Veteran Entrepreneur Training program graduates first class

By Lexi Faunce , Deputy News Editor

In an effort to expand the career opportunities of retired servicemen and women, the Polytechnic School of Engineering graduated the first class of its Veteran Entrepreneur Training program on August 13.

The VET program caters to former military personnel with a passion for entrepreneurship who are looking to transition out of the armed forces and into the growing technology industry.

The program is a stand-alone initiative and does not specifically target veterans who are NYU students, but instead recruits applicants from a general population of retired service members who want to turn an idea into a business.

Loree Sutton, New York City Mayor’s Office of Veterans Affairs commissioner and keynote speaker at the graduation ceremony, said her experience as a former U.S. Army brigadier general gave her insight as to why retired veterans have the skills needed to launch potential business ventures.

“Veterans are natural entrepreneurs, given their extensive experience in adapting, improvising and overcoming adversity in a diverse range of settings, including combat, disaster response/humanitarian relief, global peacekeeping and other demanding missions involving complex leadership and managerial challenges,” Sutton said.

The VET program’s first summer class accepted 14 out of 25 initial applicants into the free 10-week course. To accompany in-class lectures, students worked alongside start-up companies based out of the Poly Incubators. The course concluded with two separate showcases, a presentation for private investors of the program and a public demonstration day.

Five business ventures — Core Leader, DaViniciBA Medical Revenue Solutions, Pathfinder, Project Carbon and TripSafe — were formed from this summer’s cohort. Among the companies are a game development platform to help research Alzheimer’s and a website allowing veterans to provide feedback on various service organizations. The businesses will be given three months to continue work in the Poly Incubators while the next cohort of entrepreneurs will begin classes this fall.

Assemblyperson Joseph Lentol, who worked alongside the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce to help secure funding for the course, said more programs need to be established to proactively utilize the business talents of veterans.

“The skills that were learned by you in this room about being a leader, about having skills to fight in combat and fighting for what you believe in, that’s what it’s like in the street, that’s what it’s like in business, and that’s what it means to be an entrepreneur,” Lentol said.

Kurt Becker, vice dean for research, innovation and entrepreneurship at Poly, said he was grateful for the support of the community in helping fund the VET program. Becker added that courses that accommodate to the needs of veterans are essential for incorporating former troops back into civilian life.

“The VET program gives our military veterans the tools they need to access and succeed in New York City’s booming technology sector,” Becker said. “With our school’s expertise in helping entrepreneurs launch successful tech businesses, combined with our partners’ support and the fortitude of our veterans, this program creates meaningful opportunities and ventures.”

A version of this article appeared in the Saturday, August 29, print edition. Email Lexi Faunce at [email protected]