That's right! We finally have some backing that will allow us to not only continue what we've started, but to really take this project to the next level! We're beyond excited about this, especially because it has not been a quick or easy process.
We had raised a friends and family round in December that paid for the development of our Beta, which just recently wrapped up. Beyond that however, we didn't have anything on the horizon. We launched a kickstarter in March which got an amazing response off the bat, but when COVID-19 sent the world into a tailspin our kickstarter was one of the casualties. Here's the kickstarter video if you haven't seen it:
This was a pretty dark time for me personally...I had just put the majority of my savings into this project, and the only money I was making was coming from freediving classes and boat charters...which completely dried up. I had a very small runway for DiveViz, as well as for myself. I decided it was best to apply for jobs and keep DiveViz as a side project...I applied for over 50 jobs and ended up with two interviews, neither of which led anywhere. Throughout this time I did have something in my back pocket, but it was a long shot at best.
In the winter of 2018 I came across a NOAA Small Business Innovation and Research (SBIR) grant opportunity that included a category that would have fit perfectly with DiveViz. Unfortunately I discovered this a couple weeks before the deadline and wasn't able to apply for it. What I did know is that NOAA released it's SBIR opportunity every year, so I knew I had to be ready for the next year. I asked some experts if there was anything we could do to prepare, but since the categories (the specific types of projects they will fund) change every year, and there's really no way of knowing what they will be, we had to sit and wait for the next years release.
The NOAA website said it would be released in the Fall of 2019. Starting in September I checked the grants.gov website religiously. Nothing showed up in September...or October...or November...and after I checked a few times in December I thought maybe their funding had dried up and we wouldn't be able to rely on this option. I visited my mom in Colorado over Christmas, checked the site again December 19th, no dice, and just said the hell with it.
Christmas and New Years were great, had some friends in town following New Years, and by the time I got back in the groove it was mid January. I decided to check the site again and....what do you know. They had released the funding opportunity December 20th, and the proposal was due...February 3rd!
I've never done this before, I don't have the first clue where to start, but all I do know is that it's a very long, arduous process to write a grant proposal. I had been in touch with an expert in writing grant proposals (who also happened to surf and freedive), and I figured it was better to hire him to write it rather than scramble through it on my own. I could not be happier with that decision, he was a life saver!
That said, we were way behind. We had to get accounts set up on multiple government websites which took days if not weeks for the approvals to go through, so we started right away. Halfway through however, we got denied for some administrative screw ups I had made, and fixing those normally took a couple weeks.
Initiate FULL scramble.
I fast tracked everything. I contacted every agency we were dealing with including NOAA to let them know what we were going through, and while they were understanding they still said if we didn't get everything figured out and submitted by the due date we were out of luck. I was beside myself at the fact that we might miss out on this opportunity due to some simple oversights I'd had, but the only thing we could do was push forward.
The submission was due on Monday, and our account approvals came in on Friday! As well as our letters of support, and a letter of intent that a lab at Scripps Institute of Oceanography submitted saying that they would take on a large chunk of this work in support of DiveViz. I happened to be on a surf trip in Puerto Rico, and spent pretty much the entire weekend in the AirBnB writing up budget narratives, getting all the loose ends tied up, and going back through the requirements to make sure nothing was missed. We submitted everything at 10PM Monday night, just in time, and then...it was waiting time. (Below is the day after it was submitted, captured by Rich Brooks Photography)
NOAA doesn't say when you will find out if you've been awarded or not, they just told us that the period of performance had to start July 1st...so hopefully we would know before then! Normally the award is announced around 30-60 days after the submission, but there's nothing that says that has to be the case.
30 days came around, no word.
60 days came around, still not a word, and time to start exploring other options.
90 days came around, still no word, and I had assumed we had missed the boat and were on our own. It was time to form a new plan, figure out how to get funding so we can keep this thing going.
But then, around the 100 day mark, we got the email! WE WERE FUNDED!!!
It's hard to describe what this means and how this feels. After 2 and a half years of pushing this, getting told no again and again, our idea was validated by a major government organization who was willing to pay us a significant amount of money to develop. Un, real.
You know what's better?
This is just Phase I.
We'll talk more about what that entails, as well as what Phase II is and what we need to do to get there (it involves you!) in our next article! Until then, thank you SO much for all of your amazing support! We should have the Beta in your hands soon, and not long after that you can look forward to having live sensors in the water, and continual updates on the app!
See you in the water