A global pandemic and economic aftershocks have felt like a series of events strung together, happening all at once. For the businesses that have survived, they’ve done so by utilizing banking relationships, cutting costs, going virtual and being distributed. The economy might have accelerated technology, it has also surfaced the pre-existing conditions of unequal distribution of opportunity. If entrepreneurs have been forced to adapt, then so should the support systems, organizations, and investors that want to assist them.
It’s now apparent, more than ever, that many things should change when it comes to the entrepreneurship landscape, especially fundraising. One way to ensure diverse founders, including military veterans, can grow and be profitable is more optionality in funding and resources for mentorship, education, and network connectivity.
Many development programs teach how to code, incubators guide promising ideas, and accelerators invest in companies to scale up. However, there are critical voids. Many programs don’t quickly verify ideas or validate if the entrepreneur’s business model is sustainable or investable. The latter is even more crucial for most that raising outside capital is imperative for them to meet the demand of a mass audience.
Bespoke programming tailored to veterans’ life situations can offer better alignment for their business models and who they’re trying to target among other aspects. Below are several ways that organizations can do to drive veteran entrepreneurship forward in a post-pandemic world:
- Extend entrepreneurial support systems to veteran entrepreneurs online.
- Increase capital and training for veteran entrepreneurs through programming.
- Create neighborhood-based support ecosystems in major hubs for veteran-owned businesses in cities with a military density like Washington, D.C., San Antonio, Texas, and Seattle, Washington.
- Link business schools, entrepreneur support organizations, economic development corporations, and military & governmental agencies to the participants.
- Access to capital through loans, grants, non-dilutive capital, and investments at a local and national scale.
- Provide education to increase participant’s revenue, profitability, new hires, and growth.
- Offer platforms designed around making intentional connections.
In a time that founders can feel isolated, programs are helping fill this void. The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) recently expanded a program to link U.S. investors to new tech. “The program pairs a venture capitalist with DARPA contractors who want to market new technologies developed with agency funding. They help them write business plans and market themselves to U.S. venture capitalists,” said Deputy Director Peter Highnam. Highnam continued saying, “Some $110 million was raised by 30 startups during the pilot program, resulting in 12 joint development agreements.” Due to tremendous early success, the entrepreneurship initiative will be growing from pilot program to a “full on campaign.”
By streamlining resources, military veterans will focus on growing their businesses with the confidence and clarity of highly concentrated support. Closing the opportunity gap for veteran businesses will transform their lives and the lives of those they hire. Through education, access to capital, and networks, we can build a new system for veterans that have been previously excluded from participating in the upside risks of entrepreneurship.