NYU’s Tandon School of Engineering offers veterans a leg up on startups
State-Funded Business Program Graduates Third Class of Ex-military Entrepreneurs
Seventy five years after the naval aircraft from the Empire of Japan found the U.S. Pacific Fleet complacently at dock in Pearl Harbor, Future Labs at NYU’s Tandon School of Engineering graduated its third class of veteran entrepreneurs with a brief ceremony permitting them to display their products or tout their services to members of the business community, family and press.
The coincidence did not pass unnoticed.
“It is fitting that we’re here on the 75th anniversary of the infamous attack on our country,” said U.S. Army veteran Chris Shaw, managing director of Bunker Labs at NYU Tandon. “We remember the sacrifice of our brothers and sisters who did not have the opportunity to participate in this program, whether robbed of it in Pearl Harbor or Asadabad, Afghanistan.”
The Veteran Entrepreneur Program VET is a 14-week boot camp developed by the NYU Polytechnic School of Engineering with support from the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce and funding from New York state Assemblymember Joe Lentol’s office.
“Although they have access to the labs,” Chris Shaw had explained earlier, “the program focuses mainly on developing their products or services, public relations, funding, honing their markets.”
“This is a program to support vets as they enter the market place as they grow,” explained Steve Kuyan, Future Labs managing director.
Prospective students must be current members or veterans of the armed forces. Once enrolled there is no cost to the student. Most of the startups are team driven, but typically only one team member is actually enrolled in the program. Courses are held at Tandon School of Engineering’s DUMBO Incubator on Jay Street and conclude with a Demo Day during which each team presents their creation.
The morning’s first presentation, Tomahawk Productions, applies “military experience into methodically-executed media production.” Founder Mike Brown explained: “When I started out freelance, I saw productions that weren’t getting in on time or going over budget. I figured that was just paying my dues. But then I had the chance to work with some other veterans … it was fantastic. All the moving parts came together. That was my ‘ah ha!’”
Next up, Marine Corps veteran Mario Mangiameli asked the audience: “Are you concerned about the quality of the water you drink? You should be.” Mangiameli’s Integrated Health Solutions enables consumers to measure and verify the purity of the water they drink using a special container that not only evaluates the water, sending the results to a smartphone app, but also substitutes for dozens of disposable plastic water bottles, reducing landfill and petroleum consumption.
Audience members perked up during Mangiameli’s presentation, putting him through his paces with questions about the scope of Integrated Health Solution’s ability to test for specific contaminants, such as pesticide residue, viruses and heavy metals.
“They [are] only testing for lead,” audience member Steve Deutsch pointed out in reference to the Flint water crisis, “they don’t even know what else is in that water. I’d love to have something to stick under my faucet that would tell me what’s in the water.”
Further presentations included the Powder Keg Club, modeled on Dollar Shave Club, which would enable members to receive monthly premixed nutritional supplements, and Buddy Aid, a peach-size alarm that uses satellite linkups to automatically summon both EMS and notify next of kin when a motorcyclist becomes involved in a serious traffic accident, even when out of cell phone range.
After the presentations, entrepreneurs mingled with audience members to discuss their products and answer more questions.
Brooklyn Chamber of commerce chief of staff Andrew Hoan had summed up the program when he told the assembled earlier: “Veterans in all stages from conception to execution … this is the best branding you can have.”