A hackathon this Veterans Day weekend in San Francisco is looking for a few good men and women. It’s sponsored by VetsinTech, a group working to connect veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan with the Silicon Valley tech ecosystem.
VetsinTech says these veterans share many entrepreneurial skills valued by tech startups, including a dogged determination, a high degree of discipline, the ability to work in teams or autonomously, and a strong work ethic.
The event starts tonight with a “basic training” course, Introduction to iOS Programming. On Saturday, a 48-hour hackathon gets underway with small teams of veterans and programmers working to take ideas from concept to company. According to organizers, “the vets can have the idea, help with the business plan, marketing or just sit in to audit/participate for educational purposes – coding skills are NOT required.” San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee will speak to the hackers
Saturday Sunday morning.
The winning team gets a mentoring session with Startup America CEO Scott Case, free co-working space, classes and more. TechCrunch TV is planning to interview the winner next Monday.
VetsinTech says over the next five years, 1 million service members will be leaving active duty according to government estimates. While the national unemployment rate is 7.9 percent, it’s 10 percent for post 9/11 vets.
Afghan veteran and Ustream SVP of Content, Strategy, and Operations Craig Mullaney is a member of VetsinTech’s advisory board. His company, Ustream, was founded by and is run by many veterans. In fact, the idea for Ustream started as a way for the founders’ Army friends deployed in Iraq to be able to communicate with their families.
Craig and Ustream co-founder John Ham were roommates at West Point. When Craig was making his transition from public service to the private sector, John reached out to him and said “you don’t know much about technology but I could use some help. I can’t find people with your skill set out in the Valley. I know you will do well out here and I’m willing to take a chance on you.”
The reason Craig says he got involved in VetsinTech is he doesn’t think that pathway should be restricted to those who happen to know the CEO of a tech company.
Craig made this powerful point about his fellow veterans:
“Generally, the American population is very very supportive of veterans, more supportive than any previous conflict. But I think as a society we tend to put this new generation of veterans on a pedestal, where they can be admired at a distance. But, they need jobs. They don’t want a handout, but they may need some assistance in making that transition from serving their country in one capacity to serving in another capacity.
I’m personally committed to making sure that we are the next greatest generation and that the real impact of Iraq and Afganistan veterans is not what they have left behind in Iraq and Afghanistan, but what they are going to do in America coming home.”
VetsinTech is helping vets make this transition with programs in education, entrepreneurship and employment. VetsinTech was founded this past July by Katherine Webster. While not a vet herself, she comes from a military family. She’s also the founder of online directory TechCentralSF. VetsinTech founding sponsors include Andreessen Horowitz, Cisco, Intuit, Hewlett-Packard and Salesforce.com.