While there’s a lot of controversy surrounding Veteran’s Affairs in the United States, including employment opportunities for our returning veterans, a few organizations have stood up and taken notice of the value that soldiers and officers play in the private sector upon their return.
Angel Investors & Venture Capital
One organization, Hivers & Strivers, focuses on early stage investments (angel investments) to startup companies run by graduates of the U.S. Military Academies.
There are dozens of startups out there these days that are run by veterans applying what they learned in foreign theaters to the private sector. One company, CargoMetrics, run by a Coast Guard officer, offers a technology-driven shipping logistics company. What could be more appropriate for a sailor trained by some of the greatest navigators on the planet! CargoMetrics received over $2m in venture funding in 2015, making the owner’s stake likely worth well over a million bucks.
When dealing with startups, investors typically love a CEO who is working on something they’re passionate about. There was once a time when our soldiers and their families relied on letters, handwritten and mailed from the front lines, to stay in touch with their loved ones serving abroad. Even today, in attics across the country, you’ll find thousands of little boxes where these keepsakes and mementos still hold sentimental value for families, even decades later. Entering the picture here is Drew Bartkiewicz, the CEO of lettrs and an officer with the 82nd Airborne during the Gulf War. Lettrs takes a digital message, emailed from a phone or computer or submitted through their app, and converts it into a hand-written and signed letter.
In some cases, veterans even try to launch companies that serve the military. RallyPoint is one of the most prominent examples of a veteran-owned startup in this category. Billing itself as “LinkedIn for the Military,” RallyPoint has raised over $12m in funding to support their social networking site, which also includes a reasonably strong presence on Facebook. With over half a million members, or roughly 10% of the entire military, the company is making serious headway into providing a forum for the military to discuss and unpack their time spent abroad after their service or while on leave.
While it’s a common misconception that there are government grants set aside specifically for returning veterans, there is one particular agency within the U.S. Government than can help. Service-disabled veterans can connect with the Veterans Administration and submit a business plan to be considered for a self-employment program. Through the program, veterans can obtain a grant for purchase of supplies, inventory, training, fees, and marketing to launch their own sole proprietor business. Contact your local VA officer and speak to a counselor to qualify for the self-employment program.