SBA Reports Record-High Contracting for Women-Owned Firms

For the first time in 20 years of trying, federal agencies met their mandatory goal of steering small business contracts to women-owned firms, the Small Business Administration announced on Wednesday.

 

 “What we were able to achieve was because of that big lift across the country,” Administrator Maria Contreras-Sweet told a gathering of contractors and agency officials at the National Press Club. “Women entrepreneurs can be the linchpin for a broader middle class, for upward mobility and social mobility.”

 

In fiscal 2015, federal agencies awarded 5.05 percent of eligible small business contracting dollars – or $17.8 billion – to women-owned firms, SBA said. Leading the way, Contreras-Sweet said, was the Commerce Department, where, under Secretary Penny Pritzker, women-owned firms won 13.4 percent of contracts, worth $557 million. “This achievement is no longer our glass ceiling,” but the new bar, Contreras-Sweet said.

 

Federal agencies also for the third year in a row met the broader governmentwide goal of awarding 23 percent of contracting dollars to small firms. Agencies in fiscal 2015 awarded 25.75 percent of contracts to small companies, SBA announced, or $90.7 billion. This supported 500,000 jobs, according to Contreras-Sweet.

 

SBA also broke the record for contracting with service-disabled veteran-owned small businesses, which doubled from 5 percent to 10 percent, and is now 4 percent of contract spending, said Contreras-Sweet, who presented certificates to four female federal contractors.

 

Seven agencies exceeded their small business goals, she said. They are the Homeland Security, State, Interior and Transportation departments, as well as the General Services Administration, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and SBA itself.

SBA’s success comes after women-owned businesses in recent years enjoyed the fruits of legislation that allows them to do more sole-source contracting “without an arduous bidding process,” she said, and compete for higher-award contracts. She announced a new Commerce report that adds 36 new industrial classification categories biddable as sole source.

 

The context for the contracting progress, Contreras-Sweet said, is that women-owned firms have been “fighting back” from the recession and lending freeze of seven years ago, while SBA is offering “record historical lending levels, record historical investment.”

 

The new figures show “what is possible when government comes together in a goal,” she said, crediting President Obama for stressing the women-owned firm issue during her first interview with him. Over the past seven years, small business contracting with “the world’s largest procurer” reached $640 billion, a $125 billion increase over the prior administration, she said.

 

 

The SBA chief spoke with three members of Congress: Reps. Nydia Velazquez, D-N.Y., ranking member of the Small Business Committee; Judy Chu, D-Calif.; and Cheri Bustos, D-Ill. Though Velazquez celebrated the new records, she said more needed to be done. 

 

The reason it took 20 years to hit the goal for women-owned business, she said, was a “lack of outreach by federal agencies. Some contracting officers have not made engaging women businesses a priority. In other instances, women-owned businesses were not made aware of the contracting opportunities available to them.” She also singled out the Defense Department, the largest agency purchaser, for not meeting the goal for hiring women-owned businesses, saying, “We’ll be watching.”

Contreras-Sweet was also applauded in remarks by Valerie Jarrett, the senior adviser to the president who marshalled agency action on women-owned businesses. "What better way to kick off Women’s History Month,” she told the crowd. "Talent is ubiquitous, but opportunity is not."

 

Jarrett linked the SBA’s new report to the larger Obama agenda for women and working families over the past seven years, mentioning equal pay, science and technology education, college affordability, inexpensive preventative health care, ending domestic violence and sexual assault on campus, paid medical leave, child care and raising the minimum wage. “When we invest in women-owned business, we invest in the backbone of the country,” she said. 

 

Jarrett and John Sharoka, associate administrator of government contracting and business development at SBA, in interviews with Government Executive, said the effort to aid women-owned businesses is bipartisan. Asked whether it would continue if a Republican takes the White House, Jarrett said, “I certainly hope so. The accomplishment is not partisan, and there are small businesses in every community--it’s the economic engine. There will be increasing opportunities through federal procurement power.”

Cisco continues M&A spree with $320M+ purchase of secretive Israeli chipmaker

By: Eric Jhonsa, SA News Editor

Cisco (CSCO -0.3%) is paying $320M in cash and assumed equity awards, plus retention-based incentives, to buy Leaba Semiconductor, an Israeli networking chipmaker that has been in stealth mode since its founding in 2014.

Leaba's site only describes the company as "a fabless semiconductor company providing innovative solutions for significant infrastructure challenges." Cisco merely says Leaba has "a team with a strong and successful track record of designing leading edge networking semiconductors that provide innovative solutions to address significant infrastructure challenges," and that the purchase will help accelerate Cisco's plans for its next-gen products. Leaba's CEO and CTO were previously co-founders of Dune Networks, a provider of Ethernet switch fabric chips that was sold to Broadcom for $178M in 2009.

Though also using off-the-shelf network processors (NPUs), Cisco continues heavily relying on internally-developed ASICs to power its switches and routers. In 2013, the company unveiled the nPower X1, which powers its CRS and NCS core router lines. Last year, EZchip (recently acquired by Mellanox) disclosed Ciscodoesn't plan to use the company's NPUs in next-gen edge router line cards, as it does in current line cards.

News of the deal comes just a day after Cisco announced it's buying cloud app management software provider CliQr Technologies for $260M+, and a month after it announced a $1.4B+ deal to buy IoT service provider Jasper Technologies.

Intel Working on Augmented-Reality Headset

By DON CLARK and ORR HIRSCHAUGE

Intel Corp. is joining the race to reshape reality.

The chip giant is developing a wearable headset to deliver augmented-reality experiences, people briefed on the company’s plans said. Intel plans to exploit its 3-D camera technology called RealSense, these people said, a potentially distinguishing feature in a crowded field that includes Apple Inc., Microsoft Corp., Alphabet Inc.’s Google and a wave of startups.

Augmented reality, sometimes called mixed reality, superimposes information or images on a view of the real world shown through glass or on the display of a device like a smartphone. In virtual reality, by contrast, users see only computer-generated scenes.

The augmented-reality project is one way Intel hopes to exploit vision-related technologies to build new businesses outside the shrinking market for personal-computer processors. The Silicon Valley giant is likely to offer the headset design to other manufacturers rather than market its own model to end users, according to these people, who weren't aware of any manufacturing partners lined up yet.

Achin Bhowmik, who oversees RealSense as vice president and general manager of Intel’s perceptual computing group, declined to discuss unannounced development efforts.

ENLARGE

Daqri CEO Brian Mullins, left, showed the Smart Helmet to Intel CEO Krzanich at the CES show. The augmented reality helmet displays real-time information to the wearer using Intel technology. PHOTO: ETHAN MILLER/GETTY IMAGES

But he said Intel has a tradition of creating prototypes for products like laptop computers to help persuade customers to use its components. “We have to build the entire experience ourselves before we can convince the ecosystem,” Mr. Bhowmik said.

Under Chief Executive Brian Krzanich, Intel has been developing components for new markets like wearable fitness trackers, smart jewelry and drones. Augmented reality presents an additional opportunity, requiring not only the company’s microprocessors but also special-purpose image-processing chips and 3-D camera components.

Intel has acquired at least five companies working on augmented-reality technology and has invested in and joined with with others. In June 2015, for example, the company bought Recon Instruments, whose goggles for sports enthusiasts project information like maps and distances on a small display near the wearer’s right eye.

Matt Margolis, chief analyst at Wall Street Forensics, estimates that Intel’s acquisitions and investments in the field exceed $300 million and may be as high as $500 million. The company hasn’t provided its own estimate.

Intel’s partners include Daqri, a Los Angeles startup that sells a kind of high-tech hard hat for industrial settings that includes augmented-reality features. The company cites applications where thermal sensors on its helmets could detect pipes or valves that are heating up dangerously, allowing workers to steer clear or take action. Daqri recently introduced a redesigned helmet using Intel components, shifting from chips sold by rivalQualcomm Inc.

“There is an awareness at Intel that they didn’t play as big a role in the mobile space as they would like,” said Brian Mullins, Daqri’s chief executive. “They understand that wearables and augmented and virtual reality are the next big platform.”

With RealSense, Intel can add more visual capabilities. Its 3-D camera modules were initially marketed as an enhancement to personal computers, either facing the user, for such purposes as using gestures to control actions in games, or facing externally to track and measure objects and distances in the real world.

More recently, Mr. Bhowmik said, Mr. Krzanich asked the RealSense team to help Intel build new markets in fields like drones and robots.

The company is demonstrating benefits of adding 3-D vision to various kinds of head-mounted displays. In virtual-reality applications, which now tend to require users to be stationary, front-facing cameras can help users move without hitting obstacles.

At the CES show in January, Intel demonstrated the combination of RealSense with a smartphone-based headset from a startup called IonVR. It allowed users to see an image of their arms and hands as they reached out to touch simulated objects. Intel plans to show off mobile virtual-reality experiences at a conference later this month

Intel isn't alone in pushing such concepts. Microsoft has described plans for a headset called HoloLens that projects 3-D images akin to holograms. One person briefed on Intel’s headset plans said it is collaborating with Microsoft; a spokesman for the software company declined to comment.

While Intel might show the way to developers by designing its own headset, the more important goal is making sure a big market takes off based on its components, saidPatrick Moorhead, an analyst at Moor Insights & Strategy.

LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner Is Passing His $14 Million Stock Grant to Employees

How do you perk up employees after your company’s stock price falls off a cliff? More money!

LinkedIn on Wednesday filed documents with the Securities and Exchange Commission outlining 2016 compensation packages for its top executives. There was not, however, a document for CEO Jeff Weiner. That’s because, according to a LinkedIn spokesperson, Weiner is forgoing his annual stock package so that employees can have it instead.

“Jeff did not receive an equity package this year at his request,” spokesperson Hani Durzy told Re/code. “He asked the Compensation Committee to take the stock package he would have received and put it back in the pool for employees.”

That stock package is worth roughly $14 million, according to a source familiar with the company, an amount comparable to the roughly $13 million in stock Weiner was awarded last year.

It’s a nice gesture for sure, and probably a smart one given that LinkedIn’s stock fell more than 43 percent in a single day after the company reported earnings early last month. (Here you can watch Weiner address employees after the crash.)

Weiner wants to keep employees happy, and giving up his own stock options may help with that.

Weiner isn’t the only one to employ this strategy. Back in October, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey gave away $200 million in stock to Twitter employees after company-wide layoffs and a battered stock price had taken their toll. Project morale boost!

Worth noting: Weiner can give away $14 million in stock because he already has a ton of money. He owns 105,924 shares of stock ($12.7 million), with 480,000 more shares of vested stock ($57.5 million) at the ready that he can buy for roughly two percent of LinkedIn’s current stock price.

He also has nearly 90,000 unvested restricted stock units and over 400,000 more options vesting at various price points. In other words — a lot of incentive to stay at LinkedIn and ensure the company succeeds.

Former Google CEO Schmidt to head new Pentagon innovation board

SAN FRANCISCO BY ANDREA SHALAL

Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt addresses the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) party economic council in Berlin, Germany June 9, 2015.

REUTERS/FABRIZIO BENSCH

Eric Schmidt, the former chief executive officer of Google, will head a new Pentagon advisory board aimed at bringing Silicon Valley innovation and best practices to the U.S. military, Defense Secretary Ash Carter said on Wednesday.

Carter unveiled the new Defense Innovation Advisory Board with Schmidt during the annual RSA cyber security conference in San Francisco, saying it would give the Pentagon access to "the brightest technical minds focused on innovation."

Schmidt, now the executive chairman of Alphabet Inc (GOOGL.O), the parent company of Google, said the board would help bridge what he called a clear gap between how the U.S. military and the technology industry operate.

Schmidt also said he saw the group looking for ways to use new technologies to solve new and emerging problems.

The board is Carter's latest effort to kick-start innovation across the U.S. military by building bridges to the technology industry. The U.S. defense chief announced the board's creation on Wednesday during his third trip to Silicon Valley since taking office just over a year ago.

It had been 20 years since the last U.S. defense secretary visited Silicon Valley.

"If we don’t innovate and be competitive, we’re not going to be the military that the country needs and deserves," Carter told reporters. "We should have done it a while ago."

Carter has argued forcefully for spending more on science and technology to maintain the U.S. military's competitive edge over Russia and China as they expand their militaries.Carter and Schmidt said they would choose up to l2 individuals to serve on the board, focusing on people who have led large private and public organizations, and excelled at identifying and adopting new technology concepts.

Schmidt told reporters he had a list of possible members, but had not yet contacted them. The Pentagon said a first meeting could take place as early as April.

Modeled on the Defense Business Board, which provides advice on best business practices from the private sector, the new panel is intended to help the Pentagon become more innovative and adaptive in developing technology and doing business.

Members will draw on their experience in Silicon Valley to advise on rapid prototyping, iterative product development, complex data analysis, the use of mobile and cloud applications and organizational information sharing, the Pentagon said.

"The secretary is always looking at ways to ... keep the department thinking fresh, bringing in new ideas, bringing in new voices, and he sees this as another opportunity to do that," said a senior defense official.

 

(Reporting by Andrea Shalal; editing by Jeffrey Benkoe, G Crosse)