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Bet on a Vet?

Please forgive that this has a longer than typical preamble. Many of my readers know Ryan in one of his many roles in the startup community without knowing just how many of those roles there are. I fear without context I may cause them confusion.

Ryan Micheletti leads global operations at Founder Institute as well as their program for veterans. They are currently offering a fellowship for veterans, and that is a story for another day. Ryan is himself a vet and has put his heart and soul into helping companies started by veterans and their families.

Founder Institute has been assisting thousands upon thousands of startups over more than a decade and achieved success and prominence in the pre-seed space.

More recently Founder Institute created a new no-cost program called VCLAB to assist in the creation of venture capital funds which has shepherded the creation of the plurality of venture funds in recent years.

Ryan created The Veteran Fund at VCLAB and was kind enough to be interviewed with his investor hat on about startups.

In addition to all factors that a typical investor considers, Ryan gives special weight to (and I quote) the “Adversity Muscle.” Every startup is going to face serious unexpected challenges. When that happens, they need to be able to stick with it and adapt their plans.

Veterans, according to Ryan, have real experience with responding to difficult situations. They count it as routine in a way that people who have never served typically don’t. The US Military is the largest teacher of leadership skills in the world. Leadership training for everyone from the very top of the organization to the very bottom. He says that the basically trained soldier is going to have more leadership training than most Ivy League graduates.

In my own experience, startup companies are filled with chaos. Often they rely on being able to improvise brilliantly as a substitute for planning. In the veteran-founded companies I have seen, there is no less improvisational talent, and even though there are still surprises, there seem to be fewer of them. Perhaps that is that leadership kicking in. Or perhaps it is a better ability to focus on the mission.

Ryan says that the veterans are also generally better at teamwork and at getting along. I have personally seen too many companies that have pulled defeat out of the jaws of victory by their own infighting. Reducing such risks seems valuable.

Will the veteran-founded companies outperform the typical startup? Since The Veteran Fund is putting their money where their mouth is (or I think more properly their heart is), in a few years we will know.

Without waiting a few years, as a founder, what can you say about your team’s Adversity Muscle, leadership, and focus abilities? If there are good things to say, perhaps they should find their way into your investor pitch. If there aren’t good things to say, perhaps something should be changed.

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Written by Russell Brand

Russell has started three successful companies, one of which helped agencies of the federal government become very early adopters of open source software, long before that term was coined. His first project saved The American taxpayer 250 million dollars. In his work within federal agency, he was often called, “the arbiter of truth,” facilitating historically hostile groups and factions to effectively work together towards common goals


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