Norcal APEX Accelerator
“We didn’t know where to start. Everyone said ‘go work with the government’, but how? We knew there were all these government opportunities for small businesses…but how do you be a part of that? Being able to work with a publicly available service like PTAC and find out what’s being awarded and won was such a great eye opener. We had no idea.”
|MLtwist is a Santa Clara based small business that provides a Data as a Service platform for Artificial Intelligence that helps get quality annotations faster. MLtwist’s platform alleviates the pressure on data scientists by automating labeling tool selection, data transformation, quality control, and everything in between. The result is companies quickly going from unclassified unlabeled messy data to quality labeled data. David Smith, CEO, heard about Norcal PTAC through his work with our partner program, the Small Business Development Center (SBDC) and began working with a PTAC advisor in May 2021.
As a startup working in the tech industry, David understood from colleagues as well as competitors that there was opportunity in government contracting for a company like MLtwist. But the steps required to take and in which direction to take them was a mystery. David describes being unsure of how to begin market research in the government sector, and how to tell what government portals were required for entry into the market, and in which order to tackle them. As an early‐stage venture, they identified their biggest threat as spending resources and time that did not contribute towards their development goals; this can make government contracting a challenge for startups.
David describes our Procurement Specialists as opening his eyes to the government contracting opportunity available and planting the seeds for success. His advisors helped him make sense of the overall landscape and how the different elements fit together, including how partnering with entities like the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory may be fruitful for them. David received help registering in SAM.gov, certifying as a Small Business, developing a Capabilities Statement, identifying million‐dollar opportunities, and importantly identifying how an award from the US Dept. of Energys Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Program might fit strategically into their growth plan. PTAC referred MLtwist to our partner program, the Tech Futures Group with the SBDC in order to dive deep on the SBIR application while he continued to work towards government contracting goals with his advisor.
In January 2022, after they submitted their first application for the SBIR Phase I program, MLtwist won an award for $198,872 to develop machine learning assistance for finding and labeling energy data. This is a very notable success as it is a very competitive space to win in. Since then, MLtwist has had increased investment and built several new partnerships in the industry. They are currently working on high value bid proposals for the federal government and their phase II SBIR application for $1 million. We wish them the best and look forward to continuing our work supporting them in their path to innovation.