets. They're always looking at new teaming partners. They're always looking at new opportunities and they're looking at ways to grow their capabilities. Especially small businesses. And the largest that are between 25 million and 250 million in revenue are so constrained in being able to prime to the government, because its usually the companies that are over 500 million in revenue that are winning the large contacts, and then everything else goes small business. If you want to participate in federal, you must team or you must sub.

What Repperio does is ... What do people do? BD people. We go to conferences. We meet as many people as possible and the first 20 minutes of the conversation is dominated by, tell me about your business. In Repperio, you come from an information advantage. In the contractor profile, just like a LinkedIn profile, but more just on the company level, you can at a glance be able to see what this contractor does. What their strategy is. Where they're going. What markets they work in. What contract vehicles they have. What projects they're tracking and what their strategy is on those projects.

Go back to the conference setting now,

"people who have Repperio prior to going into a conference already have studied all of the contractors on the exhibit floor that they want to talk to and even the ones they know that are registered to attend."-June Marshalls, CEO & Founder of Repperio

They already have a very substantive idea on how they might collaborate and how they might team. It takes the process of, from it being like oh relationship, I know this person, he knows this person. Or I'm going to run into this person at a conference to being very data driven ahead of time. Knowing who you want to talk to ranked, and then also already having a plan about what you want to talk to them about and opportunities that you want to bring to them.

John Gilroy: So Matt, on the LinkedIn profile that June has, she talks about being a federal contracting marketing intelligence. Sounds like a lot of competition out there for that, huh?

Matt Pearson: Yes, that's certainly true. I was curious, I could tell that you had a lot of experience in your background, but I've heard that starting any start up is difficult. I'm actually curious as you looked across the landscape of the competition that existed, what was sort of the process of you going through, okay I'm gonna start this company, this is the product I'm going to provide and I'm curious as what your experience was in that.

June Marshall: Of course, I'm focused on the competitive landscape. Even in my own business, in my own industry for sure, but more than that at a most basic level, I did federal BD for eight years. I needed this tool. I had to build what I needed. I had to build this to keep my job. You know, I had to build this to take my clients, especially second tier subcontractors win rate, from a sub 1% to a 25% win rate. And the only way I could do that was by building this tool. By knowing not only the competitive landscape of the opportunities that we were going after, but knowing the potential win rate of the next tier of subs above us and the potential win rate of all of the primes and making sure to connect the dots to make sure that the person that I was giving my number to was also bidding the prime that had the highest chance of win and facilitating those introductions.

I learned through working with a lot of different contractors. Large, small, prime, sub, professional services, construction, engineering, technology, that unless you're in SAIC or Allegos that has a hundred people in a room that are full time competitive intelligence analysts, they don't have that data driven solution to be able to assess the competitive landscape in a way that really, really, really reduces risk, reduces cost and measurably improves win rate. I had to build it.

John Gilroy: So Obi, this sounds interesting, huh?

Obi: Yeah. So, coming back to that point, when seeking to increase the win rate in being able to secure the federal contracts, what would you exactly say is your competitive advantage compared to a lot of the companies that are doing the same things that Repperio is doing?

IMG_1466 Jimmy McAndrews, Obi Ukagbu, & Matt Pearson

June Marshall: I would say that we're very differentiated in the space. If you want to take a step back and say okay, government contracting business intelligence, then yeah, there's a lot of companies in this space. Our product is actually very, very, differentiated against every other tool. There's maybe 15% overlap with other tools.

Obi: Okay.

June Marshall: Most of the components in Repperio don't exist in any of the other tools.

Obi: Okay.

June Marshall: Currently, the back end, very, very robust application engine that we have and also our road map going into machine learning and natural language understanding to go beyond naics codes is an area there's no one to compare us to. But also, I would go to speak to the testimonials that we're getting. Fortune 500 manufacturer told one of our investors who told me, I didn't here it directly from them, that Repperio is saving them 90 man hours per proposal. And they do five or six proposals. That's just one business unit of this big company.

Another one of the largest system integrators after seeing our tool said, oh my gosh, I could potentially restructure my entire capture department and put them on way higher value activities instead of having them be behind a computer eight hours a day, they could do it for one. The government, we have nine government agencies that are piloting Repperio, and I'm learning so much about how they use the tool. One DOD agency emailed a letter that I was CC'd on to 50 of his colleagues in other parts of the country, and he said that this is something that could alter the way that we make our buy decisions in our position. This is something different, you should take a look. And the army corp as well, they are able to do far mandated market research reports, which he said normally takes six weeks, and they can do it in two clicks. How do you measure that value? So it's transformative and it's very different, then any of the other tools out there.

Another way that its differentiated is that it is instead of a search engine, it's like an ERP. Right? People can literally do functions of their jobs inside the app. And it's not just made for BD. I mean it is made by federal BD for federal BD but, proposals writers, BD people, operations doing resource planning, management wanting to look at the overall pipeline, and then the large companies, even subcontract administrators are wanting to build out their subcontract plan or make sure that their supplier registration system is optimal. And estimators wanting to build out a good subcontract plan, especially if they're going into a new market got in in the government. It is functional. Very, very useful for federal program managers who are trying to define requirements better by looking at solutions on the market and being able to engage with industries so much earlier. And also be able to look at how other agencies have procured similar work which they have no ability to do right now. Not very easily. And also, contracting officers.

John Gilroy: Jimmy, you work for a big company. Would this appeal to you? It seems to look more for folks of a small companies, I don't know.

Jimmy McAndrews: Yeah, its interesting. I think the teaming part is very relevant to a very large corporation like Devoy. It makes me wonder how it changes the decision making process on the federal side as they look through theses proposals and come back and work with these small or large companies about better things in the future. There is that relationship standpoint and there's also that competitive landscape where folks want to know what other large companies or small companies are doing and how they can get ahead. Are they all working off the same information using Repperio?

June Marshall: Believe it or not, yeah it's the same information. The contractor profile is used so differently by a small business versus a subcontractor versus a federal program manager versus a contracting officer versus a large prime. But they are accomplishing a goal. Being able to asses the global footprint of a contractor and what their strategy is. The government's assessing them as a potential contractor or as a potential sub to one of their existing contractors. Large prime could be assessing either a teaming partner or a  competitor. Where are they going? Are they growing or declining with this agency or that agency? This one contract that they're on, did their dollars obligated revenues by fiscal year go down in 2017 and why? Is that gonna be an edge for us?

The competitive landscape as well. You can use it as a subcontractor to assess who the strongest potential primes are gonna be. As a prime, you can build out your whole subcontract plan or be able to see ... It's very much in the eye of the beholder. Who else is on this list? Who has revenues? With this contracting office. With this agency. In the scope of work. At this installation in this region and how do I stock up? What are my competitive advantages?

John Gilroy: You know Matt, it sounds like it's a David and Goliath. Like a giant killer. It's like a small company like John Gilroy Incorporated could use this tool and come in against some larger, and actually maybe have a chance.

Matt Pearson: Mm-hmm (affirmative). It sounds pretty revolutionary in a lot of ways adding data analytics aspect to federal contracting. I admit, I don't know a whole lot about the field so you have to excuse the question if there are standards I don't know about. I'm actually curious, because you've refined a platform and it doesn't sound like necessarily hourly services, I'm curious about your pricing structure and why you chose that?

June Marshall: It's a subscription.

Matt Pearson: Okay.

June Marshall: It's a monthly subscription SAS software has a service. We'll never be a service company in fact, we've already almost spontaneously, a pretty robust and diverse ecosystem of government service providers has formed. BD consultant firms, proposal writing firms. Even law firms and contract administration software. It's such a natural match that people can build their services around our tool and also use the tool to grow their own businesses. Because it's a lead generation gold mine. Every company has a precise magic mix of attributes of their target customer. They can find it in Repperio pretty fast.

John Gilroy: In class when we talked about building a persona,  sounds like this is a perfect tool for building the correct target then.

June Marshalls: Yeah.

John Gilroy: Obi.

Obi: One last question coming from me. Very in particular, you mentioned how when it comes to wanted to discover new individuals who wanted to make use of this platform, that you may go to panels or events in which prospective customers will aggregate. So tell me about the discovery process. What makes you in the discovery process be able to raise a higher win rate that you mentioned earlier.

June Marshall: I have networked very extensively in associations here, so AFCEA, and primarily Society of American Military Engineers. That's my network. Repperio actually is the culmination of over 1200 conversations. Very in depth conversations with people in every single role in every type of firm. Large, small, sub, government. Every role within government. Probably a little bit obsessive. I probably could've gotten started after a hundred conversations. But that's how I ended up with a tool that's so versatile. We've done very little marketing, We're crushed under word of mouth right now. It's been good. And like I said, the ecosystem of service providers that have sprung up are very much liking the channel partner model because we have a 20 partners that have 30 years of network and credibility in the market saying, oh my god, you have to see this. That's way more powerful than any marketing message that we could put out on our own.

John Gilroy: June, you talk about being a member of the National Association of Women in Construction, how does that give you the ability to evaluate a start up involved in cyber security? For example, if Jimmy starts up Jimmy Cyber Security, how does that give you an ability to understand what his value proposition is?

June Marshall: Well, the first thing is to know what is the basis of what you are evaluating. Are you evaluating them as a potential competitor? Are you evaluating them as a prime that has substantial market penetration into one or more agencies? Do they have a contract vehicle that you want? Are you looking at them as a potential sub?

"There's many, many, many different dimensions of ways that you can analyze where a contractor is and where they're going."-June Marshalls, CEO & Founder of Repperio

John Gilroy: So if it's a cyber security start up like Jimmy's Cyber Security, you may not even care about his cryptography, you're caring about his ability to deliver and his relationships, and his past performance more than the strength of his technology?

June Marshall: Well, it depends. If you have a shiny, new, exciting piece of technology, it's more likely you're gonna have a system integrator or a large prime who has a great vehicle and also a presence in DOD for example, that wants to bring you into the fold. Every new technology and capability they bring in through teaming partner and subs, becomes their demonstrated capability. That's how companies grow in capability. That's how system integrators come to have 50 NAICS codes. It's not because the self-performed 50 NAICS codes, let me tell you that.

John Gilroy: No. Jimmy.

Jimmy McAndrews: If we could take a step back, did you say before that you built this tool because you needed it? Could you tell us about the launch of the company and how you went from this idea to this pretty impressive analytics platform for the fed market?

June Marshall: Sure. It was very, very slow. But when I look back it was lighting fast. How did that happen? I started doing business development for federal contractors and worked in five industries before that. I've always had obsessive data focus. This is the seventh tool that I've built. Repperio is number seven. I've always built them internally, either for myself, to help me do the job of eight people in way less time, or to make a business process better or for one of my clients. This is the first one that I've actually and actually brought to market.

My clients first were in architecture, engineering, and construction; down further in the supply chain in construction. So electrical supplier, right? That's a second tier sub. Even an electrical contractor that is a first tier sub, especially coming from a supply chain background, I knew how many people it took to put together one bid. Even an electrical supplier, a very simple, straightforward construction bid could have 300 line items that's calling for, or equals from 50 different manufacturers and those 50 manufacturers each have manufacturers reps who are slaving away putting this bid and pricing together. Then the manufacturers put it all together as well. I knew that we had a short timeline to have a demonstrable win rate because it was affecting everyone behind us in the supply chain.

I became obsessed with predicting who the likely winners were of every construction project. So I dug into data very, very deeply and I read- I had migraines for two years. I read like all the scope of work descriptions, past performance requirements, evaluation criteria, and I said okay. Check, check, check. All right. Who are all the companies that have all those things and also have the highest amount of dollars obligated revenue with that contracting office, that funding office, at that installation, with that agency in the last three years? How many things have they been interested in but they haven't won and also who are the subs that they've worked with?  I basically assessed the competitive landscape of all of these worldwide, several areas.

John Gilroy: We are running out of time here, June. Great job students. If people want to learn more about your company, what website should they visit?

June Marshalls: R-E-P-P-E-R dot I-O. Repper.io.

John Gilroy: Dot I-O. That's distinguishing there.

June Marshalls: Yeah.

John Gilroy: I'd like to thank our sponsor, the Radiant Group. If you are interested in getting involved in geospatial projects, contact the Radiant Group. We are hosted by Eastern Foundry, a community of government contractors who are bringing innovative solutions to the government marketplace. And she's an innovated solution right here. For more information go to eastern-foundry.com. If you would like to participate as a student or a start up, contact me. Johngilroy@theoakmontgroupllc.com. And thanks for listening to Students versus Start Ups Showdown on the potomac.