Bringing duty to startups: Why Techstars Boulder is seeing more veterans in its cohorts

When Brantley Pace left the Marine Corps a few years after enlisting, he came to Denver not because he knew anyone in the business ecosystem or even in Colorado, but because he knew there was a lot going on in technology.

Pace is now one of two entrepreneurs graduating from the latest Techstars Boulder cohort who is also a veteran — the first time Natty Zola, managing director, said he could remember having two veterans in the program at the same time.

Continue reading here.

Sherri Rice, PBC Director of Programs; Danya Devine, PBC Community Manager; Brantley Pace, PBC Alum and Co-Founder Spectatar; Jen Pilcher, PBC CEO

Sherri Rice, PBC Director of Programs; Danya Devine, PBC Community Manager; Brantley Pace, PBC Alum and Co-Founder Spectatar; Jen Pilcher, PBC CEO

“That first pitch failed. Miserably. But damn I love the feeling of just going for it!” 

PBC Spotlight Q&A with Rae Lietzau

If you don’t know Rae, you should. Her energy is infectious. Her ideas amazing and her ability to rap like a boss is unforgettable! Rae won the Denver 2018 PBC pitch competition using that rap skill. She’s a former Marine and the founder of DoWhop (that’s Do With Other People). DoWhop is a peer-to-peer marketplace where people buy and sell in-person experiences. She’s shared some great wisdom and thoughts about being an entrepreneur, failing, and believing in her ideas! Read on PBC’ers!

1) Ok, where did you get the idea to rap the pitch!? (PS: It was SO freakin’ awesome!)

Before flying to Denver I entered Founders Fight Club - the finale event for our Startup Week. In this competition approved founders are paired up for three pitch face-offs. It just so happens that the opener to the competition was Ashok Kamal, the founder of I honestly wasn’t sure if other people would rap (no, they did not) so I spent the 3 hours preceding this show down pacing around and listening to Fresh Prince of Bel-air and making things up to match the lyrics. I wrote two raps that day and was happy to say I won the competition! So the night before our pitch in PBC I decided to rewrite the fan favorite a bit to fit in Veterans and highlight a few more of our favorite DoWhoppers.

Tell me about the moment you realized your idea could work and you could really DO THIS entrepreneur thing!

I was actually still in the Marine Corps when I bought the domain name One Thursday after another late night of work I’d had enough. I got in my car and drove north with a bag of gym clothes and enough angst to keep me going through the night. I booked a couch on couchsurfing and decided to join something called “Startup Weekend” set in Silicon Valley. Name tag options were  “business developer, developer, or designer.” I felt incredibly unqualified for all, but I rolled with the business option. The way the weekend works, you pitch and if people like your idea they vote for you to compete that weekend. I pitched an idea for the platform that connects people to do things (early DoWhop). That first pitch failed. Miserably. But damn I loved the feeling of just going for it!

That weekend I worked for someone else’s team and had a blast. I felt like I was able to contribute, and perhaps most importantly learned that in this startup world we’re all kind of on even footing. You simply don’t know what can work until you meet your customers! From that realization on, being an entrepreneur was not a choice. It was just a question of when I would take the leap.

What's been the thing that keeps you going when the wall of NO or other things get you down?

I suppose on a foundational level, the thing that always keeps me going is that I truly believe DoWhop needs to exist. I think we’ve seen enough develop in the past few years to know that someone will build this. We believe it’s us! My team has been so important in keeping me going, and so have my customers. When I’m well past my threshold of NOs for the day I try to remember why we build this and who we’ve helped. I keep photos of team members and customers on the walls of our office. All are great motivation everyday.  

I’ve also learned that part of getting outside of my comfort zone is becoming aggressive in pursuing failures. Trying, failing, and learning are part of everyday. Failures are not NOs. They’re hints at hacks that make you better!

On a personal level when I need to get a way I take short backpacking trips (like Jamaica in December for 4 days)  and I do three of my favorite DoWhops. I play saxophone, race sailboats, and fly hot air balloons! All are a great way to unplug.

Tell me what about what you are proud of when it comes to running your own business?

We connect people. I always have. Being a connector is who I am. DoWhop is just my way of leveraging technology to help people Do (what they love to do) With Other People (aka DoWhop). That feeling when we help someone do something with someone that they would not have otherwise met - that’s why I wake up in the morning.

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Many of the moments I’m most proud of with DoWhop are from our popup dinners. Every few weeks we connect a chef (anyone who wants to share their cuisine and culture) with 15 strangers for a home-cooked meal in a DoWhoppers home. These dinners, called Dine with DoWhop, let us differentiate between service and experiences. Rather than having a chef cook FOR us, we have a guest of honor DoWhopper cook and eat WITH us. I hosted the first of these dinners myself which means I’ve had more than 150 DoWhoppers in my home. I’m so proud that we’ve been able to have people step outside of their comfort zone to share the recipes, stories, and culture that make them who they are. One connection at a time we’re replacing yesterday’s service economy with tomorrow’s experience economy.

What's happened since PBC Denver and how that weekend helped you?

By far the hardest part of being a founder, especially a solo founder, is being alone. Over the last three years I’ve had countless late nights alone in an empty office. PBC gave me a place to belong, and a community of hustlers to remind each other we’re not isolated. It’s been years since I worked alongside military or veterans. Having my military life and civilian life overlap meant so much to me!

Since PBC I’ve met alumni in San Diego, Denver and DC. Having a hustling, supportive, relentless community is by far the most important resource I’ve needed. The mentors were great, the organizers were authentic and clearly wanted us to succeed. Above all, everyone was welcoming and familiar. I’d love to see this grow into the type of network that builds new ecosystems and ventures.

As for the business we’ve been talking loosely to Arlan Hamilton’s deal flow team! We got to see her in Silicon Valley a few weeks ago and were told to reach backout in May. We’ve rebuilt the entire web app from the ground up and are getting ready to relaunch as a partner for a large 600 person event next Wednesday. We’ve coordinated several hundred more activities and grown our user base. We were recognized on ABC 10… rapping actually! I was so amazed by how well received the pitch was in Denver that I went on to use it in SoCal’s biggest competition. We built a few partnerships with local businesses where we help run larger activities and events throughout the city to grow awareness. We’ve beta tested a new training series where we help entrepreneurs share their passions and find ways to make better small group experiences around what they love to do. And finally we’re heading to an Angel Conference today (fingers crossed!) to begin raising our seed round of funding.

I really can’t thank you all enough for this boot camp. It’s exactly what I needed to feel like I’d found my place in the startup world. This is so needed. I look forward helping more veterans connect with their people  in the future!

Check out DoWhop on Insta:

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Patriot Boot Camp Taps Danya Devine To Engage with the Organization’s 850+ Alumni

Patriot Boot Camp is thrilled to announce the hiring of Danya Devine as it’s Community Manager. In her new role, Devine will lead the charge operating, regulating, and engaging both online and in-person with the organization’s community of 850+ alumni, to build a community of loyal advocates.  Additionally, Devine will be assisting long-time program manager, Sherri Rice, in organizing and planning the core 3-Day Patriot Boot Camp programs.  

Prior to Patriot Boot Camp, Danya worked alongside PBC’s recently appointed CEO, Jen Pilcher, as the director of content and client manager at MilitaryOneClick, a company that provided daily content, online resources, and a social media community for millions of military and veteran families around the world. MilitaryOneClick was acquired in 2015.

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Welcome to the team!

Devine’s role transitioned to director of military events for MilSpouseFest, a spinout from MilitaryOneClick, the largest series of events for military spouses held across the country that attracts thousands of military families to provide a one stop shop with resources at their fingertips to meet new friends and make connections. In this role, Devine led the planning, budgeting, program management and execution for over 22 of the largest attended military spouse live events in the country.

Working with military veterans and spouses hits close to home for Devine as she brings 21 years of personal experience as a Navy spouse, with three sons. Being in a military family that has moved over 12 times, Devine understands the deep need for resources that the military community lacks and is excited to be a part of an organization that is giving military families the resources and mentorship they need to grow businesses and succeed.


Q and A with PBC Alum John Chapman, Co-Founder & Chief Executive Officer for Liberty Dynamic

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Throughout 14 years of defense related service, John developed in depth knowledge regarding tactical weapons and an aptitude for developing technologies that enhance the effectiveness of tactical officers' missions. Having lost friends and colleagues in the line of duty, John has an intimate knowledge of the impact inferior products can have in kinetic environments. John is intensely focused and driven to overcome the operational deficiencies of tools affecting safety. Providing the highest and best tactical advantage is always in his crosshairs. The Liberty Dynamic Diversion device solves uses a powerful and efficient airburst technology that mitigates secondary frag, fire, and smoke. 

Why did you attend PBC Denver in October 2018?
PBC came highly recommended as a resource to establish mentors and learn from other Veteran Entrepreneurs. As a startup in the physical product space, I was hopeful to align with experts who had varied professional backgrounds and were able to provide perspective as well.

Tell us about your military service.
I was a Marine, and served within the Reconnaissance Community. After the Marines, I spent 10 years in the Middle East as a defense contractor supporting wartime/peacekeeping efforts.

What did you get out of the mentor sessions?
The perspective gained through the mentor sessions was brilliant. Rapid fire conversations fueled my desire to think outside the box and pursue avenues I had yet to think of. I have travelled to other states to meet with my mentors for follow up collaboration.

Did you have goals after you left PBC?
I set goals every day! My intent was to connect and stay connected with my mentors.

Have you made or implemented any changes/new ideas/pivots/employees etc. since PBC?
Not everything has to be done by yourself—there are people out there that want to see you succeed with no strings attached. PBC provided access to people genuinely excited and supportive of my professional success.

What are your goals going forward?
Increase the landscape of how non-lethal weapons are used in Law Enforcement and Military endeavors worldwide.

You can check out Liberty Dynamic here! Thanks, John!


Now the Real Work Begins! Here's Your Post #PBCATX To-Do List

Have you caught your breath yet after an amazing weekend in Texas? Attending Patriot Boot Camp in Austin is just the beginning of your entrepreneurial journey or if you were already in it, it’s certainly a kick in the a** to get stuff done. Either way, making the most out of the weekend means you’ve got to tackle some post-weekend do-outs.

A few suggestions:

Connect: Gather that pile of business cards and grab your computer. Start connecting with folks on social media. Even if you didn’t have a chance to meet at PBC, it’s all about networking. Don’t forget mentors, too. Consider setting up coffee or drinks with speakers, mentors, or ‘treps who live near you. Go big, and launch a once a quarter meeting with alumni.

And of course, whenever you are reaching out to new connections, be sure and add Patriot Boot Camp connection (or some version) in the subject line or in the LinkedIn message body. We don’t want our hard work to end up in the spam folder!

Give back: You got a ton out of the weekend, certainly. Advice, contacts, inspiration (Brandon from MX … am I right!) and more. Did you meet someone who you think might benefit from a connection of yours? Or perhaps you came across a useful article that a new friend might like. Or maybe you recognize one of your skills might come in handy at a friend’s company. Pass it on. It’s great to keep the buzz going with folks you met and that means YOU have to take action, too.

Level set: If you one of those ‘treps who set goals for the weekend or made a list of a people you wanted to meet or solicit advice, it’s time to level set. Did you follow through on an objective or miss a chance to chat with someone important? That’s ok. Take this time to review what you still need to do and then get to work. 

Get on Slack: The PBC Slack channel is an awesome resource. Just last week, Melissa Pros (a super awesome PBC alum) posted about a $30,000 grant for Veteran entrepreneurs. Um, who couldn’t use 30k? It’s a great place to reach out for quick advice or a contact name and we love it when people share wins! Introduce yourself to the group when you sign up. Click here to sign up!

Flex: There’s that word again. (my teenage daughter would be so proud). Do not be afraid to share your wins with your new family. We will use that energy during times when we are facing “The Wall of NO!”

Follow us on social: We use our social channels to share useful and important information. And tag us in your posts, too. We want you to leverage our audience … really we do!

And of course, watch for announcements about our next PBC in Utah in August.


Get to work!

James and Kathy Rolin are on a Mission to Get You to Eat Bugs

Crickets to be exact.

A few years back, Kathy Rolin, a Coast Guard veteran, attended an event where bugs were on the menu. Rolin was intrigued and wondered if a cricket farm had legs. (SORRY for the pun!) After that, Cowboy Crickets took off (ok, last one).  

Rolin and her husband James, also a Coast Guard Veteran and PBC Denver alumnus, decided to “change the way we eat and help make eating insects more acceptable,” said Kathy Rolin, co-founder of Cowboy Crickets.

They aren’t alone in their journey as, according to a report by Global Market Insights, the world edible insect market will exceed $710 million by 2024.

“We truly believe in what we’re doing,” said James.

Cowboy Crickets processes crickets farmed to their requirements by partner farmers in Montana, California, Arkansas, and Texas and sells several products to specialty food stores and other locations.

The duo attended PBC Denver and took home 2nd place in the pitch competition, along with advice, motivation, and the relief that they aren’t alone in the entrepreneurial journey.

“We talked with so many fellow founders and we really all had the same struggles,” said James. “We really felt a lot of camaraderie.”

“And the mentors totally get it and had thoughtful advice,” added James.

They’d both love to see the pitch competition be a bigger part of the weekend, although the 2-minute time frame was ideal. The cowbell (that signals competitors have reached the time limit) garnered lots of laughs, as well.

“The feedback from judges about the pitch we received was really helpful,” said James. “And watching the other competitors, who were really exceptional, was a great experience.”


After Denver, the cricket team won $25,000 in the Greater Philadelphia Veteran Shark Tank competition. Perfect timing, said James.

“That money is a 3-month runway to make changes, get sales boosted, and improve our marketing,” said James.

Speaking of marketing. Ready-to-use flour, protein pancake powder, and three new flavors of whole-roasted jumpers (tropical, cinnamon, and wasabi) are headed to market. They join the current family of products: chocolate chirp cookie, smoky-flavored jumpers, and ground cricket powder.

Despite having made huge strides and progress early in their entrepreneurship adventure, it isn’t for everyone admitted both James and Kathy. But having the military veteran spirit and a deep conviction in the company’s mission makes all the difference.

“If you believe in what you do, you’ll love your life,” said Kathy. “If you’re not passionate, then forget it.”


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How to Prep for Patriot Boot Camp: Austin

It’s almost time for what will be an awesome, exhausting, motivating, kinda scary, fun, educational, and inspirational weekend. You’ll meet so many amazing folks. You’ll freak out a few times. You’ll be so ready to rock investor meetings. You’ll take tons of notes and learn so much. So how in the hell does one prep for such a weekend? Fear not. We’ve got a list for you.

Top 10 Things to Do to Prep for PBC Austin!


Get ready for Austin!

1. Get a notebook and pen. It’s fine if you’re armed with an iPad and iPhone but you are going to want to take notes—old school style. Between the speakers and mentors and other attendees, having a handy notebook at the ready is key. If you find one with a little pocket, you can stash business cards (yours and new contacts) instead of jamming them into your pockets.

2. Get your pitch ready. I recorded my pitch (for my entry into the pitch competition) in the bathroom at the Pepsi Center about 20 minutes before it was due. Honestly.  No one was using the facilities (ewww) but it was stressful and awkward and I wish I ‘d prepared something ahead of time. We’ve got some tips on how to Rock the Pitch here. Don’t talk yourself out of it, either, if you are in the early stages of your company. Regardless of where you are in the ‘trep stage, it’s good to practice.

3. Think about mentors. This is such a critical step. Sherri (who is our PBC rock star program manager) sent out the list of mentors with their bios. Take some time and read through each bio and decide if they have the skill set that aligns with the needs of your business or idea.

4. Post about it! I learned a new term from my teenage daughter: Flexing. It’s basically bragging on social media. So you need to Flex about going to PBC. We want the world to see and meet the awesome humans (that’s you!) who are a part of our family. Be sure and tag us, too, and use #PBCATX.

5. Make connections on LinkedIn and Twitter. It’s not stalking. It’s connecting and it’s perhaps the most important aspect of the weekend. Connections will get you everywhere. When you get the list of attendees and mentors (see above), start looking at their LinkedIn bios and reach out. That way when you get to Austin, you can say, “hey, we are LinkedIn connected and I just wanted to say hi in person.”

6. Follow PBC on Insta, Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook! We post awesome stuff all the time including helpful blog posts, news about alumni, mentor spotlights, and more. I’m giving you permission to STALK US! And alum, keep us posted on what’s happening with you. Email us at with updates.

7. Pay attention to the tracks. The weekend will include some options for tracks to attend during the weekend. Choose wisely. Maximizing your time is critical so talk with others about which tracks they are attending and why. Denver PBC, for example, had a startup track and a product track. If you’re unsure which one to attend, check in with PBC leads who can help you.

8. Figure out what you are wearing. PBC is business casual. Don’t go crazy shopping but keep in mind that you’ll be meeting with mentors, potential investors, and/or co-workers. That means nice, dressy jeans and a blazer are totally okay. What you’re wearing will carry over to the evening social events so comfortable shoes are a must. And bring a jacket … BRRR! It’s always cold.

9. Business cards. You’ll want business cards so check out,,, or  Include your name, email, cell, business logo/name and LinkedIn profile (this is good for those of you who are in idea stage).

10. Evening social. The PBC team organizes awesome socials so get ready to relax and have a beer. These events are perfect opportunities to chat up fellow attendees and hear their story. You just never know who you’ll end up meeting!

You will be mentally exhausted after the weekend but you will leave with knowledge, inspiration, ideas, plans, new friends, and so much more.

Welcome Jen Pilcher, PBC's new CEO!


Jen serves as the Chief Executive Officer of Patriot Boot Camp, a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization out of Denver, Colorado.  Jen is also a proud Patriot Boot Camp alumna class of 2013. Jen recently worked as a senior strategist for Crosby Marketing Communications in Annapolis, Maryland before accepting the role of CEO of Patriot Boot Camp.

Prior to Crosby, Jen was the Founder and CEO of Strategic Military Communications, LLC and MilitaryOneClick, which provided daily content, online resources, and a social media community for millions of military and veteran families around the world. In less than 3 years, went from an idea to rank among the Top 20,000 websites in the United States, while attracting advertising partnerships with companies such as USAA, Amazon, General Motors, La Quinta Inns & Suites, MetLife and Starbucks.

Jen is also the creator of MilSpouseFest, the largest series of events for military spouses held across the country that attracted thousands and sponsored by USAA. Jen oversaw the successful acquisition of MilitaryOneClick and MilSpouseFest in 2015 and remained as the CEO until exiting the company in 2017.  Jen was honored as the first Patriot Boot Camp successful exit for her company, MilitaryOneClick.

Jen is an alumni for the USAA Influencer Program, and alumni for the Inc. Magazine Military Entrepreneur Program. She is a founding Board member of the MyVA Department of Veteran Affairs of Washington D.C. and serves on the board of The Columbia Lighthouse for the Blind.

Jen’s husband, Ed Pilcher, is (still 23+ years) active duty Navy and their children, Katie is a sophomore, and Griffin is in seventh grade.  They have two english bulldog rescues, who are currently eating their way through their home.

Patriot Boot Camp Appoints Jen Pilcher as Chief Executive Officer

Proud Alumna, Pilcher, To Lead Expansion and Strategic Direction for Future Programming

ANNAPOLIS, MD –  January 16, 2019
Patriot Boot Camp (PBC), a 501(c)(3) non-profit exclusively aimed at empowering service members, veterans, and military spouse entrepreneurs to start and grow technology companies, today announced the appointment of Jen Pilcher as Chief Executive Officer.

Pilcher, spouse of an active duty Navy Officer, and alumna of Patriot Boot Camp’s 2013 core 3-day program, will assume the role of CEO effective immediately, driving the expansion and strategic direction of the company’s future programming. Pilcher founded MilitaryOneClick, LLC a military-focused tech startup in 2012 and her participation in Patriot Boot Camp’s 3-Day program in 2013 at George Washington University equipped her with the resources and mentors she needed to scale her business. “It was the best business decision I ever made,” said Pilcher.

In her new role as CEO, Pilcher will spearhead the development of an improved strategic direction for Patriot Boot Camp programs. Through her work, Pilcher will continue to advance entrepreneurship in the military community throughout the United States, starting with Patriot Boot Camp’s upcoming core 3-day program in Austin, Texas, sponsored by USAA and the Jared Polis Foundation, taking place February 8 – 10th on USAA and Google campuses.  

“As a proud PBC alumna, I have first-hand experience knowing that there is a major gap in resources for military veteran and spouse entrepreneurs,” said Pilcher. “There is a tremendous opportunity to create a community to help these veterans and military spouses build and scale their own businesses and I am looking forward to leading PBC as we equip the next generation of the military community with the resources, mentorship and opportunities they need to build successful tech businesses.”

Pilcher most recently served as a senior strategist for Crosby Marketing Communications in Annapolis, Maryland. Prior to Crosby she was the founder and CEO of Strategic Military Communications, LLC and MilitaryOneClick, which provided daily content, online resources and a social media community for millions of military and veteran families around the world. In 2015, Pilcher’s company, MilitaryOneClick, was acquired and became the first successful exit for a Patriot Boot Camp alum.

“We are thrilled to have PBC alum and successful entrepreneur Jen Pilcher take the helm at this exciting time for PBC as we look to expand our efforts to support military community tech entrepreneurs,” said David Calone, Patriot Boot Camp’s Board Chair. “We also would like to thank Josh Carter for his incredible work and dedication while serving as PBC’s interim CEO over the past year.”

For more information on Patriot Boot Camp, please visit or email

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 core 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. In collaboration with the Techstars national accelerator community, 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.


New Year's Resolutions for Startups

The holidays are over. Christmas trees are being left on curbs for recycling, New Year’s revelries are over, thank you notes are being penned, kids are back in school (three cheers from all parents!) and it’s back to work for most folks. 

During all the chaos of the season, did you stop and think about your 2019 objectives?  New Year’s is a great time to set a few goals and plan for an awesome year ahead, like more sleep, more quality time with family, and more yoga. What else can we all do to turn the year of the pig into a banner one! Are you a stalwart who sticks to it or do you need some inspo? Liz Deering, PBC mentor and co-founder of The Un.Inc., recommends you start by checking in with yourself.

“Ask yourself if you have set personal goals that help you stay healthy and motivated,” said Deering. “This might be as simple as a re-commitment to the gym, or alone time you need to block off for yourself.”

Like my mother who always seemed to have a few for my brother, father, and I, we have a few others for you!

Read more!  Have you subscribed to AmericanInno? It’s a great site chock full of startup and tech ecosystem news, event updates and more. PBC alumni have been featured in the weekly newsletter so it’s great for PR. There is a beat currently for Atlanta, Austin, Boston, Chicago, Cincinnati, Colorado, DC, Minnesota, Rhode Island, Richmond, and Wisconsin.

Rock your Pitch! Have you worked on your pitch recently? Chloe Kettell, Co-founder and CEO of PolyPort, a 3D asset protection platform iterates on her pitch all the time. Is it time to re-tool it or add some graphics? Just say no to clip art and instead, choose a retro-inspired design or colorful product displays.

Declutter! Too much stuff has been shown to negatively impact mental well-being and is also closely linked with procrastination. Will McKenna from Barokas PR said it’s high-time he takes this advice to heart.

“My work resolution this year was to start by organizing my inbox and de-cluttering,” said McKenna, who also suggests folks reach out to mentors, or previous co-workers/clients, for a coffee to reconnect.

Connect and communicate! No news is worse than bad news, especially when it comes to communicating with your investors. Mentor Steve Meyer says that unfortunately, mind-reading is not on his resume. “Mentors want to know how they can help but it’s up to the founder to communicate that,” said Meyer. The same holds true with prospects and customers.  “Most everyone understands the need to communicate when developing sales but don’t forget about customer service after the sale,” said Meyer.  “It is always cheaper to 
retain a customer and develop them into a referral resource than it is to find a new customer.”

Reflect. Bill Gates is famously NOT big on New Year’s Resolutions. “Although I have never been one for New Year’s resolutions, I have always been committed to setting clear goals and making plans to achieve them,” wrote Gates in a recent blog post. “As I get older, these two things look more and more like the same exercise.” 

“So I am making a resolution for 2019. I am committing to learn and think about two key areas where technology has the potential to make an enormous impact on the quality of our lives, but also raises complex ethical and social considerations,” wrote Gates.

John Hrivnak, Director, Investment Funds & Venture Acceleration for Rev1 Ventures has a similar suggestion.

“Spend 5 minutes once a day thinking about your “Why,’” said Hrivnak. “Why is your business important? Why do you believe in it? Why should someone else believe in it?”

The Patriot Boot Camp team wishes all of you success this year and we look forward to continue sharing all the awesome news and updates from you!


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.

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


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.


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 for the next hackathon.


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


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!