Overview

Pairing Internal Ideas with External Expertise. Established in 2012, HHS Entrepreneurs was the model for the Presidential Innovation Fellows Program. HHS has worked to attract entrepreneurial talent to create a culture that supports intelligent risk-taking and accelerates innovation. This pathway partners federal staff (“Internal Entrepreneurs”) working on high-risk, high-reward projects with external entrepreneurs for a 13-month fellowship.

HHS has strong assets and leadership to create and develop new products but in some instances, lacks the expertise to get us there. HHS Entrepreneurs aims to bring external ideas and talent in areas including open innovation, agile development, and lean methodologies to rapidly create, develop, engage and accelerate innovation and problem solving. Startup organizations have demonstrated that rapid iteration between various versions or features of a product can yield successful results, and HHS would like to promote these methods internally to address high-priority projects.

External entrepreneurs have the unique opportunity to help the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services achieve its mission in new and efficient ways. HHS Entrepreneurs projects have the highest levels of support from leaders at HHS and the White House. Additionally, teams participate in networking, mentorship and “lunch and learn” events with some of the most recognizable people in venture capital, lean startup, business, technology and innovation.

Purpose of HHS Entrepreneurs

HHS Entrepreneurs helps HHS staff and operating divisions hire external talent to work on an identified project for a 12 month period.

History of HHS Entrepreneurs

In 2010 the HHS Innovation Council established the HHS Innovation Fellows Program in response to difficulties in finding expertise and unique skill sets necessary to solve some of the critical challenges we face in health, health care, and the delivery of human services. In 2012 that program was renamed as HHS Entrepreneurs and served as the model for the Presidential Innovation Fellows Program.

Through three cohorts of HHS Entrepreneurs, 16 project teams have been through the HHS Entrepreneurs pathway with 18 external entrepreneurs selected.


Eligibility for Internal Entrepreneurs

All HHS employees are eligible to apply to be an Internal Entrepreneur. Each HHS Entrepreneurs project is sponsored by an Internal Entrepreneur.

Internal Entrepreneurs are talented HHS employee who wants to change the way government works and test new methodologies to solve problems. Internal Entrepreneurs must be able to dedicate sufficient time to the project and continue project implementation after the departure of the External Entrepreneur. The project must be a well-defined problem of high importance (with a goal of some quantitative or semi-quantitative measures of success/failure).

Eligibility for External Entrepreneurs

Anyone except current federal employees are eligible to apply to be an External Entrepreneur. The core purpose of the HHS Entrepreneurs program is to bring in outside skills and expertise to help address complex challenges within HHS.

External Entrepreneurs are passionate, talented professionals external to the federal government with a demonstrated track record of entrepreneurship and innovation (in areas such as business development, business models, design thinking, evaluating and financing companies, evaluating new ventures, technology product development or marketing). External Entrepreneurs may be academics, policymakers, business gurus, or non-profit leaders who have demonstrated a significant record of achievement in their field.

Generally, External Entrepreneurs will have the following qualifications:

  • Possess an advanced degree or an equivalent combination of education and experience;
  • Have an innovative and entrepreneurial ability and potential – as demonstrated by leading innovative processes and/or solutions – specific entrepreneurial or start-up activity is particularly desirable;
  • Have a minimum of 5 years’ experience designing, developing, and implementing new ventures, including a track record of taking risks to develop new products and/or solutions;
  • Have expertise in open innovation, agile development, and/or lean methodologies, and iterative program design;
  • Have experience in organizational development and executive-level decision making, particularly around change management and/or the introduction of disruptive technologies or practices into an organization;
  • Have strong analytical and research skills and a demonstrated capacity for creative thinking;
  • Have experience in program evaluation methodologies, including quantitative analysis skills; and
  • Have excellent communication and leadership skills.

Eligible Projects

Only HHS employees may propose a project. Any idea or identified problem can be the subject of a project. The following characteristics define a project that would be a good fit for HHS Entrepreneurs:

  • High priority for the participating HHS Operating / Staff Division with the potential to affect major change within the organization; ability to be implemented in 6-12 months;
  • Can uniquely benefit from input from outside entrepreneurial talent, and/or experts in open innovation, agile development or lean startup;
  • Strong support from the HHS Operating / Staff Division leadership;
  • Participation of outstanding existing HHS Operating / Staff Division employees as Internal Entrepreneurs; and
  • Committed funding from the HHS Operating / Staff Division to support the External Entrepreneur and ongoing implementation after the External Entrepreneur departs.

Reviewing Criteria and Selection Process

HHS Entrepreneurs is a two step selection process.

Step 1
HHS staff submit proposals which are then reviewed by a panel of the Innovation Council. The projects are rank ordered based on reviewer scores and passed on to the Chief Technology Officer and Secretary for final selection. The Secretary makes all final project selections.

Step 2
Following the selection of the HHS Entrepreneur projects, the HHS IDEA LAb solicits applications for External Entrepreneur positions. All applicants are reviewed by a panel of the Innovation Council, but Internal Entrepreneurs make the final selection of which External Entrepreneur is the best fit for their project.

How to Apply

We are currently accepting applications for the Internal and External Community Engagement external entrepreneur position, which is a term appointment.

To apply, please submit the following information to serena.parks@hhs.gov by Monday, December 1st.

  1. Candidate information
  • Name
  • Current organization
  • Current Title
  • Contact information (e-mail and phone)
  1. Reference information for two professional references
  • Name
  • Current organization
  • Current Title
  • Contact information (e-mail and phone)
  1. Do you claim veteran’s preference? Y/N
  1. Are you a U.S. citizen? Y/N
  1. Date available to start at HHS
  1. Please provide brief answers (10,000 characters maximum) to the following questions
  • Why do you want to be an External Entrepreneur at the Department of Health and Human Services?
  • What unique skill sets and/or expertise can you bring to advance the project’s objectives? How do you plan to teach/share these skills to with the internal project team members?
  • In previous roles, how have you encouraged creativity, risk-taking and problem solving? Please provide a specific example, and explain how you have encouraged colleagues to take risks, and implement creative solutions for challenging problems, tasks and issues.
  • How did you learn about the HHS Entrepreneurs external entrepreneur opportunity?
  1. Please attach your resume in MS Word or PDF format

Application Period

We are not accepting applications at this time. But stay up-to-date on when we are accepting applications by 


Contact Information

Julie [dot] Schneider@ hhs [dot] gov
HHS Entrepreneurs Teams Yammer Group (Available only to HHS employees)

Frequently Asked Questions

How are Internal Entrepreneurs compensated?

Internal Entrepreneurs will continue to be paid under the same compensation structure prior to joining the HHS Entrepreneurs Program.

How are External Entrepreneurs compensated?

It is up to the participating Operating / Staff Division to determine the compensation for the External Entrepreneurs. External Entrepreneurs will be brought in as Term Appointments and will receive the same employee benefits as any other Federal employee: FEHB, FEGLI Programs, and Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS); Annual and sick leave.

How many positions are available?

For each cohort, the Department will select up to 20 Internal Entrepreneurs (resulting in 4 – 6 projects) and up to 6 – 8 External Entrepreneurs, depending on the need.

What happens if I am selected?

Internal Entrepreneurs have been notified and selected to participate in the second cohort. More information on who the Internal Entrepreneurs can be found under the “Who” tab.

The External Entrepreneur application process has recently closed and applicants will be notified in August/September 2013 and can be expected to start as early as September/October 2013.

Do External Entrepreneurs have to relocate?

In order to maximize the effectiveness of the project, we recommend that External Entrepreneurs relocate to the project site for the duration of the program.