I spent the last weekend in July at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill at Patriot Boot Camp (PBC), a Techstars backed summit for service members and veterans interested in learning how to launch and build technology Startups.
As a transitioning Army officer interested in entrepreneurship and tech, PBC was just what I needed. From the Pledge of Allegiance Friday morning to Retired Army General George Casey’s keynote address Sunday morning, this three day “Boot Camp” was a high octane crash course in the fundamentals of starting Startups.
Throughout the weekend, Techstars presented us with extended access to experts across the Startup community. For me, the highlights stemmed from the organizers’ ability to smoothly package and deliver three things that those who have served are well familiar with: training, coaching, and mentoring.
- Relevant Training.
Just like military leaders must know doctrine to plan operations and accomplish their missions, entrepreneurs must also master the fundamentals of building sound businesses that can grow and scale. Patriot Boot Camp was committed to education from the outset. Weeks ahead of the conference, participants received an extensive reading list from which to prepare. Each day at the event, CEOs, founders, investors, and mentors led classes and seminars. The material was vast in terms of depth and breadth.
- Expert Individual and Collective Coaching.
The quality of the cohort of advisors in attendance was stellar, and coaching entrepreneurs was a key focus of the event. In the first 48 hours I received coaching on how to outline a business idea, conduct customer discovery, pitch to investors, raise funding, build a team, split-test, and grow. Attendees who came to the conference with an idea left with a gameplan for execution.
- Unparalleled Mentoring.
But for me, the highlight of PBC — and what makes this conference so special — is the emphasis on mentorship. Dave Cass, CEO of Uvize (a mentorship platform), told all of us early and often to take advantage of the mentors who had traveled from all over the world (Bay Area to London) to help veterans and spouses. The 50+ mentors included a blend of investors, founders, and educators, and hailed from the likes of Techstars, UNC, Google, and Facebook.
Each afternoon — in what from a distance could be mistaken for speed dating — PBC veterans sat down with mentors for one on one conversations about their products, their ideas, their businesses, and their transitions from the military to the Startup space. These high impact sessions were half an hour each, but each mentor that I met with in these sessions (10 in total), without exception, has already followed-up and promised to keep in touch. The sincerity, authenticity, and “give first” mentality of the mentors at PBC was unbelievable, and difficult to imagine in or out of the military.
Onward to Motor City.
PBC and Techstars ascribe to a simple mantra: Give First. Their values — education, community, and mentorship — were clearly communicated and reiterated throughout the conference. At the conference selfless service and energy are palpable and ubiquitous.
Through outstanding training, committed coaching, and deliberate mentoring through a relentlessly focused agenda, Patriot Boot Camp delivered.
Just like new Soldiers must go to Basic Training to learn to shoot, move, and communicate, entrepreneurs must master the basics. To that end, Techstars has succeeded in building a Boot Camp capable of providing outstanding training and mentorship in a brief period of time.
Our country needs more Vets in the technology Startup space. Thankfully, Techstars has succeeded in creating a conference in true Startup fashion that is scalable and repeatable, and will be running more boot camps in the months and years to come.
Check out the full post on the Patriot Boot Camp Blog.
Tyler Matthews is an Army Captain and Chief of Staff of SoloPro. He attended Patriot Boot Camp in July, 2015 at the University of North Carolina.
Tyler is an active duty Army captain. Everything here is his own opinion and does not necessarily reflect the views of his unit or the U.S. Army.