By Jules Miller
Originally published here on LinkedIn on September 7, 2017
After World War II almost half of veterans went on to start their own businesses, in large part because GI Bill from that era offered attractive low interest loans. Today only 4.5% of post-9/11 veterans have started a business, despite more than 25% expressing interest in starting their own business. Limited access to capital is cited as the major deterrent.
This latent need for funding has not gone unnoticed; the veteran community is waiting anxiously to see if The Veterans Entrepreneurial Transition Act (VET Act), originally proposed in 2015, will be passed by the new Congress. This Act would allow the SBA to conduct a 3-year pilot program for up to 250 veterans to use their GI Bill benefits as collateral for a loan to start a business, similar to the original post-WWII GI Bill.
“When I see veterans and talk to them, I see an entrepreneurial spirit there. That they have a lot of the makings it takes to be successful business-runners...We have an untapped resource of economic growth, of job creation, of GDP contribution in our veterans. We need to tap that resource."
-New Jersey Senator Cory Booker @ 2016 LunaCap Ventures Veteran Pitch Event
In addition to the uncertainty on public funding for veteran-owned businesses, there is very little private capital actively investing in veteran entrepreneurs. This is somewhat shocking, considering the data. There are more than 3 million veteran owned businesses in the US employing 5.8 million people, and generating more than $1 Trillion in sales. Veteran entrepreneurs are also 30% more likely to hire other veterans.
At LunaCap Ventures, investing in veterans is a core part of our thesis. In honor of our 2nd Annual Veteran Entrepreneur Pitch Event in NYC tonight, here’s why other investors should consider investing in veteran entrepreneurs too, according to the incredible veteran investors on our investment team.
PAUL CAPON - Managing Partner
Why you served? I entered the Air Force Academy in the summer of 2002, not too long after 9/11. For me, the service provided a chance to gain leadership experience, work with people from all different backgrounds and serve my country after a national tragedy. I knew that the military experience would be relevant to my future career, but I highly underestimated it’s impact as I built my businesses and found myself relying on many of the skills I developed in the Air Force.
Education: Air Force Academy/Columbia Business School/London Business School.
Service: Two tours in Afghanistan. Kandahar - Logistics lead for FOB build out for TK, Dwyer and Wolverine. Kabul - Convoy Commander and lead Embedded training team commander training the Afghanistan National Police.
Current affiliations: Co-Founder NYC Military Officers Association of America (MOAA) Chapter, CFA Society of New York’s Veteran Round Table member, Joint Service Academy Network (JSAN) NYC Air Force Lead, Air Force Reserves.
Why invest in veterans? Veterans are trained to be entrepreneurs. We know how to make tough decisions in an uncertain environment and build teams to reach a common objective - the hallmark skills necessary to build a successful company.
TIM KOPRA - Venture Partner
Why you served? I initially attended West Point knowing that it would provide me with a great education. I soon learned that training to serve as an Army officer would offer so much more. I began to understand the value of dedication to duty and service as a leader, lessons have been part of me throughout my career.
Education: West Point/Georgia Tech/US Army War College/Columbia Business School/London Business School.
Service: Army aviator, experimental test pilot and astronaut; 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), 3rd Armored Division - Desert Shield/Storm, Comanche Helicopter Program and NASA.
Current affiliations: 1836 Veterans - Combined Arms.
Why Invest in veterans? Veterans are mission-focused, team-oriented, know how to lead and will work tirelessly to get the job done.
RICARDO ANZALDUA - Principal
Why you served?
I come from a modest background and was an imperfect secondary student with limited aspirations. As I matured I corrected course, worked hard and eventually gained admission to Yale for my undergraduate education. I recognized and appreciated my good fortune, however I was not aware that my improbable story of upward mobility was simply impossible in most countries. After studying abroad in China and Central America, I realized I owe a great debt to our country for affording me the opportunity to succeed. Serving in the Marine Corps began my lifelong journey to repay it.
Education: Yale/Chicago Booth.
Service: Marine Corps Infantry Officer. Two tours in Afghanistan - Platoon Commander, 1st Battalion, 9th Marines in Marjah, Helmand Province, Afghan Army Advisor in Nimruz Province with II Marine Expeditionary Force.
Current affiliations: Bunker Labs Mentor, Veterati Mentor, Yale Veterans Association.
Why invest in veterans? Many veterans are intelligent, highly-trained and wield a more adaptable skill set than most civilian counterparts. Numerous well-intentioned managers want to hire veterans to thank us for our service, but this perspective is flawed. Skilled veterans do not need charity, they need opportunity. In the correct roles, veterans will add value beyond expectation.
OLIVER GARSTIN - MBA Associate
Why you served? I was 12 years old and living in New York City when the Towers fell in 2001. The attack devastated the city, and several of my family friends lost their lives. I was left with a deep desire to join the effort to rectify the wrongs that had been committed to the people of the United States. Growing up I was always fascinated by the Marine Corps; my older brother was a military history buff and when I was eight, he taught me about their core values and shared stories about some of their major battles. Ultimately, I was compelled to fulfill my childhood interest after the tragic events of 9/11.
Education: Boston University/Columbia Business School (2018).
Service: Marine Corps Infantry Officer with 3d Battalion, 2d Marines. Weapons Platoon Commander, deployed on the 26th MEU in support of OEF. I also had the privilege of leading a Combined Anti-Armor Team platoon.
Current Affiliations: Vice President of Columbia Business School’s Military in Business Association (MIBA) club, Service 2 School mentor, MOAA member.
Why invest in veterans? Veterans have the skillset necessary to adapt and succeed in almost any scenario. The business world may be a different setting, but the principles learned by veterans still apply. The ability to overcome uncertainty, make decisions with less than perfect information and win in challenging environments make veterans well-suited to start and run successful businesses.
Veterans - thank you for your service. We can't wait to see...and fund...the amazing companies you build next!