Techstars just announced that its Patriot Boot Camp program will be held in New York City this year. As an NYC techie and vet supporter, this is like hearing that SXSW is moving to Chelsea.
For those who may not be familiar with the Patriot Boot Camp, it's a three-day intensive workshop hosted by the prominent startup accelerator. The mission of the program is to train and mentor active military, veterans, and their spouses on topics related to launching successful and scalable technology ventures.
Developed three years ago by civilian supporter and serial entrepreneur Taylor McLemore, Patriot Boot Camp has quickly become a mainstay of the vets in tech scene. Since its inaugural run, PBC has graduated over 180 service members and spouses, including a number that went on to launch venture-backed startups.
Asked why he chose to work on this project, Taylor discussed the potential he saw for the vets community to be a major engine of economic growth for the country. Raised in a military family and working in the startup world, he had long observed the entrepreneurial acumen and skill set of many service members. If the startup incubator model could be applied to this community - wherein education, mentoring, and integration into a larger network are provided - the results could be tremendous, Taylor said.
Tak Lo, now a Director of Techstars London, is exactly the type of person Taylor had in mind. Since graduating from PBC, the Soldier-turned-entrepreneur has helped grow a number of ventures, ranging from a digital book startup to a company he described as "Evernote for travel." Building on Taylor's comments, Tak outlined the positive impact PBC has not only for the customers that benefit from the services provided by the startups, but also the veterans themselves as they enter the civilian workforce. "The number of vets transitioning to civilian life often exceeds the number of jobs available." The University of Chicago and London Business School grad humbly describes himself as "lucky" to have found employment quickly after leaving the Army. As he stated, however, "there are thousands of me who are struggling to get a job." Among the challenges he sees for these vets isn't their ability, but a lack of awareness of their skills and value to many companies. "Lots of businesses don't know what we bring to the table." In an upbeat and confidently defiant tone, no doubt cultivated in his years in service, Tak asked the question, "if corporate won't give us jobs, why don't we go out and create our own?"
That is what PBC is all about. The program seeks to empower vets to take control of their own destiny through entrepreneurship. By hosting programs like mentor speed dating, master classes on investor engagement, and customer fit seminars conducted by some of the country's most experienced entrepreneurs and leaders - like startup guru Steve Blank (Air Force) and former Army Chief of Staff General George Casey - PBC equips veterans with the foundational tools they will need as they look to bring their ventures to market.
The knowledge and insights participants walk away with are only part of the story, however. Those who take part also gain a network of motivated and like-minded entrepreneurs and mentors they can call on for guidance, support, and participation in critical early beta tests.
With this latest session in NYC from May 16-18th, PBC will be looking to add to its list of alumni that have gone on to launch dynamic startups like Uvize, Nexercise, Pigeonly, WeddingWorthy, and popAD. For those in the New York area hoping the city might become PBC's permanent home, prepare for a bit of disappointment. As Program Manager and Iraq veteran John Hrivnak told me, the PBC's vision for the future is to move the program throughout the country, holding a session in a different major city every six months. By hosting more workshops and moving across the U.S., PBC's leaders hope to meet growing demand and make the program as accessible as possible.
For those interested in learning more about PBC or applying for May's session, I'll provide links below.
Learn more about Techstars Patriot Boot Camp.
Apply for May's Patriot Boot Camp.