Vet-Tech CEO on the One Skill Veterans and Great Entrepreneurs Share

Vet-Tech, the startup accelerator specifically for veterans, is built to get into the trenches with its entrepreneurs by providing mentors and resources as well as navigating corporate partnerships. The Silicon Valley-based accelerator’s mission interested me, so I contacted Vet-Tech’s president and CEO, Bow Rodgers, for a quick Q&A.

Here’s what he had to say on the driving force behind, and impact of, his company.

What is your accelerator’s goal, in your words?

“Vet-Tech ‘Finds, Develops and Funds’ veteran-led or veteran involved technology startup companies. The Vet-Tech Accelerator is best suited to work with those companies that have a minimum viable product, a dedicated team, business traction and some initial funding.”

How did you settle on aiding veteran entrepreneurs as a mission?

“I earned a Bronze Star serving ‘In country’ in Vietnam as a Naval Officer. I saw firsthand how trained military personnel can effectively and enthusiastically execute on a plan. Executing on a plan is one of the most, if not ‘the’ most, important objectives of a startup company. I wanted to help veteran entrepreneurs translate that skill into executing in business.”

What’s your favorite startup or small business that you’ve helped succeed?

“There are several, but two of the most promising companies are in the Mobile Hotspot area and the other is in the Drone space. Both have been awarded funding and admission to Techstars. Another company, GuideOn, has grown exponentially and received excellent funding as a result.”

What’s in the future for Vet-Tech?

“Veterans just leaving the Military can get jobs, but few successfully start ‘careers.’ As Vet-Tech grows our future is promising to aid early stage tech companies grow quickly and hire vets along the way. Vets love working with fellow veterans.”

This Fellowship Is For Military Veterans Launching Tech Startups

There’s a sizable number of veteran-owned businesses in the U.S., but most aren’t tech companies. Now, a startup program, working with a  tech accelerator for vets, is trying to change that situation.

Called the 100Vets Fellowship, it’s a partnership between the Founder Institute, a startup launch program, and Vet-Tech, an accelerator for vets,  and open to all U.S. vets and service members trying to start a tech company. Candidates can apply to a Founder Institute chapter for free; the best applicants will receive a fellowship to participate in a Founder Institute program, also at no charge. (There are chapters in 135 cities around the world). The usual fee  costs an average of $1,200; the amount varies, depending on the location.

Luis and Carlos Romero (Photo: Luis and Carlos Romero)

The goal is to launch 100 vet-led companies a year.

The Founder Institute’s 14-week format is different from the usual accelerator. One night a week, entrepreneurs meet with three local tech CEOs to get what Ryan Micheletti, director of global operations, co-founder of Vet-Tech,and a veteran, himself, calls “A crash course in entrepreneurship.” The focus is on building operational capacity, not teaching theory, of course.

Participants are very very early  stage–they generally just have an idea and perhaps preliminary research–and mentors help them with everything from research and positioning to bootstrapping. “Every week is a stepping stone,” says Micheletti.

Also, at each session, about 10 entrepreneurs pitch their idea to mentors who provide feedback. In between meetings , founders work on assignments and with their working groups twice a week.

Graduates contribute 3.5% of their equity in warrants to a 10-year bonus pool. When there’s a liquidity event, each cohort receives a portion of the returns.

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What’s Your Word?

As for four-year-old Vet-Tech, it targets entrepreneurs who already have a product and team in place. So, veteran-entrepreneurs who finish the Founder Institute program could potentially apply to join Vet-Tech.

Brothers Carlos and Luis Romero recently graduated from a  Founder Institute program in Miami. Carlos, 29, spent two years in the Marines, stationed in North Carolina; he was discharged in 2007 after he was in an accident. His kid bother Luis, 27,  spent a year at Guantanamo Bay and eight years in the Army Reserve; he also has an MBA.

Their startup, LiVi, has an app that shows videos based on your location. “It’s a cross between Uber and Periscope,” Carlos says.

Among the insights they gained during their time at the Founder Institute, according to Carlos: how to protect their intellectual property, the most promising target market and branding advice, to name a few examples.  Now, they also hope to work with the Wounded Warrior Project .

Unlocking the Power of Veteran Entrepreneurs

When I began my entrepreneurial journey about a decade ago, I wanted to make a difference in the world. Being born and raised in Silicon Valley, I witnessed the cutting-edge of innovation and how technology entrepreneurs were positively impacting society. It became abundantly clear that the only way to solve society’s biggest problems was to unlock the power of human potential through innovation and entrepreneurship. Since then, I have made it my mission to proliferate entrepreneurship on a massive scale.

As Director of Operations at the Founder Institute, our team has helped launch over 2,000 startup companies worldwide. Everyday, I experience the front lines of the global startup revolution. Previously, I served as a Staff Sergeant in the California Guard, which allowed me to observe the remarkable correlation between military service and entrepreneurship. Veterans possess an extraordinary depth of character and share the same core values as successful entrepreneurs, such as fortitude, leadership and tenacity. Veterans tend to be savvy business leaders with the ability to execute in rapidly changing, stressful situations. With this in mind, I set out on a mission to unlock the power of veteran entrepreneurs. 

In 2012, I co-founded Vet-Tech, an accelerator focused on finding, developing and funding veteran-led startup companies. To date, we have helped over 100 veteran startups throughout the US with our top twenty portfolio companies having raised $10 million in investment capital.

At Vet-Tech’s genesis, Veteran unemployment was at an all-time high. According the Kauffman Foundation, 100% of net-new jobs in America are created by startups. We thought, “who better to solve the veteran unemployment issue than innovative veteran entrepreneurs?” The veterans we work with are mission driven and desire to continue serving when they leave the military. They stand up to challenges and want to make the world a better place. So why has America and the tech community done such a poor job of harnessing the immense power and drive of veteran entrepreneurs? I knew that if we could successfully tap into this power, we could drive technological and economic change on a massive scale.

Today, Vet-Tech is spearheading a brand new initiative with the Founder Institute called “100Vets.” Our mission is to unlock the power of veteran entrepreneurs by empowering 100 Vets each year to build technologies that will change the world. 100Vets is a partnership between Vet-Tech, the Founder Institute and other leading Silicon Valley entrepreneurship organizations that provide veterans with a fast track to success through our 100Vets Fellowship Program which allows them to join the Founder Institute for free. 100Vets Fellows join our vast, national network of startup resources, which includes funding, talent, mentorship, partners and services like product development and pro-bono legal work.

I am proud to say that LinkedIn has been an irreplaceable tool throughout my entrepreneurial journey by connecting me with the national veteran entrepreneur ecosystem. With LinkedIn, I have exponentially expanded my network to include Investors, Entrepreneurs and Corporate Sponsors. LinkedIn has played a direct role in Vet-Tech’s success today.

100Vets is officially launching this summer. I encourage every Veteran supporter to help 100Vets build the “Greatest Generation” of world and business leaders by unlocking the power of veteran entrepreneurs. Please contact me directly on LinkedIn if you are interested in learning more.

@RyanMicheletti #MyLinkedInStory

True Grit and 21 Black Hawks: A Tale of Entrepreneurial Leadership Training

Anthony Garcia, the CEO of Adjacent Applications, a Vet-Tech portfolio company, discusses how his military background has helped him as an entrepreneur in:

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