§ 124.520What are the rules governing SBA's Mentor/Protégé program?
(a)General. The mentor/protégé program is designed to encourage approved mentors to provide various forms of business development assistance to protégé firms. This assistance may include technical and/or management assistance; financial assistance in the form of equity investments and/or loans; subcontracts; and/or assistance in performing prime contracts with the Government through joint venture arrangements. Mentors are encouraged to provide assistance relating to the performance of non-8(a) contracts so that protégé firms may more fully develop their capabilities. The purpose of the mentor/protégé relationship is to enhance the capabilities of the protégé, assist the protégé with meeting the goals established in its SBA-approved business plan, and to improve its ability to successfully compete for contracts.
(b)Mentors. Any concern or non-profit entity that demonstrates a commitment and the ability to assist developing 8(a) Participants may act as a mentor and receive benefits as set forth in this section. This includes businesses that have graduated from the 8(a) BD program, firms that are in the transitional stage of program participation, other small businesses, and large businesses.
(1) In order to qualify as a mentor, a concern must demonstrate that it:
(i) Possesses favorable financial health;
(ii) Possesses good character;
(iii) Does not appear on the federal list of debarred or suspended contractors; and
(iv) Can impart value to a protégé firm due to lessons learned and practical experience gained because of the 8(a) BD program, or through its knowledge of general business operations and government contracting.
(2) Generally a mentor will have no more than one protégé at a time. However, the AA/BD may authorize a concern or non-profit entity to mentor more than one protégé at a time where it can demonstrate that the additional mentor/protégé relationship will not adversely affect the development of either protégé firm (e.g., the second firm may not be a competitor of the first firm). Under no circumstances will a mentor be permitted to have more than three protégés at one time.
(3) In order to demonstrate its favorable financial health, a firm seeking to be a mentor must submit to SBA for review copies of the Federal tax returns it submitted to the IRS, or audited financial statements, including any notes, or in the case of publicly traded concerns the filings required by the Securities and Exchange Commission for the past three years.
(4) Once approved, a mentor must annually certify that it continues to possess good character and a favorable financial position.
(1) In order to initially qualify as a protégé firm, a Participant must:
(i) Be in the developmental stage of program participation; or
(ii) Have never received an 8(a) contract; or
(iii) Have a size that is less than half the size standard corresponding to its primary NAICS code.
(2) Only firms that are in good standing in the 8(a) BD program (e.g., firms that do not have termination or suspension proceedings against them, and are up to date with all reporting requirements) may qualify as a protege.
(3) A protégé firm may generally have only one mentor at a time. The AA/BD may approve a second mentor for a particular protégé firm where the second relationship will not compete or otherwise conflict with the business development assistance set forth in the first mentor/protégé relationship and either:
(i) The second relationship pertains to a, secondary NAICS code; or
(ii) The protégé firm is seeking to acquire a specific expertise that the first mentor does not possess.
(4) A protégé may not become a mentor and retain its protégé status. The protégé must terminate its mentor/protégé agreement with its mentor before it will be approved as a mentor to another 8(a) Participant.
(5) SBA will not approve a mentor/protégé relationship for an 8(a) Participant with less than six months remaining in its program term.
(1) A mentor and protégé may joint venture as a small business for any government prime contract or subcontract, including procurements with a dollar value less than half the size standard corresponding to the assigned NAICS code and 8(a) sole source contracts, provided the protégé qualifies as small for the procurement and, for purposes of 8(a) sole source requirements, the protégé has not reached the dollar limit set forth in § 124.519.
(i) SBA must approve the mentor/protégé agreement before the two firms may submit an offer as a joint venture on a particular government prime contract or subcontract in order for the joint venture to receive the exclusion from affiliation.
(ii) In order to receive the exclusion from affiliation for both 8(a) and non-8(a) procurements, the joint venture must meet the requirements set forth in § 124.513(c).
(iii) Once a protégé firm graduates from or otherwise leaves the 8(a) BD program, it will not be eligible for any further benefits from its mentor/protégé relationship (i.e., the receipts and/or employees of the protégé and mentor will generally be aggregated in determining size for any joint venture between the mentor and protégé after the protégé leaves the 8(a) BD program). Leaving the 8(a) BD program, or terminating the mentor/protégé relationship while a protégé firm is still in the program, does not, however, affect contracts previously awarded to a joint venture between the protégé and its mentor. In such a case, the joint venture continues to qualify as small for previously awarded contracts and is obligated to continue performance on those contracts.
(2) Notwithstanding the requirements set forth in §§ 124.105(g) and (h), in order to raise capital for the protege firm, the mentor may own an equity interest of up to 40% in the protege firm.
(3) Notwithstanding the mentor/protege relationship, a protege firm may qualify for other assistance as a small business, including SBA financial assistance.
(4) No determination of affiliation or control may be found between a protege firm and its mentor based on the mentor/protege agreement or any assistance provided pursuant to the agreement.
(1) The mentor and protégé firms must enter a written agreement setting forth an assessment of the protégé's needs and providing a detailed description and timeline for the delivery of the assistance the mentor commits to provide to address those needs (e.g., management and/or technical assistance, loans and/or equity investments, cooperation on joint venture projects, or subcontracts under prime contracts being performed by the mentor). The mentor/protégé agreement must:
(i) Address how the assistance to be provided through the agreement will help the protégé firm meet the goals established in its SBA-approved business plan;
(ii) Establish a single point of contact in the mentor concern who is responsible for managing and implementing the mentor/protégé agreement; and
(iii) Provide that the mentor will provide such assistance to the protégé firm for at least one year.
(2) The written agreement must be approved by the AA/BD. The agreement will not be approved if SBA determines that the assistance to be provided is not sufficient to promote any real developmental gains to the protégé, or if SBA determines that the agreement is merely a vehicle to enable the mentor to receive 8(a) contracts.
(3) The agreement must provide that either the protege or the mentor may terminate the agreement with 30 days advance notice to the other party to the mentor/protege relationship and to SBA.
(4) SBA will review the mentor/protege relationship annually to determine whether to approve its continuation for another year.
(5) SBA must approve all changes to a mentor/protege agreement in advance.
(f)Decision to decline mentor/protégé relationship.
(1) Where SBA declines to approve a specific mentor/protégé agreement, the protégé may request the AA/BD to reconsider the Agency's initial decline decision by filing a request for reconsideration with its servicing SBA district office within 45 calendar days of receiving notice that its mentor/protégé agreement was declined. The protégé may revise the proposed mentor/protégé agreement and provide any additional information and documentation pertinent to overcoming the reason(s) for the initial decline to its servicing district office.
(2) The AA/BD will issue a written decision within 45 calendar days of receipt of the protégé's request. The AA/BD may approve the mentor/protégé agreement, deny it on the same grounds as the original decision, or deny it on other grounds. If denied, the AA/BD will explain why the mentor/protégé agreement does not meet the requirements of § 124.520 and give specific reasons for the decline.
(3) If the AA/BD declines the mentor/protégé agreement solely on issues not raised in the initial decline, the protégé can ask for reconsideration as if it were an initial decline.
(4) If SBA's final decision is to decline a specific mentor/protégé agreement, the 8(a) firm seeking to be a protégé cannot attempt to enter another mentor/protégé relationship with the same mentor for a period of 60 calendar days from the date of the final decision. The 8(a) firm may, however, submit another proposed mentor/protégé agreement with a different proposed mentor at any time after the SBA's final decline decision.
(g)Evaluating the mentor/protege relationship.
(1) In its annual business plan update required by § 124.403(a,) the protege must report to SBA for the protege's preceding program year:
(i) All technical and/or management assistance provided by the mentor to the protege;
(ii) All loans to and/or equity investments made by the mentor in the protege;
(iii) All subcontracts awarded to the protege by the mentor, and the value of each subcontract;
(iv) All federal contracts awarded to the mentor/protege relationship as a joint venture (designating each as an 8(a), small business set aside, or unrestricted procurement), the value of each contract, and the percentage of the contract performed and the percentage of revenue accruing to each party to the joint venture; and
(v) A narrative describing the success such assistance has had in addressing the developmental needs of the protege and addressing any problems encountered.
(2) The protégé must report the mentoring services it receives by category and hours.
(3) The protege must annually certify to SBA whether there has been any change in the terms of the agreement.
(4) SBA will review the protege's report on the mentor/protege relationship as part of its annual review of the firm's business plan pursuant to § 124.403. SBA may decide not to approve continuation of the agreement if it finds that the mentor has not provided the assistance set forth in the mentor/protege agreement or that the assistance has not resulted in any material benefits or developmental gains to the protege.
(h)Consequences of not providing assistance set forth in the mentor/protégé agreement.
(1) Where SBA determines that a mentor has not provided to the protégé firm the business development assistance set forth in its mentor/protégé agreement, SBA will notify the mentor of such determination and afford the mentor an opportunity to respond. The mentor must respond within 30 days of the notification, explaining why it has not provided the agreed upon assistance and setting forth a definitive plan as to when it will provide such assistance. If the mentor fails to respond, does not supply adequate reasons for its failure to provide the agreed upon assistance, or does not set forth a definite plan to provide the assistance:
(i) SBA will terminate its mentor/protégé agreement;
(ii) The firm will be ineligible to again act as a mentor for a period of two years from the date SBA terminates the mentor/protégé agreement; and
(iii) SBA may recommend to the relevant procuring agency to issue a stop work order for each Federal contract for which the mentor and protégé are performing as a small business joint venture pursuant to paragraph (d)(1) of this section in order to encourage the mentor to comply with its mentor/protégé agreement. Where a protégé firm is able to independently complete performance of any such contract, SBA may also authorize a substitution of the protégé firm for the joint venture.
(2) SBA may consider a mentor's failure to comply with the terms and conditions of an SBA-approved mentor/protégé agreement as a basis for debarment on the grounds, including but not limited to, that the mentor has not complied with the terms of a public agreement under 2 CFR 180.800(b).