Advocates say that our nation’s veterans are uniquely qualified to become creators, innovators and entrepreneurs. Experience with technology while in the service, combined with discipline and an ability to overcome adversity, make veterans and their spouses strong candidates to start a new business.
David Calone, Chairman of the Board for Patriot Boot Camp
, discusses resources available to help active duty service members, veterans and their spouses innovate and build impactful businesses.
Lisnek: In the years following World War II, nearly half of all veterans went on to own a business. Well, let´s fast forward to today. Businesses owned by veterans and their spouses are twice as likely as civilian-owned enterprises to find success after their first five years. Hi. Welcome to "Comcast Newsmakers." I´m Paul Lisnek. Joining me to discuss efforts to provide today´s veterans with a pathway to innovation and entrepreneurship is David Calone. He´s chairman of the board for Patriot Boot Camp. David, good to see you.
Calone: Thanks for having me, Paul.
Lisnek: So I did a little homework, and it´s interesting to note that the founders of Nike, GoDaddy, FedEx, all veterans of the military. But here´s what I want to start with -- Fred Smith who started FedEx? It´s well-known that he was a C-student in college, which means the success has to be tied to his military training.
Calone: Well, I know that Fred Smith and many other military veterans who´ve started companies come from the same background, which is, they have been trained, they are hardworking, they´re dedicated, and they know how to overcome adversity. And that´s why we created Patriot Boot Camp -- to help those folks with that kind of background, military veterans, active-duty service members who are about to leave the military, military spouses, help them be able to create the next generation of technology companies, ´cause they have the exact right background to become the entrepreneurs of tomorrow.
Lisnek: And it´s so important that you say they have the exact background that they need for technology. What is it about military training that gives them that background so strongly?
Calone: Well, it´s really amazing when you see our military today. The amount of technology that´s involved in our military at all levels is just tremendous. And so, these are folks who tend to be familiar with technology, often the very cutting-edge technology, and they also have the discipline and ability to overcome adversity that I think -- When you´re an entrepreneur, things never always go up and to the right, you know, it´s always a struggle, and so you need to have someone with tenacity and the ability to overcome, you know, problems and issues as they arise, and folks with a military background tend to have that. And that´s why -- As I said, we created Patriot Boot Camp because we want those folks to be able, those folks who really helped defend our country, help them to be able to create the next generation of American companies.
Lisnek: And I know that veterans, by the way -- or I should say people in the military -- when they get out, they know they have these skills, they´re ready to get your training, but what about people who are still in the military who are getting ready to transition out who´d like to get a leg up?
Calone: Yep. Well, we certainly welcome them, and we´ve had a number of people like that go through Patriot Boot Camp. We´ve had over 750 entrepreneurs come through Patriot Boot Camp over the last few years.
Lisnek: Wow. Let´s talk about what they´re experience is over those few days they spend at the boot camp. What are you doing with them?
Calone: So what we´ve done is taken the Techstars accelerator program. Techstars is one of the most -- you know, best accelerator programs in the country. We´ve taken their three-month model and boiled that down to three days. And so, what happens is, that veterans and folks going through the program have a chance to get educated on what it´s like to start a company and what the big hurdles are, and then they get an opportunity to meet one on one with mentors, people who´ve been there before, who´ve done it, who´ve had success, and maybe who´ve had failure, but can point those early-stage entrepreneurs in the right direction.
Lisnek: Is it a sense that you have -- that people who are in the military sometimes aren´t given enough credit for the abilities, the skills, the assets they actually have gained through their service and to the world of entrepreneurship?
Calone: Absolutely. But that´s, I think, where we saw a missing, you know, piece of the puzzle and where we´ve worked hard to fill it with our boot camps. We also have a program called VetHacks. And VetHacks is a weekend hackathon, which is actually earlier in the entrepreneurial journey, so if you just had kind of an idea, or you don´t even have an idea but you want to be part of a company that might become, you know, a startup company, you can go to one of our VetHacks programs and spend a couple days meeting with like-minded folks to start coding, to start working on technology ideas and how to make them into real business.
Lisnek: By the way, when you say "hack," it sounds like hacking. Certainly not what you mean.
Calone: Yeah, it´s coder slang. Basically, it means basically coding a product, and you have an opportunity in the VetHacks to figure out what product you want to create, what problem you want to solve, and then, Patriot Boot Camp, the three-day program, is an opportunity for people to take that further.
Calone: And so, this is, if you will, a pipeline. And we need -- you know, we need more entrepreneurs in our country, and veterans are precisely situated and ready to be those kinds of leaders, entrepreneurial leaders.
Lisnek: Oh, without question. And it´s also -- it´s called boot camp, so it´s not called "workshop," it´s not called "lecture series," so obviously these folks are not only getting information, but you´re putting them to work. That´s the boot-camp idea. So, specifically, what do they get to do?
Calone: So it´s a tough three days. They have educational programs one day, and then they have the mentoring sessions. And the mentors are not there to be their friends. They´ll be there to help them determine whether they really want to be entrepreneurs. Do they have what it takes to succeed? Do they have, you know -- What ideas can they share, what feedback can the mentors give them? Again, based on the mentor´s successes or failures as entrepreneurs, because both are instructive. And then at the end, we have a pitch competition, so they get to actually get up and stand up there before all their colleagues, talk about their company. And we have a competition for that, so...
Lisnek: Now, that´s boot camp.
Calone: That´s boot camp.
Lisnek: All right, if people want to check out when the next boot camp is or where future ones are in their area, where do they go?
Calone: They go to patriotbootcamp.org, our website. We have programs going on throughout the country, all over the country, and we have them East Coast, we have them coming up in Texas and Colorado, and then we have, before too long, we´ll have them on the West Coast, too.
Lisnek: All right. Congratulations. Good work you guys are doing, getting everybody ready for entrepreneurship. Thanks.
Calone: Glad to be a part of it.
Lisnek: David Calone with Patriot Boot Camp. Thanks for the work you do.
Calone: Thank you.
Lisnek: Thank you for joining us, as well. If you want more great conversations with leaders in your community, across our country, all you got to do is go to comcastnewsmakers.com. I´m Paul Lisnek.