Veterans in Startups

Insight from Peter Mitchell, originally published on February 18th, 2021.

Entrepreneurship embodies the ideals of the American Dream that anyone can reach self-sufficiency and financial freedom. One of the most prominent groups of entrepreneurs in the U.S., veterans, not only protect this freedom for themselves and their country, but are also inclined to capitalize on it. In fact, 9% of all businesses in the U.S. are owned by veterans, which totals nearly 2.5 million businesses. Being in the military provides veterans with several skills that are extremely important in the corporate and startup world such as time management and planning, as well as the ability to take control of an uncertain environment.

RedOwl Analytics, a cyber security company, was founded by a veteran who used his military experience to scale his business. RedOwl, which was acquired by Forcepoint in 2017, is a cyber security company which was founded by a retired Army intelligence officer and a retired Marine Corps intelligence officer. Intelligence officers are skilled in identifying threats and coming up with plans that aim to mitigate risks within an organization. These founders were able to capitalize on the skills they learned in the military and use that knowledge to propel their business into the market.

Although the military provides veterans with skills that can transfer into the civilian world, some veterans choose to pursue endeavors outside of their military training. These businesses are often driven by a passion or an ideology such as Black Rifle Coffee Company, founded by Green Beret Evan Hafer. Hafer is quoted saying “Black Rifle Coffee Company is quite literally the combination of my two favorite passions. I take pride in the coffee we roast, the veterans we employ, and the causes we support.” The company not only produces quality products but also hires veterans and contributes to charities supporting veterans and active duty service members.

Veterans in the process of starting their own businesses may also get perks, such as business loans. The Small Business Association started a new program that excludes the upfront borrowing fee for veterans taking out loans smaller than $350,000. The SBA also provides veterans with free counseling and training for their businesses while also granting access to government contracts. In order to take advantage of these incentives, the business must have 51% ownership by veterans or active duty servicemembers. These new incentives provide a positive outlook for future veteran entrepreneurs.

Although there are many opportunities for veterans to start businesses, some industries are still lacking in veteran representation. The military is a very structured organization, which contrasts the disarray of starting a business. It is natural that many veterans would want to find and work in a more structured environment when they get out of the military. However, this desire for order could be extremely useful in the startup world. Veterans could use their experience of creating order out of disorder to help keep a startup company on track to meet their goals. Although some veterans may not have experience in the corporate world when they get out of the military, their experience leading a team and remaining disciplined in the face of adversity should not be overlooked by the startup community.

Sources:

Black Rifle Coffee. “Our Mission.” Black Rifle Coffee Company, www.blackriflecoffee.com/pages/about-us.

Ionnou, Lori. “Why Military Vets Are Starting Their Own Businesses in This Red-Hot Job Market.” CNBC, CNBC, 7 Feb. 2020, www.cnbc.com/2020/02/07/why-military-vets-are-launching-start-ups-in-this-hot-job-market.html.

Maday, Sean. “Here’s Why Veterans Make Great Tech Startup Founders.” Military.com, 2021, www.military.com/veteran-jobs/career-advice/job-hunting/here-is-why-veterans-make-great-tech-startup-founders.html.

Rockefeller, Mark. “The Top 25 Veteran-Founded Startups In America.” Forbes, Forbes Magazine, 3 Mar. 2017, www.forbes.com/sites/marklrockefeller/2016/11/11/the-top-25-veteran-startups-in-america/?sh=521b45566e84.

Small Business Administration. “Pittsburgh District Office.” Small Business Administration, 2021, www.sba.gov/offices/district/pa/pittsburgh/resources/sba-business-loan-information-veterans.

US Census Bureau. “Those Who Served: America’s Veterans From World War II to the War on Terror.” The United States Census Bureau, 26 May 2020, www.census.gov/library/publications/2020/demo/acs-43.html

Peter is a junior pursuing a Business Administration major with an option in Accounting. He joined the fund in order to learn more about the business world as well as get hands on experience in the private equity space within the Northeast. Outside of Rines, Peter is an Resident Assistant on campus as well as a Research Assistant. Peter is pursuing a commission as an Officer in the United States Marine Corps and has attended Officer Candidates School in Quantico, Virginia.

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