Open Source Business Eyes Government Contracts


Atlanta trade show helps government agencies learn about open source solutions, while also helping an open source startup navigate the government contracting process.

Atlanta-based Run Level Media, LLC, an open source web design and development startup, recently began the process of government contracting at Alliance South. Alliance South, a trade show that brings local, state and federal government agencies together with end users and small businesses, was held in Atlanta, Georgia, on December 7, 2010. Although Alliance South is not strictly an open source-focused event, it’s one of many industry events that help small businesses get on the Government Services Administration (GSA) schedule. Run Level Media owners, Nick Ali and Joshua Chase, let me shadow them at Alliance South so I could see how this new company looks outside Linux- and open source-focused events to land government contracts.

Open source education projects, such as Open Source for America (OSFA), reach out to educate and advocate for free and open source solutions, but at Alliance South, federal agency representatives already understood benefits that open source solutions might offer. Almost every agency representative I met at the event made it clear that the end-user doesn’t care about what type of company fixes their problem, as long as their problem is fixed.

Even if agency representatives understand potential benefits to using open source solutions, open source solution-providers must contact and convince the agency decision-makers. At events like Alliance South, small business owners can learn how to navigate the government contracting process. Successful government contractors shared stories about their failed attempts to secure contracts and what they learned from each effort. The contractors recommended persistence, collecting feedback, and adjusting your strategy.

Chase said his takeaway from the event was to be persistent in the efforts to get their product paperwork in front of the right procurement people. “Run Level Media will be partnering with CFO Leasing to get their solutions out to government agencies of all levels,” Chase said.

At Alliance South, Chase and Ali also learned more about the important role details such as company designation (for example, minority-owned business) plays in becoming a government contractor, and they left the event with specific codes to help improve their chances of getting Run Level Media paperwork in the hands of the right agency decision-maker.

( Amber Graner)

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