“The answer is always yes to the veteran community. If we want to host an event, if we need support, if we need a partner— Capital Factory is there to lend a hand,” noted Craig Cummings on November 12 at Capital Factory’s Veterans in Tech Summit in Austin. Despite the frosty Texas weather, over 100 entrepreneurs and tech professionals gathered to discuss relevant topics such as transitioning to a role in tech after service, leadership traits, and translating a veteran’s valuable experience in the startup world.
Approaching Leadership as a Veteran
During our Keynote Fireside Chat, Kelly Perdew, Managing General Partner at Moonshots Capital, delved into the importance of setting high standards and also the specific qualities that investors and VC’s look for in entrepreneurs. Sabrina Wojtewicz, Southwest Regional Executive Director at Bunker Labs, moderated the session and began by asking Kelly about how one can make their MVP (minimum viable product) impeccable.
“Delivering something at a very high standard lets me know that you think it’s important enough to have done it correctly. When you’re operating with a team, which you have to do as an entrepreneur, the level of your game impacts everyone else that’s around you,” Kelly explained. He also noted that building a functional team is crucial— if you can understand what you do well and surround yourself with people that help you in areas where you don’t feel as confident, that’s very telling of your leadership abilities.
According to Kelly, it’s clear that military leadership helps people become good business leaders. His book, Take Command, talks in-depth about applying military leadership principles to entrepreneurship and building your business. He specifically focuses on the importance of perseverance, planning, integrity, technical and tactical proficiency, and being able to speak in pixel-level detail about your company.
— Moonshots Capital (@MoonshotsCap) November 13, 2019
Service, Startups & Tech: A Veteran’s Military Transition
David Porter, Department of Defense Account Executive at Microsoft, moderated a fireside chat with Beau Oliver, Vice President at Booz Allen Hamilton, and dived into the strenuous journey from military to civilian life. Beau shared, “You go from a world you understand very well, doing a mission that you’ve trained incredibly for, into an area where you’re missing functional and industry expertise.” Although he was discouraged by having a PhD in Aviation that is no longer applicable to his career, Beau set out to network as much as possible and ask for help when needed throughout his transition.
If you’re a veteran who’s looking to integrate into a business like Booz Allen Hamilton or Microsoft, Beau revealed that these companies value technical skills, consulting expertise, and a deep understanding of the mission. If there are skill sets that you need to learn, keep working on filling those gaps and sit with someone to ask about things you don’t know; this could be in the form of a partner, an advisor, or a mentor.
When asked by David Porter of @Microsoft what his experience working with startups was like, @TheBeauOliver of @BoozAllen said “the biggest thing is working hard to keep a foot in that door.” pic.twitter.com/5IFXYD0gpU
— Capital Factory Vets (@CFVeterans) November 12, 2019
Social Impact in Service and in Tech
Four experienced panelists gathered to discuss how they found impactful ways to serve their community in roles within the tech industry that are similar to what they accomplished in the military. Moderator Jenny DuFresnse, CEO of Leadership Training at DuFresne Solutions Group, opened the panel by stating, “social impact is simply: having a mission.” However, there’s a gap between a mission in the military compared to one in the public sector.
What were the actions you had to take to define what you were looking for in a mission-focused company?
Nathan Tacha, Anti-Fraud Data Analyst and Researcher at Google, said he’s been lucky to stumble into great companies such as National Instruments, who have a strong mission-focus. He then became interested in Trust and Safety at Google, “It took me many years and different roles to stumble onto that— fighting abuse online is the kind of mission that gets me excited.”
Cassandra McGinnis, Deputy Director of Operations at Army Applications Lab (AAL), is currently serving and hasn’t become an entrepreneur yet, but she’s proud of the mission at AAL: enabling soldiers to dominate the battlefield. She explained, “We’re looking for tech startups and small businesses to leverage commercial technology for the army’s problems.”
Andrew Mawdsley, Directory of Strategy at Vrbo part of Expedia group, mentioned that you feel like you won’t find the same sense of higher purpose when you leave active duty. After starting off his transition into tech, he began to “recognize that, just like in the Marines or any service, you’re dealing with people.” He learned that you don’t have to nail your career on the first job you get out of service, but it’s crucial to gain experience that’ll help on your journey.
Marcus Carey, Enterprise Architect at ReliaQuest, said, “In building a company, I always wanted it to have a positive impact on the community.” He recommends reading Good to Great and Built to Last— which talks about the process of discovering what an organization’s mission is, and how everyone can come together to build that and make it a reality. In the military you serve the country, and on the outside Marcus feels just as proud when serving the community.
— Charlie Browning (@CharlieNB) November 12, 2019
Epic Office Hours & Elevating Underrepresented Voices
For those that aren’t familiar, Epic Office Hours are a series of lightning-speed mentoring sessions that pair startup founders with serial entrepreneurs, corporate executives, and investors. Attendees receive a curated schedule of meetings based on various factors including stage and industry. This is a great opportunity to connect with the local entrepreneurial community and receive valuable feedback on your venture.
For those not participating in Epic Office Hours, Marissa Limsiaco and Christy Abizaid led a session on the importance of providing opportunities to underrepresented voices in the tech community, as well as guiding veterans to leverage their military experience.
Marissa, President and Co-Founder at Tenavox, described her breakthroughs as a woman entering the system. She admitted, “I was not confident at all going into this role, not knowing much about being a CEO and walking into rooms with industry experts that are a different demographic than me— and most aren’t veterans.” She had to learn how to present the valuable skill set she brought to the table as a veteran.
Christy, Vice President of Supply Chain Sustainability at Dell, added that a veteran’s experience is a commodity. However, she told veterans that they will have to translate for employers in order to make their experience relevant to their world. “There aren’t enough veterans in leadership and decision-making positions in the corporate world to make that connection for themselves,” Christy explained. Both Marissa and Christy concluded that entrepreneurship comes to veterans naturally— after all, they are bred to thrive in environments of uncertainty.
Five Founders that are Making an Impact in Tech
We closed out the day with a showcase featuring five founders who pitched their startups for a chance to win an in-person meeting with a partner at Moonshots Capital, a recording session to be featured on Capital Factory’s Austinpreneur podcast, and a $5,000 cash prize.
The founders who pitched were:
- Lamarque Polvado with CareStarter. They help pediatric healthcare professionals focus on medical mysteries by delivering compassion, inspiration, and resources to kids and their families.
- Bill Alderson with HOPZERO. As an enterprise-focused internet security company, HOPZERO offers application and network protection in a simple, elegant manner.
- Chris Feola with LRN. LRN is a blockchain-based marketplace for educators to rent, buy, and subscribe to high-quality educational content that compensates content creators and educators fairly.
- Gregg Alvarez with MyHouseby. They offer a modern, simpler way to design and bring your dream home to life.
- Peter Baek with Vigilant Labels. They provide an improved process for medication labeling and documentation to ensure optimal patient safety in hospitals and surgery centers.
After hearing their impressive pitches, our judges deliberated and ultimately decided that the winner was…CareStarter!
Stay Tuned for Important Discussions in 2020
“I’m always inspired by meeting military veteran entrepreneurs and feeding their passion. Capital Factory’s Veterans in Tech Summit was a perfect storm of talent and inspiration. I was honored to be able to speak to the group, and I’m excited to see them all execute on their vision!” commented our Keynote speaker, Kelly Perdew, Managing General Partner at Moonshots Capital.
Capital Factory was honored to present two Veterans in Tech Summits this year– one in Austin and one in Dallas/Fort Worth. We look forward to continuing these conversations with the veteran community across Texas in 2020. Stay connected with us through our Austin Tech Live or Dallas Tech Live mailing lists and follow us @CFDefense and @CFVeterans for updates.