Friday, January 31, 2014

Veteran Startup Incubators And Accelerators

I met with an entrepreneurial colleague earlier this week to brainstorm some concepts for helping veterans start businesses that leverage their backgrounds.  I mentioned NaVOBA and its franchisee population but we were looking for venues specifically focused on veteran-owned high-tech startups.  Fortunately, we don't have to reinvent the wheel.

Startup America Partnership has a veterans working group.  They are growing startup ecosystems across the country, and I believe they are part of the White House's "Startup America" initiative.  The working group has support from the VA Center for Innovation so they must be the real deal.  

Vet-Tech is a Silicon Valley startup accelerator specifically for veterans.  I should probably contact them to see what's up because my connections and insights may be useful.  I totally respect their partnerships with the Angel Capital Association and Plug and Play.  

The Founder Institute's "Startup Our Veterans Fellowship" waives the typical applicant and course fees for their accelerator programs.  I get this group's emails all the time and they're full of growth hacking wisdom.  

Vetransfer is a Wisconsin-based accelerator doing something that more organizations should do.  They want their participants to use the free tools available from MOOCs and venture investing best practices.  Military veterans are quite familiar with doctrinal templates refined in military branch schoolhouses that dictate baseline references for unit operations.  The emergence of Lean Startup, CustDev, and the business model canvas serve the same doctrinal role among entrepreneurs.  

VetBizAccelerator isn't an accelerator for startups despite its name.  It's more of a vocational how-to guide for veterans exploring self-employment.  It builds on material from the VA's VetSuccess and IMHO more vetrepreneurs should point themselves toward SBA programs and loans specifically for veterans.  The SBA's Office of Veterans Business Development should be of particular interest for veterans wanting to do business with the federal government.  

Techstars' Patriot Boot Camp is a three-day immersion program in Washington, DC.  I think it would be most useful for vetrepreneurs who have a serious business concept but need preparation before entering an accelerator.  

CADRE is an accelerator focused on veteran-owned businesses that specialize in cybersecurity solutions for the federal government.  Cyberwar is a growth industry in the federal government.  Even if the NSA changes its monitoring programs, big private corporations will still need computer network defense and intrusion forensics.  Vetrepreneurs trained to chase Uncle Sam's cyber contracts can easily pivot to private sector clients.  

I came across a San Diego veterans accelerator named VeteranWorks a few months ago but their website seems to be down; their LinkedIn profile remains live.  I read their info when it was up and now I wonder what happened to them.  

I do not have any relationships with any of these programs at this time.  Business leaders with strong relationships are welcome to graft onto these organizations.  They need corporate sponsorship.  I think big companies seeking government contracts would obtain a competitive advantage by hiring veterans, buying from veteran-owned small businesses in their supply chains, and sponsoring veterans' accelerators.  

Oh, BTW, none of these programs will tolerate Stolen Valor frauds who wore falsified decorations and want to rip off procurement programs with contract fraud.  Yes, "Mickey Ronin," that means you and anyone associated with you.  Don't even think about contacting any of these organizations, Michael.  It will be enough to finally put you in prison where you belong.  

Full disclosure:  I am a veteran.