Scaling businesses within the veteran ecosystem

Derren Burrell
Guest Author

We must continue to seek out, invest in, and support the most resourceful, determined, and experienced entrepreneurs: our Nation’s veterans.

Veteran-owned businesses have been historically important to the U.S. economy, but there’s limited understanding of their impact. The approximately 2.5 million veteran-owned businesses in America represent 9.1% of all U.S. businesses. These generate over $1 trillion in revenue and employ 6 million Americans annually. Despite this, there has been a steady decrease in the number of startups founded by veterans in recent years – a trend that Veteran Ventures Capital is committed to reversing.

We must continue to seek out, invest in, and support the most resourceful, determined, and experienced entrepreneurs: our Nation’s veterans.

Numerous studies show that the principles learned in the military are strongly correlated to business success. These factors are both deeply embedded in our Nation’s military and essential in starting and scaling successful businesses:

  • Acute decision making in a time-constrained environment
  • Independence, confidence, and high self-efficacy
  • Skilled problem-solving techniques
  • A structured approach to process management
  • Adaptability in everchanging environments
  • Proactive leadership perfected in crisis and the ability to thrive under pressure
  • Razor-sharp mission focus
  • Integrity and discipline

While many veterans possess the essential traits linked to business growth and prosperity, there are two primary limiting factors in why veteran-owned businesses fail to succeed: lack of access to capital and inadequate networks.

A 2018 study by the Small Business Administration and the Federal Reserve Bank of New York reported veteran businesses have less access to capital than other businesses. And the 2021 National Survey of Military Affiliated Entrepreneurs also revealed that access to capital is still the top barrier facing new and existing veteran-owned businesses. This issue remains a priority in the veteran ecosystem, and rightly so.

Additionally, organizations such as Veterans of Foreign Wars, American Legion, and AMVETS that provide veterans with a network and community largely focused on the past experiences of like-minded veterans, which is needed in keeping that esprit de corps. However, these groups offer limited opportunities to support veterans in starting businesses and providing them with the tools to succeed in the private sector.

In recent years, we’ve seen a shift from focusing on past experiences toward a more connected, forward-looking effort to aid veterans in their transition to the private sector, particularly in the area of entrepreneurship.

The Bush Institute’s Stand-To Veteran Leadership Program offers unique resources in this regard, providing those who serve our Nation’s veterans the opportunity to network and expand relationships throughout the country across diverse disciplines. Another example of an organization providing excellent transition support to veterans is Bunker Labs, which provides community, programs, and courses to help military veterans and military spouses start and grow successful businesses. These types of networks leverage the leadership traits that veterans bring to the table and help connect them to successful business owners with a “rising tide” mentality. Below are some of the organizations that have become invaluable resources towards providing capital, incubation, and business development for veterans, and the list continues to grow each year.

At Veteran Ventures, we have seen this connected community work toward the success of the companies in which we have invested. Through various military-affiliated partnerships, we’ve helped several firms hire key personnel, double and triple sales, refine go-to-market strategies, negotiate key agreements with Fortune 500 firms, secure millions of dollars in additional funding for operations, and build strong connections to DoD program offices and Federal agencies.

Results have been ironclad in each of our portfolio companies; they are rapidly growing with above-average returns both for the entrepreneur and the investor. Our investment thesis – veterans make great entrepreneurs – is proving to remarkable success. The greater the utilization of this new interconnected ecosystem for veteran entrepreneurs, the more we build relationships, increase capacity, and bring value to these firms.

Veteran Ventures Capital’s mission, in tandem with this military-connected community of support, is to see military service become the gateway to entrepreneurship. We are fully vested in generating a pathway for transitioning veterans and demonstrating the military’s critical role in preparing those who defended our Nation to succeed in the private sector.