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

Patriot Boot Camp Announces Partnership with LifeFlip Media

Patriot Boot Camp has always relied on its tremendous community to help spread the word about its impactful three-day program. While we are grateful that our community always steps up when called upon, we knew we had to find a firm that could help tell the Patriot Boot Camp story in a more effective way. Our story is unique and, as such, we needed to find a company that is just as unique and could put PBC in front of the American public in a way that will better express the value PBC adds to the military spouse/veteran ecosystem.

With that, it is with extreme pleasure that we announce a partnership today with PR firm LifeFlip Media. Led by USMC veteran Eric Mitchell. LifeFlip Media represents some of the community's best veteran-led companies including Bottle BreacherCombat Flip Flops, and Medals of America. We know that Eric and his team will be the right group to be able to tell PBC's story, expand its reach, and expose more people to the community that comprises the nation's best entrepreneurial program for military spouses and veterans.

"We're excited to work with Patriot Boot Camp because our missions are perfectly aligned," said LifeFlip Media CEO Eric L. Mitchell. "With their mission to assemble and activate the warrior class and help individuals become creators, innovators, and entrepreneurs, and our mission to be the voice of that same warrior class we know that this relationship is going to prosper."

The agreement allows PBC to focus all of its attention on expanding programming, building greater post-program engagement, and will help to ensure that PBC can scale its ability to support its community in growing businesses in the most effective way possible.

The PBC team is excited to be working with LifeFlip Media and looks forward to introducing PBC's mission and programs to a larger community as we expand programming for 2018 and beyond.

Josh Carter
Chief Operating Officer
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.

View All Event Photos


#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/

Hillary Clinton visits PBC's Denver HQ; Patriot Boot Camp launches new website

A Momentous Day for Galvanize & PBC

Tuesday, June 28:  Presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton, visited the Galvanize Denver (Golden Triangle) campus, Patriot Boot Camp's Denver headquarters.  

During her visit, Clinton toured the campus with Galvanize's leadership team, unveiled her innovation and technology agenda for economic growth, and spent time with two Galvanize-based organizations:  PanXchange and Patriot Boot Camp.

Hillary Clinton discusses military veteran entrepreneurship and transition education programs with Josh Anderson, Director at Patriot Boot Camp, and Ben Deda, COO of Galvanize.

Hillary Clinton discusses military veteran entrepreneurship and transition education programs with Josh Anderson, Director at Patriot Boot Camp, and Ben Deda, COO of Galvanize.

As she addressed the large crowd assembled at Galvanize Tuesday, Clinton discussed PBC's mission and the issue of veteran employment and reintegration:

"I want to thank Josh Anderson of Patriot Boot Camp for working on another set of challenges, and that is:  how we do a much, much better job creating employment pathways for our vets – something that I have spent a lot of time thinking about and working on. 

There are good ideas out there, but they’re not yet broad enough, deep enough, so that we are really doing what we should to give our vets the chance to have a good future.  It needs to start as – I was just talking to Josh and Ben about – it needs to start while they’re still in the military, before they leave.  We don’t do a good enough job with transition planning.  We’ve got to do more to get them connected with successful programs that produce results.

So, using Patriot Boot Camp as an example, and given the results that you’ve had, gives me a lot of hope that we can do a much better job for our vets.  And that’s something that I am 100 percent committed to." 

Mrs. Clinton also shared her tech agenda, using Galvanize as inspiration for her broader vision.  See video below.

The PBC team is beyond grateful for Mrs. Clinton's support for Patriot Boot Camp*, her commitment to our veteran and entrepreneur communities, and we are honored to call Galvanize a partner and a HQ. 

New PBC Website

On the heels of Mrs. Clinton's visit, Patriot Boot Camp is also proud to announce the launch of a newly designed patriotbootcamp.org site, that includes a new donation portal, a t-shirt shop, and a new alumni perks page.  Please share your feedback with us!

*Disclaimer

While Patriot Boot Camp does not endorse any political party or candidate, we welcome and value the support of any candidate who advocates for our entrepreneurs and military veterans.  We see entrepreneurship and veterans programs as transcending party lines.  While we welcome feedback and positive discourse on substantive issues, we do not welcome vitriol or politically-charged comments.

Event Recap: Patriot Boot Camp in Austin, TX (June 3-5, 2016)

Thank you to the amazing entrepreneurs, sponsors, speakers, mentors, volunteers, and community members who helped make Patriot Boot Camp in Austin, Texas a huge success! Below is an infographic with details on this event:

PBCATX16-Recap-HiRes

Download a Low Resolution PDF Version  |  Download a High Resolution PDF Version
 

#PBCATX would not have been possible without support from these sponsors. Thank you!

 

Press Release: Patriot Boot Camp coming to Austin (June 3-5, 2016)

Patriot Boot Camp is coming to Austin, Texas next week, from June 3-5, to host the 9th installment of their technology entrepreneurship education program for the military community. The program will welcome 50 military veteran and spouse entrepreneurs from 15 states, who will participate in education, mentorship and networking programs at the Texas State Capitol and the new Austin Galvanize campus over the course of three intensive days.

The event will be sponsored locally by USAA.

Click on the image below to download the press release announcing this exciting and impactful event!

PBCAustin-Entrepreneur-Sponsor-PressRelease.v5.26.16

Josh Anderson Joins the Patriot Boot Camp Team

The Patriot Boot Camp Board of Directors is pleased to welcome Josh Anderson to the PBC team as the organization's Development Director, leading community development, partnerships and alumni programs.

Josh is no stranger to helping early-stage organizations grow.  After cutting his teeth consulting with larger organizations including Google, Vail Resorts and Accenture (where he built their Military Recruiting program), he built and managed talent & people operations functions at SendGrid, Ello, Parkifi, Ibotta and FullContact.  He is also a mentor to the Galvanize community and has been an organizer of Denver Startup Week since it began.

Prior to his foray into managing people operations and growth for scaling companies, Josh spent five years on active duty in the Marine Corps, leading intelligence operations for a Special Operations Capable unit during two expeditionary deployments to over a dozen countries.

Josh has been an outspoken champion of Colorado's entrepreneurial and veteran communities, and is honored to be working with Patriot Boot Camp in this capacity, to develop partnerships and programs that will equip military veterans and spouses for greater success as entrepreneurs.

Josh lives in Denver, Colorado with his wife, son, and French Bulldog.  In his free time he enjoys listening to jazz records, working on old houses, quality time with his wife, and trying to raise a well-adjusted child.

Derek Herrera - From Special Operations to Startup Founder

I ask a lot of people, “What inspired you to become an entrepreneur?” Derek Herrera’s inspiring entrepreneurial story begins very differently than most:

“I was paralyzed while conducting combat operations in the Helmand Province, Afghanistan when I was shot in the spine while leading my team on patrol.”

A Marine special operations officer, Derek was paralyzed from the chest down in June 2012 when he was hit by a sniper's bullet while leading members of Marine Corps Special Operations Command in Afghanistan. Derek spent months in hospitals recovering but he wasn’t just learning to adjust to his injuries; amazingly, he was planning his next career. While most people in that situation would be asking questions like “why me?”, Derek spent most of his time asking “what’s next?”. He told me, “I wasn’t about to rot away in a hospital bed”. Derek is a fighter. I first met Derek at Patriot Boot Camp (PBC), New York in 2014. I immediately knew Derek was a force; he is one of those people who you just kind of know is impacting the world in a very positive way. His intelligence is clear and his attitude is driven; it was clear to me that I should either get out of his way or get in his corner; I chose the latter. Derek is the CEO and founder of Spinal Singularity, but more on that in a bit.

After medically retiring from the Marine Corps, Derek was accepted to UCLA’s prestigious Executive MBA program. While he enjoyed the education at UCLA, like many academic programs, he felt it was very theoretical. Derek is a pragmatic entrepreneur and his military experience told him that he needed not only strategic theory, but also to learn the “tactical application”. When a friend and fellow Veteran told him to “check out PBC”, Derek being Derek, forged ahead. At PBC Derek found a network that helped guide him on his next mission. Derek goes on to say:

“Patriot Boot Camp connected me with a global network of veterans who I now have in my corner as mentors and teammates.”

Derek’s emotional intelligence is second to none and he credits that to his special operations background. He clearly understands the value of mentorship:

“Special operators don’t really specialize in any one thing; our specialty is critical thinking and being adaptive while solving problems. We are not the best at any one thing; therefore, we have to constantly seek mentorship and learn from subject matter experts.”

This mindset is one that Derek applies every day as the CEO of Spinal Singularity. It may shock someone to hear this but Derek describes starting a company as “far scarier than anything I’ve ever done”. For a little perspective, let’s keep in mind that Derek is a special operations veteran critically wounded in combat. Entrepreneurs are often described as ‘fearless’ but in reality, Derek says, “that’s BS”. The sentiment makes for cool articles heroizing founders in entrepreneurship magazines but Derek teaches us all that emotional intelligence is the ultimate foundation of strength.

  photo credit: Nelvin C. Cepeda, San Diego Tribune

Like many passionate founders, their company is an extension of their soul. Derek is no exception. His company Spinal Singularity is the maker of the “connected catheter, the world’s first smart catheter system for a neurogenic bladder.” So what is a neurogenic bladder? The short answer is the lack of bladder control due to a brain or spinal cord injury. Neurogenic bladders have many effects, one of which is the inability to sense the fullness of the bladder (learn more). In other words, not knowing when you have to urinate. Derek states,

“Neurogenic bladder is a problem that has affected me every day since I’ve been injured.”

It is often said that the greatest source of entrepreneurial passion is to “scratch your own itch”.  Derek takes this concept a huge step further. Like most paraplegics, “walking” was not the function that Derek missed most after his injury. In fact, according to Derek, bladder control is missed more by most paraplegics than walking. This is more than an “itch” to Derek. He describes modern day catheters as “medieval” and “unchanged for decades” and to make matters worse they have to be inserted and removed up to ten times per day.

If we’ve learned one thing about Derek it is that he doesn’t wait for others to fight his battles. Derek, utilizing his resources at UCLA sought out and found biomedical engineers that could help him to create the connected catheter. It’s an implanted device that senses bladder fullness and controls urine flow without the need to insert disposable catheters. In fact, the connected catheter amazingly relays information, such as bladder fullness, to a smart phone or watch. Spinal Singularity went on from PBC to Y-Combinator, one of our nation’s most competitive startup accelerators (about 98% of companies who apply are rejected). Derek and his team are moving quickly toward a $2.2m seed round of investment and the connected catheter will seek FDA approval in 2017.

Derek’s entrepreneurial spirit I think is captured by a powerful balance of determination and humbleness; traits he credits to his Marine Corps background. A warrior with an endless fight, Derek also readily acknowledges all that he doesn’t know. For all that he “doesn’t know”, Derek constantly seeks mentorship from those who hold deeper expertise than him. In many conversations with Derek, he acknowledges the significant lessons he has learned from his many mentors. I often wonder if Derek realizes how much we are all learning from him.

By Dave Cass | @davidleecass

For more information on Derek and Spinal Singularity: www.spinalsingularity.com | @spinalsingularity

Patriot Boot Camp (PBC) is a 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. Apply here:  http://patriotbootcamp.org/apply-to-patriot-boot-camp/

Maday Joins Stabilitas as Chief of Data; Creech assumes Executive Director Role

As many of you know, Patriot Boot Camp's Program Director, Sean Maday, stepped down in March to embark upon a new professional pursuit. We are pleased to announce that he has joined the ranks of PBC alumni company, Stabilitas, as Chief of Data. Operations Director, Charlotte Creech, has assumed the role of Executive Director of Patriot Boot Camp.

Sean Maday at Patriot Boot Camp in New York City, April 17-19, 2015.

During his year with Patriot Boot Camp, Sean was instrumental in building new partnerships and executing four Patriot Boot Camp events serving 200 entrepreneurs. Although we will miss working with him on a daily basis, we couldn't be more excited that his talents will remain in the Patriot Boot Camp portfolio family.

After attending Patriot Boot Camp in New York City in 2014, Stabilitas founder, Greg Adams, met his Chief Technology Officer through the PBC network. Since then, the company has raised private capital, and completed the Techstars Cloud accelerator. We look forward to tracking their continued success and have no doubt that Sean will play a critical role in helping them grow.

Best of luck, Sean!

Note from Sean Maday: Moving On from PBC

Friday, March 25, 2016 will be my last day as an employee of Patriot Boot Camp. My wife and I are expecting our third daughter in a few months, and in order to pay for prom dresses, college tuition and weddings at some point in the future, I need to rejoin the private sector.

Baby Maday - March 2016

Leading Patriot Boot Camp has been one of the most personally and professionally rewarding experiences of my life. I have been privileged to meet amazing Veterans and military spouses who are building phenomenal companies. It has truly been an honor to serve alongside Taylor McLemore, Charlotte Creech and the rest of the Patriot Boot Camp team.

PBC - NY - 2015 - PBC Team

During my PBC tenure we worked with 200 entrepreneurs through events in 4 different cities. This success would not have been possible without generous investments of time, energy and resources by many wonderful people.

Shared experience, hard work and a “Give First” spirit are a few of the qualities that make the Patriot Boot Camp family unique and special. I am humbled to be a member of this family and plan to stay involved as a volunteer and advocate.

Charlotte Creech is driving PBC strategy and execution from this point forward, and I have no doubt the community will continue to grow and thrive under her steadfast leadership.

Thank you for all of the Coors Light!

Event Recap: Patriot Boot Camp in Phoenix, Arizona

From February 19 to 21, 2016 we ran an outstanding Patriot Boot Camp in Phoenix, Arizona. Here is an infographic with details on this event:

PBC - Phoenix - 2016 - Recap Infographic

Download a Low Resolution PDF Version  |  Download a High Resolution PDF Version

The Phoenix Patriot Boot Camp would not have been possible without support from these sponsors!

PBC - Phoenix - 2016 - Sponsors

Below is a sampling of the awesome chatter that the Phoenix Patriot Boot Camp event generated on Twitter.