Common Misconceptions: SBA’s Mentor-Protégé Program (Part I – MPP JVs & Affiliation Shield)

The SBA’s Small Business Mentor-Protégé Program (MPP) is arguably one of the federal government’s most successful undertakings when it comes to supporting our nation’s small business policies, economy, and contracting goals. It fosters the development of small business protégés, allowing many different forms of mentor assistance. It includes opportunity for eligible protégés and their mentors to joint venture (JV) for set-aside contracts—often otherwise off-limits to mentors that don’t qualify for the set-aside status/size standard and/or to protégés incapable of competing for or performing such contracts on their own. MPP JV awards may also incentivize federal government customers—simultaneously getting closer to meeting their set-aside quotas and getting the know-how, qualifications, resources, and personnel of more experienced (typically larger) contractors.

While it’s easy to see why this program enjoys immense popularity amongst small and large businesses alike, confusion consistently shrouds SBA’s MPP, nevertheless (hence the need for a two-parter here). In this article, we’ll skip over the “basics” of SBA’s MPP (which you can read all about here) and instead, jump right into the first few common misconceptions surrounding the program (with the rest to follow in Part II).

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Webinar! Mentor Protégé and Legal Aspects To Be Mindful Of on June 5, 2024

Please join Federal government contracts attorneys John Holtz and Stephanie Ellis for this informative webinar, hosted by the Catalyst Center for Business & Entrepreneurship, on June 5 at 10:00 am CDT.

The SBA’s Mentor Protege Program allows two or more businesses to come together and form a joint venture to bid on small business set-aside government contracts. One of the most advantageous aspects of this program is the ability for a large business to mentor a small business through the use of a joint venture. When a large business mentors a small business, the SBA approved joint venture can obtain and perform small business set-aside contracts despite the size of the large business. Join us as we discuss the recent changes in the SBA’s Mentor Protege Program and explore how you can use this program as a tool for scaling your business (whether large or small). Register here.

GAO: Each JV Partner’s Experience Must Be Considered

A common path for many federal contractors to bid on and perform a federal contract is through a joint venture (“JV”). Utilizing a JV can provide some great opportunities for two (or sometimes more) businesses to share resources and boost each others’ performance on a contract. Additionally, it can be a great tool for contractors to utilize both JV partners’ experience and to jointly gain more experience. There are even widespread SBA regulations requiring agencies to “consider” both JV partners’ experience in an evaluation. However, there has still been quite a bit of back and forth regarding how agencies are supposed to evaluate a JV’s experience, and specifically what it means to “consider” each JV partners’ individual experience, particularly in situations where only one JV partner submits the experience. In May of 2023, GAO issued a decision that provided at least some clarification on how an agency should consider each JV partner’s experience, and the impact of not doing so.

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COFC Confirms: Mentor-Protege JVs from the Same Mentor Can’t Bid Against Each Other

Those who work within the federal government contracting world are likely to have noticed that, lately, many large indefinite delivery, indefinite quantity (IDIQ) contracting vehicles are soliciting offers. However, with large contracting vehicles, which are often worth billions of dollars and promise many awards, there are often many protests. And Polaris, Transformation Twenty-One Total Technology Next Generation 2 (T4NG2), and Chief Information Officer – Solutions and Partners 4 (CIO-SP4), to name just a few of such solicitations, are no exception. Although many bid protests are filed with the Government Accountability Office (GAO), the Court of Federal Claims (COFC) also has jurisdiction over such matters, and COFC decisions are usually more indepth and the review of information from the agency more robust than at GAO.. This post will discuss the first of three main issues SH Synergy, LLC v. United States, and, because there is so much useful information packed into the decision’s 75 pages, we’ll plan a separate post for other issues.  

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Govology Webinar: Still A Game Changer: The SBA Mentor-Protégé Program (2023 Update), April 27, 2023, 1:00pm EDT

I hope you will join Nicole Pottroff and I as we discuss the benefits of the SBA’s Mentor-Protégé Program. We will be covering the program’s eligibility requirements, application process, options such as forming a special Mentor-Protégé Joint Venture and much more. Hope to see you there! Register here.

Back to Basics: Joint Ventures

Many of our readers are familiar with a number of the nuances of joint ventures. In fact, in the past few years, many of you have utilized this nifty little concept! That said, for those of you newer to the government contracting business (and as a refresher for those who have been in this for a while), here is a short rundown of the basics of joint ventures in government contracting.

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GAO: Solicitation Cannot Require a Protégé Have the Same Experience as its Mentor

SBA regulations prohibit agencies from requiring the same past performance record from both mentor and protégé entities.  The regulations explicitly prohibit this type of requirement.

In a recent GAO decision, it sustained the protest where an agency required all members in a joint venture to submit the same past experience examples in their proposal.

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