Many believe there are serious issues with the economy and the trajectory of our two concurrent wars. Unfortunately, these two headline concerns come together to affect veterans more profoundly than the average American; the unemployment rate among young veterans (30%) is just short of double that of comparable non-veterans ages 18-24. How do you counteract this phenomenon and harness the power of disciplined young people who have served their country? Venture Capital seems to be part of the answer.
National Public Radio (NPR) had a story on Morning Edition about a Milwaukee, WI based group called VETransfer ((http://vetransfer.org/)) that is focused on helping veterans start their own businesses. ((http://www.npr.org/2011/10/25/141092122/a-business-incubator-gives-funding-and-jobs-to-vets)) The VETransfer program utilizes a huge (13,000+) network of volunteer experts to help its start-ups with a variety of services including connecting owners with financing and management assistance. The stated goal is “to teach veterans how to become entrepreneurs and assisting them to accelerate veteran owned innovations.” The group has 15,000 sq ft of space for collaboration, meetings, and organization, and a few small businesses that have been incubated by the program have plans to hire other veterans as part of their company expansion plans. One of the initial grants ($3 million) came from the Department of Veterans Affairs, but there are a number of other private sector supporters as well.
This isn’t “venture capital” solving the problem, but it is the ideas behind venture capital that are helping to attack the root of a problem. The military prepares young men and women for productive lives, but right now they seem stranded once they get home. Now, with some assistance from the government in the form of what looks like a block grant, there is some hope for these veterans and the power of the private sector is taking over. The venture model is serving as the self-help mechanism that the nation needs to attack the problem of veteran unemployment, and it is truly a great thing to see. Hopefully we will see more of it.
Joseph R. Morrison, Jr.
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