With unique skill sets and experience in a variety of fields, veterans are equipped to inspire changes in the world with exciting innovations. But not every veteran has the option to enroll in an MBA program to learn the stages of how to get a new business off the ground – a gap that a new program developed at the Rady School of Management aims to fill.
To support veterans embarking on entrepreneurial journeys, the Rady School of Management joined forces with the UC San Diego Basement, an entrepreneurial center on campus, to create Veteran Ventures, an accelerator geared toward helping veterans turn business ideas into functioning enterprises.
Vish Krishnan, faculty advisor of Veteran Ventures and professor at the Rady School of Management, worked with Mike Hayden (MBA ’15) and Brianna Weisinger, a UC San Diego Startup Advocate, to develop courses suited to the needs of veteran entrepreneurs. The program, which is free of charge was developed to assist veterans at all levels of entrepreneurship, from an initial idea to a fully formed concept.
Launched in April, the accelerator program recently wrapped up its initial cohort, graduating 24 participants with business ideas ranging from enhanced cybersecurity technology to better ways to deliver healthcare.
“Veterans have given our country and their communities so much, so we see this as a way to give back to them,” Krishnan said. “We wanted to develop a program that was beneficial and free of charge for veterans not just at UC San Diego, but in our community.”
Throughout the ten-week program, participants come to campus to participate in courses with topics such as idea development and business model discovery and definition. With a strong emphasis on mentorship and training, Veteran Ventures has enlisted a talented group of successful San Diego Veterans and professionals to help the participants throughout the process. Talent and experienced mentors, including Richard Coleman, Colonel USMC Retired and co-founder of Optimal Veteran Enterprises; Matt Harper, Commander USN Retired and COO of Think Tank Innovation; and J.D. Davids, Sargent USMC Veteran and Founder of SmartMoneyStartups all bring diverse skills and backgrounds to advance and assist in idea generation, business development and funding.
“We have some amazing, dedicated and successful veteran and civilian mentors that selflessly integrate and support our Veteran Ventures members,” Hayden said. “The mentorship doesn’t stop once the program is over – we continue to work with the veterans to help support them and continue to build their businesses.”
In addition to top-notch support and mentorship, participants have the opportunity to earn funding for viable ventures.
“Thanks to state grant money and private donations, we are able to provide teams that have proven viable ideas with some initial startup funding,” Hayden added.
The program culminates with a pitch to potential investors, followed by an idea contest with the opportunity to win funding for the best innovations.
The success of the initial cohort and amount of positive feedback from participants set the stage for the program to continue. Veteran Ventures is currently supporting a new group of eager veterans with exciting ideas for future commercial opportunities.
“Veteran Ventures at UC San Diego has been a great way for me to practice pitching my idea and listen to others pitch their ideas,” said Robert Sweetman (MBA ’19), Navy Petty officer. “The network of mentors gives us professional feedback and a resource for improvement. The networking within VV has already opened up several doors. When I first arrived at Veteran Ventures at UC San Diego, I did not have a solid plan. Now, with the mentorship, our funding award, and space to grow, I feel like we have hit a major mile marker for our business.”
Would you like the opportunity to attend the next Veteran Ventures at UC San Diego? Sign up now for the April 2018 cohort: http://goo.gl/AWBzNp