Hofstra Launches $100,000 Veterans Entrepreneurship Contest

Hofstra Veterans Venture Challenge is among richest pitch contests for U.S. vets

Hofstra University’s Center for Entrepreneurship is launching a $100,000 pitch competition for military veterans that will provide access to experienced mentors, an entrepreneurship bootcamp and seed capital for their startups.

The Hofstra Veterans Venture Challenge is a partnership of the Center for Entrepreneurship, the Hesselbirg Family and the United States Veterans Chamber of Commerce. It is one of the most ambitious entrepreneurship contests for retired servicemembers in the nation.

Kevin
Hesselbirg, an entrepreneur-in-residence at Hofstra’s Center for
Entrepreneurship, and a retired three-time CEO of growth-oriented technology
businesses, said: “I was first given the opportunity to be a CEO when promoted
by Coleman Fung, the founder of OpenLink, where I experienced firsthand the
tremendous impact that can be achieved from a great idea and lot of hard work.”

“When I was
looking for an opportunity to give back, I wanted to invest in something that
would create opportunities for veterans who have given so much to our country,”
Hesselbirg said. “The program is designed to help foster a supportive,
educational environment such that entrepreneurs have the best opportunity to
flourish and generate a multiplier effect across the community.”

“I am
grateful for the support of Hofstra and the U.S. Veterans Chamber of Commerce,”
he added. “We came together to craft a unique program, which we anticipate will
launch many veteran startups for years to come.”

There is no
charge to enter the contest, and unlike many other veteran entrepreneur
competitions, the Hofstra challenge provides both in-kind services, such as
mentoring, and substantial seed capital.

“Long Island is an important market
for veterans and veteran-entrepreneurship training,” said Michael Zacchea,
executive director of the U.S. Veterans Chamber of Commerce. “Hofstra has taken
a leading role in veteran entrepreneurship in New York and nationally. The
United States Veterans Chamber of Commerce is extremely pleased to be able to
support Hofstra University’s Hofstra Veterans Venture Challenge program in bringing
business startup opportunities to America’s most recent generation of combat
veterans.

A November 2018 study by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York found that veterans have a harder time getting access to capital for business startups. Veteran entrepreneurs submitted more loan applications, and were approved for loans less often, than their non-veteran counterparts. They also were more likely to be deemed a high credit risk, the study found.

“The new Hofstra Veterans Venture Challenge will
provide veteran entrepreneurs access to educational tools, funding, mentorship and
product development resources through the Center for Entrepreneurship and our
partner, the United States Veterans Chamber of Commerce,” said Stacey Sikes,
executive dean of Entrepreneurship and Business Development at Hofstra.

“We have worked with several veteran-owned
companies, and they have demonstrated great leadership skills, discipline, team
building, and risk management, which are essential qualities of successful
entrepreneurs,” Sikes said.  “We are now able to expand our services to
veterans and thank our long-time Entrepreneur-in-Residence Kevin Hesselbirg for
his support and commitment to this program.”

Applications
will be accepted through Feb. 29, 2020. The contest is open to veterans
nationwide, spouses of veterans and members of Gold Star families.

Twenty
finalists will be chosen in March 2020. Finalists will participate in virtual
mentorship sessions and an online course offered in partnership with Hofstra
Continuing Education between April and June, culminating in an entrepreneurship
bootcamp at Hofstra June 15-19, 2020 and the pitch contest on June 19.  Finalists will have access to networking
opportunities with angel investors during the bootcamp. All housing costs for
the bootcamp will be paid for by the Venture Challenge.

For more information about the competition, including rules and application, go to hofstra.edu/veteranschallenge.

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