ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. (Jan. 18, 2016) -- It was not your typical government-to-defense industry meeting: more jeans, fewer business cards, no tension tied to big-dollar awards. Just a handful of Army and Air Force cyber experts on one side, and mostly small business representatives on the other, each taking a turn to offer their prototypes for lightweight kits that cyber Soldiers could deploy with to defend Army networks.

As the technical exchange unfolded at the Cyber Battle Lab at Fort Gordon, GA, over two days in August 2015, the environment quickly earned the name "Shark Tank," after the reality television show that puts up-and-coming entrepreneurs before a group of potential investors who hammer the contestants with questions before choosing whether to invest in their ideas. The Army version was a bit tamer -- with engineers leading the discussion rather than brash billionaire Mark Cuban, who, himself, began as a small businessman in the mid-1990s -- but the comparison highlighted the rater opportunity to ask the vendors difficult and detailed questions, delving into a more fluid discussion and evaluation than would generally constrain the typical contracting process.

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