New York-based startup Unite US, founded by three members of the Armed Forces both past and present, announced that it has raised $2 million in seed funding from a number of private investors today. The startup is still partly in stealth mode, with a public launch planned for this fall, but its goal is to help veterans better connect with public and private agencies designed to help them transition to civilian life, and to build a community that can help with post-service careers and more.
The U.S. Veterans Affairs agency estimates that there were around 22.2 million vets in the U.S. in 2010, and around 200,000 service people depart every year. There’s also a much higher rate of unemployment for veterans from the most recent Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts compared to the national average. Unite US wants to address that market with a platform that’s designed to bring together the disparate and disorganized options and avenues of help available to them under one digital roof. It’s about connecting people for opportunities they might not otherwise have found, but don’t call it a LinkedIn for service men and women.
“While our solution does have a professional/job facilitation component to it (about 10%), it is far from a LinkedIn model,” Unite US co-founder and CEO Dan Brillman explained via email. ” Consumer facing- it is a social approach through interactive mapping, but not at all ‘a professional network.’ Instead, it’s comparable to a Yelp (local discovery of who and what resources are around you) and a match.com (connecting and matching people based on finite interests/location which allows discussion and interaction).”
Organizations can also use it to manage membership, via built-in CRM tools, and that allows them to work with other groups and agencies and find meaningful connections between memberships to better serve their communities.
“There are over 50,000 organizations that support veterans. Many are membership based, and some provide great services,” Brillman said. “But access to them is limited, which is why many struggle to stay afloat even though they provide direct impacts for veterans. This is why we want to create visibility for all of them and provide a mechanism to create visibility and organization management for them.”
Unite US is in talks with the various arms of the United States Armed Forces, the company says, and say those have been promising but that it will take time to work out formal partnerships with each. The startup is for-profit, despite its apparently noble aim, and plans to partner with companies that value visibility and access among veterans. Unite US says that being a for-profit company is the only way to develop the kind of tech that non-profit organizations in the space haven’t been able to put together on their own so far.
We’ll know more about Unite US’ ambitious plans in the fall, but a $2 million initial investment in something that at first glance appears quite niche indicates there is a good amount of support and need for this kind of company.