Enterprising Veterans Attend 'Shark Tank'-Style Event in DC

Under Secretary of the Army Ryan D. McCarthy speaks at the Airborne and Ranger Training Brigade ranger graduation at Victory Pond at Fort Benning, Georgia, Oct. 26, 2018. (U.S. Army photo/Patrick A. Albright)
Under Secretary of the Army Ryan D. McCarthy speaks at the Airborne and Ranger Training Brigade ranger graduation at Victory Pond at Fort Benning, Georgia, Oct. 26, 2018. (U.S. Army photo/Patrick A. Albright)

A Shark Tank-style event Tuesday organized by Bunker Labs and Capitol Post will allow veterans with small-business ambition to pitch their best ideas in hopes of getting funded.

The pitch competition for Tuesday's event, called "Muster DC" and held at the District Winery, features innovative veteran-led companies.

Those making pitches include the creators of "Hunt a Killer," an interactive murder mystery game enterprise that The Washington Post has described as "not for the faint of heart;" and "Assault Forward," which sells patriotic and military pride accessories.

First prize is $5,000 and second prize is $2,500 at the event, presented by JPMorgan Chase & Co. General admission is $60 and $25 for active-duty troops, veterans and spouses, according to promotional material.

The Shark Tank-style competition will be part of the event, meant to promote veteran and spouse small-business startups and give them a networking opportunity to connect with possible investors and customers.

Muster DC, one of a series of similar Muster Across America events nationwide put on by Bunker Labs to showcase veteran entrepreneurs, will feature a keynote by Army Under Secretary Ryan McCarthy, a former Lockheed Martin Corp. executive and Afghanistan veteran who served as a captain with the 75th Ranger Regiment.

"Many veterans transition from the military with unique skills and experiences that lend themselves to starting sustainable small businesses," the promotional material states. "The Muster Across America Tour is a catalyzing event to stand up and strengthen this expanding network of military veterans, successful entrepreneurs, and the communities they serve."

The Muster events provide veterans with access to a "startup ecosystem" of potential investors and veterans who have already started small businesses to improve their chances of success, said Seda Goff, director of veteran entrepreneurs for the Pentagon Federal Credit Union and a Washington, D.C., leader for Bunker Labs.

Last year, the PenFed Foundation set up the Veteran Entrepreneur Investment Program and raised $1.4 million aimed at providing veteran-owned firms with seed capital and guidance for success, Goff said.

"We have a great opportunity to make a big difference," she said.

"There is no magic pill to becoming the best entrepreneur," Goff said, but veterans come to the table with an advantage they themselves might not realize they have.

To boost veteran small businesses, President Donald Trump last year signed into law a bill sponsored by Sens. Tammy Duckworth, D-Illinois; John Kennedy, R-Louisiana; and Dick Durbin, D-Illinois, to add veteran small-business owners to the list of eligible recipients of federal surplus property and equipment.

"This bill will help veteran-owned businesses expand their operations, reduce costs, and create jobs across Illinois and around the country," Duckworth said in a statement.

-- Richard Sisk can be reached at richard.sisk@military.com.

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