Success Story: Ian Folau and GitLinks

Ian Folau needed to get out of the bubble he had been in since coming up with a business idea. He had a great team in New York and was iterating on his product but realized that in order to grab a broader national audience, he needed to meet other like-minded entrepreneurs and get insight from experts. But how and where?

Folau was also struggling to decide on his company’s target market. An identity crisis of sorts. Was GitLinks a legal compliance or security company?

“I needed executive level experts to show me where I would get the biggest bang for my buck,” said Folau, a former Army Intelligence Officer.

“I applied to the San Antonio Patriot Boot Camp and when I arrived, I immediately felt refreshed,” said Folau. “I realized that I missed interacting with other veterans that speak my same language.”

Besides that, mentors “did not tap dance around,” said Folau. Specifically, mentors Dan Cornell, Brandon Shelton, and Ethan Dietrich and fellow boot campers helped the entrepreneur with expectation management, company vision, goals, and ways to prepare for and how to react accordingly to what is known as The Wall of No. Those and other lessons came in handy many times since Folau attend the first PBC and then again after he attended his second Texas weekend, particularly when he was looking for a buyer for GitLinks, a SaaS-based cybersecurity management platform.

“I’m a problem solver,” said Folau. “I find ways to build a solution but I don’t want to run the companies after that.”

It worked. GitLinks was recently acquired by Infor, an enterprise software provider.

Since PBC, Folau said he stayed in touch with members of the cohort and several mentors calling them, “his people.”

“They are supportive of my success but hold me accountable,” said Folau. “The connections will last a lifetime.”

Folau is also a Bunker Labs City Lead in Austin where he relocated with his wife and five children. And he’s serving as a mentor for the February PBC in his hometown.

“The experience was so revealing and helpful,” said Folau. “There are a lot of barriers to entry when it comes to entrepreneurship but PBC helps you work through them.”

Let's Get Ready to Rock the Pitch!

When Dave Mandell, Techstars Managing Director VentureVooDoo Partners and PBC mentor, got up to speak at PBC Denver, he got everyone’s attention pretty quickly.

“NO ONE gives a shit what you do,” said Mandell. “People make decisions based on emotion.” And it all starts with The Pitch.

The pitch is critical. It’s how you talk to your customers, talk to investors, and how you keep your team focused. Mandell knows what he’s talking about. The serial entrepreneur launched PivotDesk in 2012 with a pitch started out like this:

“We’re a technology enabled real estate platform that enables monthly transactions based on a 30-day renewable license agreement between hosts and guest companies.”

SNOOZE. That’s what he does. So he asked himself, instead, how the company was going to make customers’ lives better. And the pitch evolved into this:

“Real estate is static. Businesses are dynamic. When you are out there busting your ass to build your business, the last thing you should do is bet your business on a five-year lease when you don’t know how big you are going to be three to five months from now. And when you do have to commit to that lease, you should be able to offset the space you are not using to drive value for your business, hire a developer or add more marketing value. That’s what PivotDesk does. PivotDesk helps you grow your business the way it should grow, not the way real estate dictates. By matching you up with real companies that have a good cultural match with you and put you in a relationship where you are share space for as long as it works for both sides.” 

Quite a difference.

“My first pitch sucked,” said Chloe Kettell, Co-founder and CEO of PolyPort, a 3D asset protection platform. “I was stuck in my own head and couldn’t explain how my product worked in 30 seconds.”

Figuring out the pitch was part of the reason Kettell attended PBC in Denver in 2017. “It was the catalyst for everything,” said Kettell. “It’s an amazing community.”

Today, her pitch deck is a living document that she edits constantly.

“Every time I’m going to give my pitch, I research the audience and tailor it to my audience,” said Kettell. And perhaps more importantly, she takes feedback from listeners (i.e., investors) very seriously and encourages fellow entrepreneurs to do the same.

“Dig in and get specifics,” said Kettell.

Here are a few things to remember so you can Rock the Pitch:  

1)   NO ONE gives a shit what you do.

2)   People make decisions based on emotions, not logic.

3)   Talk to the pain that a customer is dealing with and back it up with logic. Understand the pain and addressing the pain let’s you connect emotionally.

4)   Know your target audience. Know them well!

5)   What’s your value proposition? What’s the solution to their problem? Not what you do, but how you are going to make the pain go away.

6)   Define your competition. Who is else is challenging you for their time? And what does their pitch look like?

7)   Differentiate yourself and explain why YOU are different.

8)   Give your pitch to anyone who will listen! Or stand in front of the mirror and give it.

9)   Can a 5-year old understand it?

10)  Don’t be a robot!

Kettell said that putting yourself in uncomfortable situations, like pitch competitions, are valuable experiences.

“You’ll find yourself in uncomfortable situations all the time when you are running your own business, so you better get used to it,” said Kettell.

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Patriot Boot Camp Joins USAA to Host Second Austin Tech Accelerator Program

Patriot Boot Camp Now Accepting Applications, Seeking Military, Veteran, and Veteran-Spouse Entrepreneurs Across the U.S.

AUSTIN, Texas – November 28, 2018 – Patriot Boot Camp (PBC), a 501(c)(3) non-profit technology startup accelerator program exclusively aimed at active duty service members, military veterans and veteran spouse entrepreneurs, announced it will be working with USAA to host its next tech entrepreneurship program in Austin from February 8-10, 2019.

USAA, a financial services company who serves the military community, will host the event’s programming at their Design Studio in Austin. In addition to hosting, USAA will provide speakers and mentors to include Meriah Garrett, USAA’s chief design officer.

“USAA has always put military members and their families first,” said Meriah Garrett, USAA’s chief design officer. “With Patriot Boot Camp’s mission to help veterans and their spouses build and sustain successful technology businesses, the USAA Design Studio was the perfect venue for the program.”

USAA provides philanthropic investment to Patriot Boot Camp’s technology boot camps as part of its corporate responsibility commitment to fulfilling careers for veterans and military spouses. Patriot Boot Camp’s core program is an intensive three-day technology entrepreneurship boot camp which provides educational training and one-on-one mentoring to inspire and advance startup founders. During the program, participants will receive access to mentors, educational programming and a robust community of experts and peers to help them innovate and build impactful businesses.

Offered at no cost to the founders, the program is modeled after the three-month Techstars accelerator, which helps entrepreneurs build successful businesses from anywhere in the world. The upcoming program marks the 14th official three-day program from Patriot Boot Camp, and the second program to be hosted in Austin. Patriot Boot Camp is now accepting applications for the Austin program through Dec. 21, 2018.

“In working with USAA, we will be able to reach an even wider audience of entrepreneurial military vets and spouses to create even more vet-led technology companies,” said Josh Carter, Patriot Boot Camp’s interim CEO. “The Austin tech community is ripe for disruptive veteran-led startups, and we’re thrilled to be opening the door to many veterans who are in need of key relationships to bring their companies to the next level.”

Patriot Boot Camp has helped over 800 entrepreneurs start successful businesses, with alumni raising over $70M in capital and creating overt 1,300 jobs during its six years of operation. Patriot Boot Camp has also helped alumni companies with successful acquisitions, including GitLinks – a San Antonio alumni – acquired by Infor this past October, and MilitaryOneClick, acquired by The Secor Group in 2015.

All interested service members, veterans, and veteran spouse entrepreneurs are encouraged to apply to the Austin program through Patriot Boot Camp’s webpage.

About Patriot Boot Camp

Patriot Boot Camp (PBC) is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit on a mission to equip active duty military members, veterans, and their spouses with the education, resources, and community needed to be successful technology entrepreneurs. The objective of PBC’s three-day program is to provide military members, veterans, and military spouses with access to mentors and training to help them innovate and build the next generation of high-growth, scalable, and impactful companies. PBC leverages a nationwide network of business and startup community thought leaders to more effectively guide entrepreneurs in bridging the gap between military service and entrepreneurial life. http://patriotbootcamp.org.

Keep Calm and Apply to PBC Austin!

Keep Austin Weird. That’s the city’s official motto. That’s … well, weird and awesome at the same time. Famous for its Tex-Mex queso dishes, BBQ, and rockin’ live music scene, notably Austin City Limits Festival and South by Southwest (SXSW), Austin is also home to our next Patriot Boot Camp.

Scheduled for February 8-10, the PBC team has already received applications for companies that range from proof of concept, to pre-revenue, and beyond. The companies come from the HR tech, UAV, and cyber security space and are fronted by Veterans and active duty folks from all branches of service.  (Hey, military spouses … get your application together!)

Jeff Redmond, CEO and Founder of Red Bear Rentals, attended the most recent PBC in Denver. When he arrived for the weekend, his company was headed in one direction. Then he met with his selected mentors.

“They were tough,” said Redmond who came up with the idea for the gear rental network after trying to figure out what to do with spare snowboards and canoes collecting dust in his garage. “They straight up told me the truth and things have changed drastically since then.”

The former Army combat engineer said the advice was exactly what he needed to hear in order to take his business to the next level. Plus, his mentor is helping him make critical connections in the vacation rental space. He hopes to go live by the end of the year.

Redmond’s story is just one of many that unfold over PBC weekends. Others leave with notebooks full of ideas, funding opportunities, inspiration, and creative ways to iterate on a business plan. Plus, you never know who might stop by. Like Governor Elect Jared Polis or the Founder, Managing Partner, CEO + Co-founder of Backstage Capital, Arlan Hamilton (and feature in Fast Company’s October issue). Some, like the Cowboy Crickets team, jump (get it?) into action and are selected as a Kickstarter Campaign “Projects We Love.”

PBC Austin applications are due December 21 which means you have less than a month to get ‘er done. Click here to start your application and we hope to see you in Austin!

What others are saying about PBC …

Patriot Boot Camp is a 3-day reunion with family you never knew you had with the benefit of developing life changing business strategies with other successful veterans.


 The barriers to entrepreneurship are massive. PBC broke them down for me and provided a clear path to next steps. If PBC comes to your city, APPLY! You won't regret it.

 

PBC was a breath of fresh air from the daily grind of being a founder. In one place I was able to talk about challenges as a founder and connect with fellow veterans in a way that is not possible with my day to day network.

 


Event Recap: VetHacks Seattle

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On an absolutely gorgeous weekend in Seattle Patriot Boot Camp, Operation Code, and Bunker Labs put together the 2nd VetHacks hackathon. The event kicked off Friday evening at WeWork’s downtown location within the Flatiron school. It was the perfect venue for over 70 aspiring founders, doers, and builders to bring their ideas in an effort to see if they have any merit. Before the end of the first night five teams were created and they were off to build throughout the weekend.

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As Saturday morning broke, the attendees were treated to breakfast and some more time to get to know each other including a young high school student who bused in from three hours away to attend the event for the weekend. Armed with just an eagerness to learn, he sat in on sessions, asked lots of questions, and ended up leaving with a new laptop thanks to Conrad Hollomon (PD @ Techstars/Operation Code’s interim ED).

Sunday ended with the teams pitching their ideas which included a social network for veterans, a platform to better coordinate private events, and a machine learning platform to help people better understand their skills. In the end only one startup left with the first invitation to PBC Austin 2019. Congrats to RankUp for winning VetHacks! We look forward to seeing you in Austin!

As special thanks to our sponsors and partners including Microsoft, WeWork, Flatiron School, Bunker Labs, and Operation Code. Keep checking this site or vethacks.org for the next hackathon.

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Spotlight on Steve Meyer: Five-Time Mentor Extraordinaire

Steve Meyer was a military brat. His father was a member of the famed WWII “Flying Tigers,” so he knows full well the sacrifices Veterans and military spouses make both in battle and on the home front. It’s why when he met Taylor McLemore at a Techstars event and heard about Patriot Boot Camp, he jumped at the chance to mentor and help ease the transition from service to the civilian workforce.

“I feed off the energy of a PBC weekend,” said Meyer who has mentored countless budding entrepreneurs at five PBC events. He’s already signed on to mentor at Austin 2019, too.

During Austin, 2016, one such PBC attendee, Justin Gilfus, was lucky enough to score a mentor meeting with Meyer. After that, the two stayed in touch, met for coffee, and riffed on Gilfus’s idea, Ads For the Road. Coffee turned into regular meetings (they graduated to beer!) and eventually Meyer signed on as an advisor and board member. The company soon pivoted, under Meyer’s counsel, to Abraxas Technology, an out-of-home advertising marketing data collection and analytics services company. Today, Meyer is CTO, co-founder, advisor, and board member for Abraxas.  

“This is possible,” said Meyer adding that with some follow up work, the mentor relationship can be powerful and productive. “I will literally drop everything to help a PBC mentee.”

Meyer cautions entrepreneurs who want to go at it alone. The family that they meet at PBC is part of what makes the event so special and leveraging those relationships is smart.

“Communicate, communicate, communicate with your mentors and remember that there’s no harm in asking for help,” said Meyer. “After all, the view from the top is always better shared.”

 Steve Meyer

Steve Meyer

Event Recap: Patriot Boot Camp in Denver, CO | 2018

Patriot Boot Camp recently completed its 13th core three day program in Denver, CO which began as part of Denver Startup Week. This marked the first time Patriot Boot Camp was open to the general public which included a keynote by Nate Boyer, talks by RVP at USAA Kent Fortune, and VP of Community Josh Krammes. Friday night was capped off by a fun social at the Pepsi Center where founders and mentors were treated to a NHL preseason game in the arena’s suites.

The weekend was topped off by a keynote by Arlan Hamilton of Backstage Capital as well as ten incredible pitches from our founders that was won by female-led companies marking the second time in Denver that all female founders won the top prize for the pitch competition. Congratulations to all that participated!

Thank you to the amazing entrepreneurs, sponsors, speakers, mentors, volunteers, and community members who helped make the Denver program an unprecedented success!

See the program recap infographic below for more information about the impact from #PBCDEN

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For more info about upcoming Patriot Boot Camp events and programs, please view our webpage.

A big shout out to Kathy Rolin of Cowboy Crickets who put together this awesome video of the Denver Pitch Competition! And BRAVO to the brave teams who took to the stage and pitched their idea for two heart-pounding, exciting, stressful, and incredible moments!

Press Release: Announcing Vice Adm. (ret) John Bird to PBC Board; Denver Applications Open

May 8, 2018

It was announced today that Patriot Boot Camp is adding decorated Navy leader, Vice Admiral (ret) John Bird, who serves as the Senior Vice President of Military Affairs for USAA, onto its board of directors. Mr. Bird will be replacing a seat left vacant by departing board member General (ret) George Casey.

Also announced today, applications are now open for the next Patriot Boot Camp three-day entrepreneurial program happening in Denver, CO. This marks the second year in a row that Patriot Boot Camp has brought the mentor-based program to the mile high city and will mark the first time the program will be partnered with Denver Startup Week.

You can read the full press release below as well as the link to the application for Patriot Boot Camp, Denver!

Event Recap: Patriot Boot Camp in San Antonio, TX | 2018

February 16-18, 2018

Patriot Boot Camp hosted the 12th installment of its core three-day entrepreneurship education program in San Antonio, TX. from February 16-18, 2018. The event brought founders from all over the country, including the territory of Alaska, to learn more about how to scale their startups, receive input from mentors, and get resources for their businesses. Part of the programming included a social happy hour at the San Antonio Rodeo. It also marked the end of an era as we said goodbye to long-time leader, Charlotte Creech. This was her last event as CEO of Patriot Boot Camp as she now transitions full-time to her role within USAA's Innovation Team.

 Outgoing CEO Charlotte Creech receives a "thank you" award from the PBC Board, incoming CEO (interim) Josh Carter, and Program Lead Sherri Rice

Outgoing CEO Charlotte Creech receives a "thank you" award from the PBC Board, incoming CEO (interim) Josh Carter, and Program Lead Sherri Rice

Thank you to the amazing entrepreneurs, sponsors, speakers, mentors, volunteers, and community members who helped make the San Antonio program an unprecedented success!

See the program recap infographic below for more information about the impact from #PBCSATX

For more info about upcoming Patriot Boot Camp events and programs, please view our webpage.

Patriot Boot Camp - 2018 and beyond!

Happy 2018!

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Patriot Boot Camp is excited to be entering its sixth year as the premier organization helping veterans and military spouses scale and grow their technology startups. From a simple conversation between Taylor McLemore and Techstars founder David Cohen, PBC has grown to support over 700 companies in 9 cities around the United States. This growth has fostered a community of incredible people building extraordinary companies.

2018 is already shaping up to be PBC’s biggest year yet. With the upcoming three-day program in San Antonio and the new VetHacks hackathon in Washington DC this spring, along with another three-day program scheduled for the fall, we are working towards building our programming in new and exciting ways. Through our growing partnerships and alumni, we are excited for what is in store for the remainder of the year and are already looking to 2019. We also are looking at new ways we can add value for PBC alums once they complete the three-day program. This is key because we recognize the real work begins once our attendees complete a PBC program. We believe that we need to be increasingly attentive to those that have gone through the program even as we are recruiting more companies to join this incredibly valuable community.

As our growth trajectory increases, we are excited to be adding broader experience to the PBC team. We are thrilled to announce that retired Vice Admiral John Bird is joining the PBC Board of Directors. Mr. Bird has had a distinguished military career that has included leading the US Navy’s 7th Fleet as well as serving as Director of the Navy Staff. His experience and leadership will be a huge asset to PBC and its community and we look forward to working with him.

At the same time our CEO Charlotte Creech, will be joining PBC’s Global Partner, USAA in a full-time technology innovation role. Charlotte’s new position will allow a deeper relationship to continue to grow between PBC and USAA. This is a great next step as we look to expand our programming, experiment with new events, and look at ways we can be more valuable to our overall community.

Charlotte’s tireless support of our military spouses and veterans has led to the growth of PBC and allowed PBC to help those we serve to take their businesses to the next level. Her guidance, leadership, and sacrifice on behalf of this community over her three plus years at PBC are unmatched and will be missed. Whether it is her steadfast dedication at the three-day events or her ability to connect people and businesses that create opportunity, Charlotte’s impact will be felt for a very long time.

Charlotte’s new position at USAA means that I will be stepping up in an interim basis to take over leadership of PBC. I look forward to working with our dedicated board of directors to drive our mission forward and continue our impact within the PBC community and beyond. When I was first introduced to PBC I was still struggling to figure out my own entrepreneurial journey. Taylor McLemore, Dave Drach, and especially Charlotte Creech, were key in helping to guide my business idea and to push my company through important milestones. And even though my business was just another statistic in failing, the journey has been an incredible one and has been a catalyst for me in helping others. Now I find myself helping to lead an organization I have such a deep connection to and which has helped me personally in such a profound way.

As we look to the future, all of us here at PBC will be working hard to ensure we continue to improve and grow the organization. I am extremely excited for the future and look forward to ways we can add value, foster innovation, and show the world that the veteran and military spouse entrepreneurs are the best business leaders on the planet.

Josh Carter
Patriot Boot Camp

Press Release: Patriot Boot Camp Returning to San Antonio, TX (February 16-18, 2018)

November 9, 2017

Patriot Boot Camp is hosting its next technology entrepreneurship boot camp in San Antonio, Texas from February 16-18, 2018. The program will welcome 50 military veteran and spouse entrepreneurs from around the country, who will participate in educational workshops, mentoring sessions with startup experts, and peer networking over the course of three intensive days. 

The event will be sponsored by USAA, Techstars, and the Jared Polis Foundation, with local support from the 80/20 Foundation, Geekdom, and Codeup. 

Patriot Boot Camp will be accepting applications for the San Antonio program through January 7, 2018, pending availability. Priority consideration will be given to those who apply before the early application deadline of December 17, 2017. Early applicants will be notified by email of their acceptance status no later than December 29, 2017.

Click the "Apply Now" button below to submit an application.

Press Release: Patriot Boot Camp Coming to Denver, CO (September 22-24, 2017)

June 6, 2017

Patriot Boot Camp is hosting its next technology entrepreneurship boot camp in Denver, Colorado from September 22-24, 2017. The program will welcome 50 military veteran and spouse entrepreneurs from around the country, who will participate in educational workshops, mentoring sessions with startup experts, and peer networking at SendGrid, WeWork Union Station, and other venues throughout Denver over the course of three intensive days. 

The event will be sponsored by USAA, Techstars, and the Jared Polis Foundation, with local support from SendGrid. 

Patriot Boot Camp will be accepting applications for the Denver program through August 6, 2017. Priority consideration will be given to those who apply before the early application deadline of July 9, 2017. Applicants will be notified by email of their acceptance status no later than August 25, 2017.

Click the "Apply Now" button below to submit an application.

How WeWork's Veterans in Residence program breaks down silos for veteran entrepreneurs

Originally published on BuiltInColorado on May 30th, 2017.  Author:  April Bohnert

Patriot Boot Camp has made a name for itself in Colorado — and throughout the startup community — through its commitment to providing active-duty military members, veterans and military spouses with the education, resources and community needed to be successful technology entrepreneurs.

Since launching its intensive, three-day programs in 2012, PBC has organized 10 events in eight cities, graduated over 600 entrepreneurs, and rallied more than 300 mentors and volunteers in support of veteran entrepreneurship.

Now, PBC is partnering with community workspace provider WeWork to expand its efforts. Earlier this month, the organizations introduced the first cohort of Veterans in Residence, a three-month accelerator program designed to pick up where PBC leaves off by providing veterans with free workspace, educational programs, one-on-one mentorship and integration into the Colorado tech community.

What really makes this program special isn’t that it’s helping veterans. (More than 45,000 nonprofits for veterans and their families are registered with the IRS.) What makes Veterans in Residence special is the collaborative and inclusive nature of the program.

“Truthfully, I think the world could do with a lot fewer veterans programs — and more that actually integrate veterans into economic communities and opportunities,” said Josh Anderson, a Marine Corps veteran and COO of Patriot Boot Camp. “Far too many veterans organizations serve to insulate veterans, to perpetuate the wrong narratives and to contain veterans in closed networks among one another.”

Veterans in Residence participants said veterans face many challenges upon coming home from deployments and trying to start a new life.

“There are all these veterans programs that don’t talk to each other,” said Veterans in Residence participant Lawrence Wagner, an Army veteran and the founder and CEO of Spark Mindset. “They don’t integrate you into the community. It’s just this herky-jerky kind of feeling where you’re like, ‘How do I get involved in the community?’ You still want to be around veterans, but once you get out you want to expand your life. You want to become more. You have goals and aspirations that you want to achieve … and it’s hard when the structure doesn’t allow you to grow.”

Fellow Veterans in Residence participant Matt Colvin, an Air Force veteran and the co-founder of CauseEngine, said veterans don’t want to be “siloed.”

“We’ve done our job, but that’s not necessarily the moniker that we hang on ourselves,” Colvin said. “We’re business people who just happen to be veterans — not the other way around.”

Veterans in Residence plans to break down silos by collaborating with local entrepreneurs, tech leaders and mentors who can help participants develop their business skills while leveraging the skills they already have to better serve the business community.

“I think this program is as much about what veterans can do for the Colorado business community as it is about what the Colorado business community can do for veterans,” said Veterans in Residence participant Bryan Sparling, a retired Army colonel and longtime business consultant. “So often you hear the word ‘veteran’ and you think PTSD, damaged goods, somebody that needs a handout. But for the vast majority of veterans, the great common denominator is that they are beneficiaries of the greatest leadership development organization in the world.”

Anderson hopes the program will push the conversation beyond simply the qualities veterans bring to the table to the assumptions others have about them.

“To me it feels more important to discuss the notion that our cultural treatment of ‘the veterans issue’ is self-fulfilling and self-perpetuating,” Anderson said. “I believe the solution is more economic than it is medical; it requires shifting perception from veteran-as-victim to veteran-as-tested; it requires less access to prescriptions and more access to jobs and capital. And, frankly, it requires greater thoughtfulness, nuance, give-a-shit quotient and creativity than I believe the U.S. government is capable (of offering), so we have to take some responsibility for changing the narrative as a culture, as economic leaders, as veterans, as individuals.”

With this mission and the support and participation of veterans and their communities, Patriot Boot Camp plans to leverage WeWork’s global network to expand into other cities. Having launched programs this month in Denver and Austin, PBC plans to explore how in-depth entrepreneurial programs like Veterans in Residence can create “a new narrative and a new path that serves veterans in a more productive, positive way,” Anderson said.

“We need to stop looking at the human effects of conflict as terminal,” he said. “In the words of Sebastian Junger, from his book “Tribe” —which in many ways served as manifesto and inspiration for Veterans in Residence — ‘Humans don’t mind hardship, in fact they thrive on it; what they mind is not feeling necessary. Modern society has perfected the art of making people not feel necessary.’

We need to make veterans feel necessary, respected, valued — and productive. They deserve that. That’s what I hope this program accomplishes.”

Event Recap: Patriot Boot Camp in San Antonio, TX

February 3-5, 2017

Patriot Boot Camp hosted the 10th installment of its technology entrepreneurship education program from February 3-5, 2017, at the Geekdom Event Centre in San Antonio, Texas.  In addition to taking part in three days of intensive education, mentorship, and community networking, our participants experienced the local culture of San Antonio as a cattle drive passed right by the venue on Houston Street - an exciting first for Patriot Boot Camp!

Thank you to the amazing entrepreneurs, sponsors, speakers, mentors, volunteers, and community members who helped make the San Antonio program an unprecedented success!

See the program recap infographic below for more information about the impact from #PBCSATX.

For more info about upcoming Patriot Boot Camp events and programs, please view our webpage.

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#PBCSATX would not have been possible without the generous support of the following sponsors and partners. Thank you!

Alumni Stories: Frederick Hutson, Creative Rebel

Contributed by Dave Cass (PBC 2012 alumnus)

Frederick Hutson is a difficult man to introduce. His titles have ranged from Air Force F-16 mechanic - to prison inmate - to founder and CEO. I first met Frederick in 2012 at Techstars’ inaugural Patriot Boot Camp in Washington, D.C. I learned quickly that with Frederick, you simply can’t put him in any box. He’s soft spoken, he’s friendly, he’s multidimensional, and he’s really inspiring. While I always hate to disagree with the good people at Dos Equis; Frederick may be the world’s most interesting man. I mean, how on earth does one man go from flight lines in the Air Force to a prison cell to a board room? To answer that question, you have to spend time with the man. His unique journey is matched only by his unique personality and true entrepreneurial spirit. Frederick’s lessons go far beyond entrepreneurial success; he is the ultimate example of an individual learning from mistakes and life experiences and using those lessons to magnify his own positive impact on the world.  

Frederick’s company Pigeon.ly solves connectivity issues between prison inmates and their families. Their products help families stay close through services such as photo delivery, inmate locator, and affordable phone call support, to name a few. Pigeon.ly’s services have widespread adoption and they have been featured in The New York Times and CNN...but more on that later.

 
 

When you get to know Frederick, you learn very quickly that he is a consummate learner. Frederick views every life experience, good and bad, as a lesson-producing machine. He also has a very low tolerance for inefficiency and a very high aptitude for spotting it. Actually, it is this very characteristic that got him in trouble, for it was the spotting of inefficiencies in the marijuana supply trade that led to his incarceration. Fast forward to 2016, with the legalization of marijuana in three states, it can be said that Frederick wasn’t a bad guy back in 2007 when he was arrested for mailing marijuana from the shipping store that he owned, he was more, let’s say, ‘ahead of his time.’

Inefficiency is the source of entrepreneurship

I believe the secret to Frederick’s success is in his ability to learn, and through his constant learning, his ability to spot opportunity. Frederick started businesses before, during, and after his time in the Air Force but it was his time in the Air Force that taught him that efficiency is crucial to mission success. As he puts it, “(in the military) every detail and scenario is thought of before real-time action so that when you operate in real-time your mistakes are minimized.” The cost of inefficiency is too high not to think about details and play out scenarios before a war time scenario. The way Frederick sees it, “military efficiency can lead you to believe that the rest of the world operates that way.” But, as he would soon learn, this is not the case.  

When Frederick left the Air Force, the contrast between military efficiency and the rest of the world was vivid; so vivid that Frederick spotted opportunities almost everywhere he looked. In fact, this extreme focus on inefficiency led to, by his own admission, lapses in judgement; hence, his incarceration. But, it was during his incarceration that Frederick found one of the most inefficient systems on the planet--the prison system. Even further, he found a group of people that were perhaps the least served members of our society: prisoners and their families. Frederick knew that he had a choice to make in prison; he could lose those years or he could focus them on learning. Frederick being Frederick, he chose the latter.

In prison, Frederick dove into entrepreneurial books, venture brainstorming and perhaps before even realizing he was doing it, he dove into customer discovery. What Frederick also found was that if you eliminated violent criminals, who are in the fact the minority of the incarcerated population, there were a substantial number of individuals who are really good people but who made a life mistake, just like himself. These were people who missed their families. These were people that society sort of forgets about. Thus, there were a lack of services to help families accomplish seemingly simple tasks like sending a greeting a card or photo prints that meet prison mailing standards. (Remember--there’s no WiFi in prison.) Even making an affordable phone call proved to be so expensive that some inmates couldn’t speak with their loved ones. Every great entrepreneur I’ve met shares a very similar world view: that every problem in society is addressable. Frederick is a great entrepreneur and his focus on inefficiencies was now being focused on making a positive impact on society.

Frederick didn’t start Pigeon.ly in a sleek co-working space with kegs on tap. He did it from a halfway house. Resources? Nope, he didn’t have those either. Frederick hadn’t even utilized technology in four years; nevermind four generations of iPhones! Even more challenging, he experienced building a team and raising capital with the cross to bear of being an “ex con.” As Frederick explains it, “In some ways you’re never really done serving your time.” To help address challenges he faced, Frederick decided to lean on another group of people that positively influenced his life: mentors and fellow service members.

(Military) veterans are like-minded and committed to having each other’s backs.
— Frederick Hutson

During his reading on entrepreneurship, Frederick heard about a guy named David Cohen. David is one of the founders of Techstars, an accelerator that needs no introduction on this blog. Frederick decided to reach out on the chance that maybe David would take his call and just maybe, he may have some advice. David being a natural mentor, not only took Frederick’s call, but he also encouraged him to attend Techstars’ Patriot Boot Camp (PBC) and he even recommended his application. At PBC, Frederick connected with a supportive community of mentors and fellow Veteran entrepreneurs that, as he puts it, “are like-minded and committed to having each other’s back.” While Frederick experienced the positive influence of mentorship at PBC, in the true spirit of mentorship, he continues to serve as a mentor to those military veterans and families who are now embarking upon their own entrepreneurial journey. He also mentors prisoners focused on changing their lives through entrepreneurship too (this time legal entrepreneurship!)

Frederick made a mistake and had the cards stacked against him. Yet today Pigeon.ly has graduated from one of the most competitive startup accelerators in the world, Y-Combinator. They have raised $5M in venture capital and their services have saved inmates and their families more than $8M in phone charges and mailing services. With all that said, I have the funniest feeling that Frederick and Pigeon.ly are just getting going.

Some entrepreneurs create a product and sell it, others change an entire system, and a few rare ones completely change how we view the world. Frederick is doing all three. Pigone.ly is re-thinking the entire prison system and role of family services in that system. It is well documented that inmates who maintain closer ties with their families have better outcomes when they transition back to society. Pigeon.ly’s impact ultimately extends to society as a whole. Through technology, Frederick and his team have not only changed the lives of incarcerated individuals and their families, he has also made us re-think how we view convicts and our prison system. Perhaps most importantly though, Frederick shined a light on a population of people that are truly underserved and serves as a powerful role model of leadership talent coming from a place we may least expect it; the Air Force. Just kidding! I am of course referring to prison.

Thank you, Frederick, for sharing your story of resilience and creativity. You are changing the world and teaching us all while doing it!

Press Release: Patriot Boot Camp coming to San Antonio, TX (February 3-5, 2017)

Patriot Boot Camp is coming to San Antonio, Texas from February 3-5, to host the 10th installment of their technology entrepreneurship education program for the military community. The program will welcome 50 military veteran and spouse entrepreneurs from around the country, who will participate in education, mentorship and networking programs at Geekdom and other venues throughout San Antonio over the course of three intensive days.

The event will be sponsored by USAA, Techstars and the Jared Polis Foundation, with local support from Bexar County and MetLife.

Patriot Boot Camp will be accepting applications for the San Antonio program through December 11, 2016.  

Patriot Boot Camp and Operation Code join forces to help military veterans become technology entrepreneurs

At Patriot Boot Camp, we’re on a mission to equip military service members, veterans, and spouses with the education, mentorship, access to resources, and community support they need to build technology companies of scale and impact.  We’re excited to announce that, beginning with our 2017 programs, Patriot Boot Camp is teaming up with Operation Code to help drive the technical enablement and competency of our veteran founders!

Since 2012, PBC has delivered startup education and hands-on mentoring to more than 500 military veteran and spouse entrepreneurs. In a symbiotic and complementary way, Operation Code serves the very same population by enabling veterans to learn to code, and empowering them to build software that changes the world.  By joining forces, Patriot Boot Camp and Operation Code can effectively accelerate the founding and growth of new technology startup ventures by cultivating a community and talent pipeline that will connect software engineers with non-technical entrepreneurs, virtually and in-person, at all of Patriot Boot Camp's programs.  

“We could not be more thrilled on this joint PBC/Operation Code partnership to deploy internal assets onsite at all PBC programs, and to help fellow veteran entrepreneurs launch their ideas onto the web,” said David Molina, Founder & Executive Director of Operation Code.  “We look forward to accelerating the growth of more veteran-founded and veteran-led software companies.”  

Operation Code will be joining Patriot Boot Camp at all 2017 programs, volunteering time and expertise to help veteran entrepreneurs with product architecture, technical direction, and pro bono development consulting.

"Patriot Boot Camp is thrilled to partner with Operation Code, to reduce the barrier between startup founders with great ideas and the development of those ideas into viable products," said Charlotte Creech, PBC's Executive Director.  "Not only is Operation Code comprised of several Patriot Boot Camp alumni, including its founder, senior leadership and a board member, but they are incredible, passionate people who care deeply about the economic reintegration and skill development of the veteran community."  

Patriot Boot Camp considers Operation Code a critical partner in our work and is thrilled to collaborate to jointly serve the military and veteran entrepreneurial community in 2017 and beyond!

For more information about Patriot Boot Camp’s 2017 schedule, please visit: http://patriotbootcamp.org/programs/

For more information about Operation Code, please visit: https://operationcode.org/