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.
***Reposted from www.combatveteranswithptsd.org/blog with author’s permission***
For those of you who don’t know, my passion for entrepreneurship was born at the inaugural Lehigh Valley Startup Weekend in 2012. It ignited a passion that still motivates me today. It motivated me to pursue social entrepreneurship and to found my nonprofit.
One of the things that I have noticed, though, is how few veterans I run into at these events – and that really confused me. According to the SBA, approximately 40% of returning veterans would prefer to start their own business or ‘not work for anyone but themselves’. Veterans who start businesses are twice as likely to grow a successful business when compared to those who have never served.
So why do so few veterans participate in Startup Weekend? I have my theories, but they’re not substantiated by any research and fact. Instead of focusing on why veterans don’t attend, I thought I’d present my top five reasons why our local veterans SHOULD attend.
So Here Goes…
1. Startup Weekend is a Great Way to Test Entrepreneurship Waters
2. The Positive Environment Helps Transitioning Veterans Connect with Like-Minded Professionals
3. Companies Are Starting to Recognize that Startup Weekend is a Treasure Trove of Hidden Talent
4. Veterans Provide Skills and Valuable Lessons Learned Stemming from Military Service
5. Veterans in Attendance Help to Break the Stigma Surrounding PTSD
So There You Have It…
This story is written by Blake Hogan, co-founder of Vet Commander – 30 Second Online Interviews For Veterans.
As Veterans we are servant leaders. We serve out of a sense of duty to God and Country, but we move toward the sound of fire to protect our comrades. Veterans are an interesting breed. We come from all walks of life and converge on a shared experience of pain in training and come out the other end a well-oiled machine.
We are city boys and farm girls. We are Ivy League and street smart. We are a band of warriors who seek to serve first and fight hard. We are America’s finest and we are about to be America’s finest workforce.
I was inspired to serve, in part, because of the Greatest Generation. My grandpa, Dennis A. Hedstrom, was a Motor Machinist First Mate in the United States Navy serving in the European theatre during World War II.
He modeled what it means to be a good man and a good neighbor. Above all else, he showed me that I should stand tall and always the answer the call to serve our great Nation.
After being commissioned, I moved on to The Basic School to complete initial infantry training prior to receiving the coveted MOS or job, for all those civilians reading this. As my luck would have it, I was injured in training and my career in the Marine Corps was quickly derailed.
Ever the entrepreneur, I sought to serve in the limited capacity I could. While taking on challenges ranging from training officer to serving wounded warriors via Horseback riding therapy, I endeavored to serve in a meaningful way.
After a hip surgery, rehabilitation, and ultimately a medical board, I was deemed unfit to serve. It was a heartbreaking verdict that left a Marine Officer without a platoon to serve and a gut wrenching feeling of a failed mission.
I was haunted by this notion that I had come so close and not crossed the line of departure to lead Marines in combat. I moved on to a successful corporate career but could not escape this unfinished desire to serve. It all came to a head while watching the evening news. There I was watching my war go by knowing there was nothing I could do about it. I wanted desperately to jump through the screen and serve but knew God had another plan for me.
Knowing that I could no longer grab a rifle and march toward the sound of fire I had to come up with something that would allow me to continue serving in a powerful way. Vet Commander was born out of this desire. I partnered with fellow Marine Davis Dolezal to serve Veterans by connecting them with America’s Entrepreneurs and Small Business Owners.
Together we have developed a powerful tool that will provide a video interviewing and job matching website to Veterans. Vet Commander goes beyond a simple jobs site and creates a renewed sense of camaraderie through our VetWorking events. These events bring Veterans, Veteran Advocates, and Employers together in a laid back environment opposite to that of your standard job fair. After all, no one likes interviewing, so we introduced a little fun into the process.
Vet Commander is our way to continue serving and we hope you will join our ranks and support our mission of connecting America’s proven talent with America’s best businesses.
Standby for fireworks as Vet Commander will officially launch our website on the only appropriate date to do so, America’s Independence Day, July 4th, 2014.
Semper Fidelis America.
Note: Blake Hogan will be working with the Cochise Military Community Startup Weekend team in the future to host a Startup Weekend at Ft. Hood, Texas.