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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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 .