Mettle Ops seeks financial advisor on funding for new cybersecurity product, founder says

Mettle Ops, a fledging defense industry contractor for the Army, is seeking a financial advisor to evaluate a potential Series A raise, said sole-owner and founder Katie Bigelow.

The Sterling Heights, Michigan-based company is profitable and recently landed a USD 20m contract with the Army. It is in the process of closing another Army contract for USD 14m.

The Series A proceeds would hire sales, marketing, distribution and support resources for a new cybersecurity software product that it has developed for the broader defense contracting community.

“It’s meant to be a tool to walk companies through the federal cybersecurity requirements for defense,” said the executive, who is an Army veteran.

Bigelow said the product was developed in response to the challenges it faced trying to navigate the everchanging waters of federal cybersecurity requirements. Its target customers will be defense companies building and designing defense products, or IT companies that cater to these defense companies.

Revenue in 2018 was just shy of USD 8m, and next year is forecasted to be closer to USD 9m, the executive said. Revenue dipped this current year to just under USD 7m due to a six-month pause on a current contract.

Bigelow said organic growth is all the company knows and understands, but that it would be open to discussions related to M&A opportunities. She said the company’s long-term goal is to prepare the company for a sale to a larger contractor, but not for 13 years, when she turns 55.

“That means aggressive growth right now,” she said, adding the company bid heavily this past year and plans to continue doing so this coming year on multiple “IDIQ” contracts. Standing for ‘indefinite delivery, indefinite quantity,’ these types of federal contracts provide for an indefinite quantity of services or supplies for a fixed time and are usually used for services, like IT or engineering.

“What we are trying to do is build up a lot of assets that would be useful to a company that is a larger than ours,” Bigelow said.

She added that Mettle Ops has yet to receive word on any of its outstanding IDIQ bids. The intention of this strategy, however, is to hopefully land similar work within other departments of the military.

“There is a lot of overlap with what the Army does, the Air Force does,” she said.

Mettle Ops’ current contracts with the Army are working with its ground vehicles and their survivability in a blast event. It works with armor and fixture vendors while doing prototyping for the Army’s Combat Capabilities Development Command Ground Vehicle Systems Center, which is the Armed Forces’ research and development facility for advanced technology in ground systems. Bigelow said the company would also like to move into mobility and vehicle integration.

Bigelow flew Blackhawk helicopters as a medical pilot in the Iraq War, where she “lived the effects of the equipment provided by government contractors.

”She calls the military “her home” and said when she started Mettle Ops in 2013, the goal was to “help soldiers and to increase their survivability.”

Mettle Ops employs 10 people. It uses Chase for its commercial banking, Warner Norcross & Judd for legal matters and The Accounting Office for accounting.

by James Ward in Charlottesville, Virginia