Spotlight on Veterans Future Lab Director James Hendon

Back in 2016, James Hendon became one of an early crop of participants in NYU Tandon’s Veteran Entrepreneurship Training (VET) initiative, a 12-week program that had been launched the previous year to provide support for those who wanted to transition from military life to the startup ecosystem. He commented then on the commonalities between his former life and the path on which he was embarking, saying, “Being a young entrepreneur can feel like being in a foxhole. But our instructors and mentors are right there with us, so that’s an enormous help.”

A 2002 graduate of West Point whose Army service record includes time as a Mortar Platoon Leader and Battalion Public Affairs Officer to Iraq (2005) and Senior Advisor to the Afghan Border Police in Afghanistan (2007-2009), among other such vital posts, Hendon added another title to his CV after completing the program: Founder and CEO of Energy Economic Development, a company whose goal is to promote community-scale renewable energy consumption, manage energy efficiency retrofit projects, and create green jobs.

Now, just two years later, Hendon’s CV includes a whole new role as well: he is the founding director of Tandon’s Veterans Future Lab — an incubator that opened in late 2017 solely for ventures launched by U.S. military veterans, veterans’ spouses, and others affiliated with the Department of Defense. In that capacity, he guides participants in transitioning to gratifying lives as entrepreneurs, just as he has done in recent years.

A drilling U.S. Army Reservist and NYC Lead for the 75th Innovation Command, Hendon was also recently tapped by Mayor Bill de Blasio to serve on the city’s 11-member Veterans Advisory Board, which includes representatives of various military branches and eras of service who stand at the ready to give their perspective and wisdom on the issues facing New York City’s veterans and their families.

While the average person might find taking on so many roles daunting, Hendon is driven by his commitment to service and determination to give back to his community and country. “There is absolutely no reason in the world why you cannot make an impact in some way, shape, or form,” he has said. “The only thing stopping you from helping to create a better tomorrow is you.”

James Hendon at VFL launch

Learn more about Veterans Future Lab

The Veterans Future Lab, located in Brooklyn’s Sunset Park neighborhood, houses early stage businesses led by military veterans and contains a prototyping space available to the public via membership.

A Marine on a Mission

Spotlight on a Veteran Entrepreneur: Donna Sanders

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The mission of Social Solar is to empower consumers to make clean energy decisions easier, faster, and with increased peace-of-mind. Founded by Donna Sanders, a U.S. Marine with a decade of active duty and reserve service, the company curates highly respected energy suppliers at the best prices, customizes plans for its subscribers, and ensures that their monthly energy usage is optimized using artificial intelligence.

Sanders, who achieved the rank of captain in the financial management, nuclear, biological, and chemical warfare specialties of the Marines, is also a certified energy auditor with the Association of Energy Engineers and a 2016 Environmental Defense Fund Climate Corp Fellow. She has worked on sustainability projects in China, Hong Kong, and the United States, and is now happy to be a tenant at the VFL.