Navigate Silicon Valley
Go to triangular compass
Left arrow

From Battlefield to Boardroom: 5 Tips for Veterans

Community Support
Community Support
June 28, 2017
Share on Twitter
Share on Facebook
Share on Linkedin
Copy Link

Stay Up to Date on American Grit

Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.

During my eight years of service in the Army, I learned how to accomplish missions with little to no resources, how to lead in stressful environments, and how to be savvy and creative as the situation dictates. It turns out these are precisely the traits that startups need, which should theoretically set veterans up for business success. However, the military does not provide its veterans with what I call “Silicon Valley” standards. In other words, veterans do not exit the military with the networks, mentors, and training required to ensure they are ready to leapfrog into the world’s technology mecca.

When I moved to Silicon Valley, I was ready to immerse myself into the heart of the scene, but I had no idea where to start.

What I soon learned is that the Bay Area (note: San Francisco is actually the place to be - Silicon Valley is technically the area between San Jose and San Francisco) requires a different set of skills and resources. All of my connections were military veterans - and most of them were well outside of Silicon Valley. I had nowhere to turn, no network to lean on, and no one to ask for advice.I found my way to Bunker Labs in 2016, and it was the tipping point of my entire career. Bunker Labs is a nationwide nonprofit organization supporting veterans who want to launch startups. Its leaders are military veterans themselves so they understand how hard it is to come home and restart your life. Their operations cover most of the country, but until last August, they had yet to expand to the Bay Area.

That’s where I came in. I spent my year at Bunker Labs as the Director of Growth Expansion - I recognized the need for the kind of network and community Bunker Labs provides in the booming Silicon Valley, and I filled it.

Here are five awesome organizations seeking to fill that void and get veterans the support they need to succeed in Silicon Valley and beyond:Bunker LabsVeterans often struggle with getting their ideas off the drawing board and into reality. That’s where Bunker Labs comes in. It’s a veteran-led community that’s completely devoted to helping other veterans succeed and was created specifically to support aspiring veteran entrepreneurs. Their founders know exactly how hard it is – they built the organization from a tiny community into the full-fledged network it is today. Their five in-depth programs, available both online and in-person, will walk you through the steps you need to build a successful and profitable company of your own. From learning the basic strategies of entrepreneurship to actually getting your business up and running, Bunker Labs is a necessity for veterans who have little to no experience in the tech industry.Vet-TechFor veterans who have already built a startup but do not quite know how to jumpstart its success, Vet-Tech is the perfect organization. An accelerator that can give your startup that extra boost it needs to take flight, they provide connections to other successful startups, funding for your business, and overall insight as to what will propel your company forward. They can take your startup to the next level, helping it grow into a thriving business that can compete with the best.Additionally, they leverage the combined power of Plug and Play and Founder Institute, two organizations that have both earned the title of “world’s largest.” Plug and Play is the world’s largest incubator, working out of a massive 180,000 square foot building. They house 300 corporate sponsors and 180 investment partners – an incredible network for veterans to learn from and connect with. The Founder Institute is the world’s largest early stage accelerator, covering more than 150 cities. They have already connected 7,000 mentors with 2,500 companies looking to get support – including Vet-Tech entrepreneurs.Stanford IgniteEssentially a mini MBA program, Stanford Ignite puts post--9/11 veterans on the fast track to a master’s degree. For $2,000 (including housing), veterans benefit from an accelerated education that gets them ready to take the tech world of Silicon Valley by storm. Veterans who complete the required 100 classroom hours and 100-150 project hours walk away with the knowledge and confidence needed to build a successful company of their own. Stanford is well-respected in the Bay Area and worldwide, so veterans coming from this program also benefit from the prestige this degree affords.ShiftShift keeps veterans up to date on what employment opportunities are available in Silicon Valley and beyond. Their weekly email is packed with job openings (tech and otherwise) that speak to a wide variety of interests and skills. The newsletter is tailored to each veteran’s specific needs, so there’s less sifting through postings and more applying – and hiring. They’ve partnered with some of the most well-known tech companies out there like Google, Apple, Amazon, Facebook, Uber, and Salesforce to give veterans the opportunity to work at large and stable corporations – not just startups.BreakLineFounded by Stanford grad Bethany Coates, BreakLine is a double whammy. Providing both education and employment at an affordable cost, it puts veterans on track to launch their post-military careers. With programs that exploit the skills veterans already have and build the ones they don’t, BreakLine seeks to make veterans the best possible candidates for the jobs for which they’re applying.Coates is no stranger to the employment struggles veterans face. In a previous role as the Assistant Dean of Stanford’s Graduate School, she specialized in global and social impact education around the world. During her time as Assistant Dean, Coates co-led a program that gave post-9/11 vets the entrepreneurship education they needed to excel in business. Now, at BreakLine, Coates has expanded the goals of her Stanford program to include getting these educated veterans employment.

None of these organizations exist in a vacuum, and veterans would do well to avail themselves of all of these opportunities.

From the networking communities of Bunker Labs and Vet-Tech to a Stanford education to the employment opportunities of Shift and BreakLine, a veteran involved in these programs is set up for success in the Silicon Valley tech world. More visibility is needed, however – it’s my mission to spread the word about these and other organizations that are paving the way for America’s next “Greatest Generation” to do incredible things.

send a letter to congress
Adds section
Next Up
No items found.