I just completed my seventh Patriot Boot Camp, presented by Techstars. PBC is a non-profit backed by the Techstars Foundation that my wife Amy and I have volunteered with for the past 5 years. While she is part of planning events, I focus on speaking and mentorship. Business development is the topic I speak on and, whatever the stage of company, the veterans are always full of gratitude for the exposure and information they get from the weekend. By the end, I feel I should be thanking THEM. We always get so much more out of the event than we put into it.
A friend of mine asked me once why I invested so much time and energy to support Patriot Boot Camp and the veteran initiatives surrounding it. I answered: Even though I am not a veteran, I do it because veterans make great entrepreneurs. At the most recent PBC in San Antonio I reflected on some of the key competencies of successful entrepreneurs we see here at Techstars and how veterans bring these competencies from their service to their new endeavors as entrepreneurs:
Fortitude to Drive Through Adversity
Building a company is tough and it requires tireless leadership. Do veterans have this fortitude to drive through adversity? Here is one great example. While speaking with Colin Supko, a former Navy SEAL Commander, I realized that his tours in Iraq and Yemen in conjunction with his intense training more than equipped him with the tools to drive through adversity. He is building a peer to peer marketplace (Patriot List) where safety is crucial. Identities are verified as part of a trusted personal network of buyers and sellers.
Ability to Find Product-market Fit
Finding product-market fit is the first critical first step in building a successful company. Executing against an idea and finding product market fit will be no problem for Matt Lembright, a former Army Signals Intelligence officer at the NSA. He is currently building a platform (Enabld Security) for us to protect our online identities across all of the solutions we use.
Building a Large Organization Around New Technologies
Ali Ahmadi is the co-founder at AirZaar Inc. I met him and was instantly convinced that he has what it takes to build a large organization with a strong operating discipline. His company has created a platform for managing data acquired by drones for surveying in the mining industry. Ali served over 8 years in the US Navy as a Drone Pilot with 650+ successful flights under his belt, and he managed multiple drone surveillance programs within the Department of Defense. This experience has led him to build technology infrastructure to manage drone data intelligence at a scale only done in the US Military. Now he is taking his experience and translating it to support industries like mining and construction.
The next Patriot Boot Camp is in Denver, Colorado on September 22-24. If you are a veteran entrepreneur, apply here. If you would like to learn more about helping out with this cause, you can find more info here.
From May 16th to May 18th, Techstars once again helped active duty service members, Veterans, and their spouses start their own companies through Patriot Boot Camp (PBC). Techstars, in partnership with the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation and SoftLayer, welcomed 80 Veterans and over 60 mentors from around the country to Goldman Sachs in New York City for the three day event.
While there, the participants received a crash course in entrepreneurship and connected with experienced entrepreneurs and industry leaders to accelerate the growth of their companies. Taylor McLemore, founder and director of PBC, describes it as “condensing all the great things about a traditional 3-month Techstars program into a weekend, just for Veterans and military spouses. And at no cost to them.”
Over the course of the three days, participants heard from speakers like Fred Wilson (co-founder of Union Square Ventures), Robin Chase (co-founder and former CEO of Zipcar), and Peter Levin (former CTO of the US Department of Veteran Affairs).
Participants met with mentors, including Shai Goldman (Managing Director at Silicon Valley Bank), Brad Harrison (founder and managing partner at Scout Ventures), and James Schmeling (co-founder of the Institute for Veterans and Military Families). One Veteran entrepreneur said of the event “I learned more than I have anywhere else and [it] got me in front people I would be years away from meeting otherwise.”
In addition to the great networking and education, participants received a host of perks from several sponsors and partners: hosting credit from SoftLayer, discounted access to SendGrid, hot desks at Galvanize locations, among many others.
This year, PBC closed with its first ever pitch competition. Fifteen participants were selected from the cohort of 80 to give their 60-second elevator pitches. A panel of judges then selected 5 of those competitors to give a more detailed 3-minute pitch. The panel of judges then chose the top 3 pitches. Congrats to the winners: 1st place – Jason Cahill from IMPAQD; 2nd place – Tameesha Desangles from Wedding Worthy; and, 3rd place – Terry Wolters with NotifiUs.
To date, PBC has helped over 250 Veteran entrepreneurs with over 170 companies from around the country and abroad. Many of those entrepreneurs and companies have been accepted to the Techstars Risingstars mentorship program.
Several companies also have gone on to find investment or were accepted to accelerators and incubators. Two PBC alumni—who also went through Risingstars—were accepted into Techstars programs: Uvize went to the Kaplan EdTech Accelerator Powered by Techstars in New York City and Nexercise went through Techstars in Chicago.
If you are interested in participating, know someone who might be, or just want to learn more about the program, please go to the PBC webpage or contact John Hrivnak, PBC program manager, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Patriot Boot Camp is a non-profit program operating with the belief that Veterans and military service members make great entrepreneurs. Their drive, willingness to sacrifice, and ability to manage risk translate perfectly into the startup ecosystem. Techstars and its mentor program, Risingstars, provide resources and support for Patriot Boot Camp in order to help cultivate and grow a stronger and more inclusive entrepreneurial community.