Military Veterans Become Tech Entrepreneurs with new program from NYU School of Engineering

NYU School of Engineering Graduates First VET Program Class; Applications for Fall Session Now Being Accepted

The first class of U.S. military veterans graduated today from a new program that helps veterans become entrepreneurs and find opportunities in New York City’s rapidly growing technology-based innovation economy.

Combining both academic and real-world lessons, the Veteran Entrepreneur Training (VET) program was developed by NYU Polytechnic School of Engineering with support from the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce and funding secured by New York State Assemblyman Joseph R. Lentol. The VET program offers veterans a hands-on technology and business curriculum and mentorship to help them transition into the technology industry to launch potential ventures and careers.

At the demo day and graduation ceremony for the 14 veterans of the first cohort, the NYU School of Engineering and Brooklyn Chamber announced that in response to demand, they will accelerate the start of the next VET class to this fall, with funding secured by Assemblyman Lentol.

Keynote speaker for the event was New York City Mayor’s Office of Veterans Affairs (MOVA) Commissioner Loree Sutton, M.D., U.S. Army brigadier general (retired).

“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,” said Commissioner Sutton.  “Under Mayor de Blasio’s leadership, MOVA is privileged to work closely with the Department of Small Business Services (SBS) to support veterans at its seven NYC Business Solutions Centers and through enrollment in the SBS Veterans Entrepreneurship Program.  I applaud Assemblyman Lentol, the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce, and NYU for their support in developing veteran entrepreneurs and am honored to participate in the inaugural Veteran Entrepreneurship Training Program Demo Day event.”

“The VET program gives our military veterans the tools they need to access and succeed in New York City’s booming technology sector,” said Kurt H. Becker, vice dean for research, innovation, and entrepreneurship at the NYU School of Engineering. “The NYU School of Engineering is grateful for the generous support of our partners, Assemblyman Lentol, and the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce, whose dedication to helping veterans sparked this effort. 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.”

Assemblyman Lentol said, “New York City, and especially Brooklyn, has become the new Silicon Valley. What better way to promote the tech business here in Brooklyn than to train and hire the most reliable workforce we have in Brooklyn–our veterans! These courageous veterans bravely defended us, and many of them have already been trained with highly technical skill sets. Why not put these skills to work and give our veterans the opportunities they deserve?  It’s not only the right thing to do; frankly, it’s the smartest thing to do. I am happy to join the NYU Polytechnic School of Engineering and the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce to continue training our veterans for the 21st century.”

“With nearly a quarter of a million veterans who call New York City home, it is crucial that we do everything we can to support the veteran community, not only to assist those who have bravely defended our country, but to further our economic growth as well,” said Brooklyn Chamber President and CEO Carlo A. Scissura. “The Brooklyn Chamber is proud support the VET program, and will continue our efforts to improve the lives of veterans through our Veterans Business Council. I applaud NYU, Assemblyman Joseph Lentol, and everyone who helped launch this program, and I look forward to seeing the incredible work that comes from it.”

The Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce will extend to all VET graduates a free one-year membership.

Derek Blumke, a U.S. Air Force veteran who participated in the program as co-founder of the mobile security platform called TripSafe, said, “NYU has realized the potential of those who have served our nation, and through this program, NYU is enabling military veterans to continue their service to this country through innovation, entrepreneurship, and growing our nation’s economy. The NYU VET program has enabled TripSafe to provide a sense of safety for individuals around the world.”

NYU School of Engineering embeds innovation and entrepreneurship into its academics and programs. It runs a growing network of three tech incubators in Brooklyn and Lower Manhattan and collaborates with other universities in a state-supported proof-of-concept center called PowerBridgeNY, which supports academic researchers as they become entrepreneurs. It recently graduated its 51st startup company from its incubator program—bringing the combined valuation of its graduate companies to $721 million.

The school drew from its innovative entrepreneurship programs to develop the VET Program. The free, 10-week course starts with five days of intensive classes followed by one-day-per-week classes and venture validation presentations. Classes and guest lectures cover a range of topics including prototyping, revenue models, accounting, marketing, and fundraising. The program concludes with two showcases, an internal presentation to the stakeholders of the program and local technology business leaders, and a public demonstration day.

Veterans accepted into the program work alongside startup companies at the school’s incubators during the entirety of the 10 weeks and receive a portfolio of resources to supplement the classes. Additionally, mentors and guest lecturers from across industries and professions support class participants as they develop their ideas into business ventures.

This summer’s cohort formed five teams to create business ventures. Teams that wish to continue to build their businesses will receive space at the NYU Incubators for an additional three months. The VET program businesses include

  • Core Leader: Develops leaders and builds teams. Designed by professionals with more than 30 years of military and executive coaching experience, Core Leader will elevate the performance of an organization with its action-learning coaching curriculum and a patent-pending, military-inspired modular obstacle course that can be brought to any location.

  • DaViniciBA Medical Revenue Solutions: This service offers private medical practices a faster and more efficient process to submit insurance claims. It helps customers go straight to a medical clearinghouse to speed reimbursements.

  • Pathfinder: This web platform encourages transparency and accountability in veteran services. It provides the mechanism for users to crowd source information and share experiences with each other, allowing veterans and civilian members of the support community to provide verified feedback on service organizations and programs.

  • Project Carbon: A game development platform for multidimensional strategy games. The primary audience is the mainstream gamer but variants will help researchers in their battle against Alzheimer's by allowing them to customize games for individual patient needs and to focus their research parameters to individual patients.

  • TripSafe: This portable security platform makes traveling safer and provides peace of mind for loved ones at a distance. The platform converts customers’ smartphones into portable security sensors. Upon an attempted intrusion, the phone notifies emergency response coordinators, signals the perpetrators they have been foiled, and notifies loved ones.

Applications for the fall course are due by September 21, 2015, and are available at Veteran Entrepreneur Training (VET) Program site. Each student admitted into the VET program is fully subsidized for all course fees.

The Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce is the largest and fastest-growing Chamber of Commerce in New York State. The Chamber was founded in 1918 to promote economic development across the borough and serve as an advocate for its member businesses.

Assemblyman Joseph R. Lentol has represented North Brooklyn in the New York State Legislature since 1972. He is a lifelong resident of New York City, whose father and grandfather both also served in the New York State Legislature. An attorney by profession, Mr. Lentol was Assistant District Attorney in Kings County prior to holding elective office. Since 1992, Mr. Lentol has been Chair of the Assembly’s Committee on Codes, which reviews and evaluates all criminal justice legislation in the State. He has been Chair of the Committee on Governmental Employees, which oversees the State’s pension and employee benefits. In that capacity, Mr. Lentol presided over the State’s divestiture of its pension fund’s investments in South Africa. He also chaired the Assembly’s Committee on Governmental Operations, which monitors the operations of State agencies and departments.

The Mayor's Office of Veterans' Affairs (MOVA) was established by local law 53 in 1987.  MOVA advises the Mayor on issues and initiatives impacting the veteran and military community.  MOVA works with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), the New York State Division of Veterans Affairs (NYSDVA), City Agencies, veteran's organizations and other stakeholders to offer services to veterans, their dependents and survivors; while encouraging innovative partnerships to ensure creative problem solving.

The NYU Polytechnic School of Engineering dates to 1854, when the NYU School of Civil Engineering and Architecture as well as the Brooklyn Collegiate and Polytechnic Institute (widely known as Brooklyn Poly) were founded. Their successor institutions merged in January 2014 to create a comprehensive school of education and research in engineering and applied sciences, rooted in a tradition of invention, innovation and entrepreneurship. In addition to programs at its main campus in downtown Brooklyn, it is closely connected to engineering programs in NYU Abu Dhabi and NYU Shanghai, and it operates business incubators in downtown Manhattan and Brooklyn.