Home Venture Capital The Rise Of Military Veterans Turned Venture Capitalists

The Rise Of Military Veterans Turned Venture Capitalists


By Ikram Mansori

Moonshots Capital‘s Kelly Perdew and Craig Cummings successfully transitioned from military careers to venture capital. Perdew won “The Apprentice,” working for Donald Trump, while Cummings earned a Bronze Star as an NSA intelligence officer, becoming a highly influential military veteran entrepreneur. They attribute their success to the discipline and principles gained from their Army officer training. Their stories illustrate the untapped potential of military veterans in the VC industry.

Veterans bring a wealth of skills and expertise to the VC ecosystem. Their distinct training, abilities and experiences are invaluable in evaluating many startups seeking capital. Often, veterans gain firsthand exposure to cutting-edge technologies during their service, arming them with unique insights into emerging trends.

Yet, the journey from military veteran to venture capitalist isn’t without obstacles. Veterans grapple with limited access to pipeline programs designed for underrepresented groups.

Other hurdles include difficulty networking with traditional investors unfamiliar with their military experience and fundraising challenges for veteran-led venture capital firms.

Many veterans, unacquainted with the corporate sector, need help establishing networks for raising funds from conventional sources like institutional investors.

Getting started

Several initiatives, some of which my organization VetsInTech is part of, aim to bridge this chasm, creating a smoother transition from military service to the VC arena. Initiatives that provide veteran-focused boot camps, tailored mentorship programs and high-value networking opportunities are helping fill this gap.

Ikram Mansori, COO of VetsinTechIkram Mansori, COO of VetsinTech
Ikram Mansori, COO of VetsInTech

The Nasdaq’s Entrepreneurial Center and its Venture Equity Project is a multiyear coalition of academic and nonprofit partners. The initiative focuses on understanding and tackling inequity in venture capital, providing stakeholder-facing practices, and offering policy recommendations to remove barriers. The Venture Equity Project seeks to increase the flow of capital to entrepreneurs and investors of color.

The Diversity Data Coalition is a collective of several nonprofit groups that include All Raise, BLCK VC, Diversity VC, SomosVC, 2Gether-International and StartOut. The coalition was formed to address the need for more diverse perspectives and limited representation of marginalized groups in the historically homogeneous VC industry.

Its main objective is to create a comprehensive, intersectional database of founders and funders in the VC community. The database will provide insights into funding trends and advocate for equitable access to capital allocation for underrepresented founders. Military veterans, many of whom are minorities and have disabilities, can specifically benefit from this initiative.

More resources

J.P. Morgan‘s Project Spark initially pledged $25 million for the veteran VC community to close the funding gap for underrepresented managers and strengthen the veteran ecosystem in the alternatives industry. Project Spark aims to lead the industry in creating access to venture capital for the veteran community. Veterans can benefit with access to resources essential for success in VC firms, including conferences such as VetVC Summit, investor meetings and insider events.

The SBA offers an advantageous program for veteran-owned small businesses called VetCert. The VA sets aside at least 7% of its annual contracts specifically for veteran-certified small businesses (VOSB) and service-disabled, veteran-owned small businesses (SDVOSBs). VOSBs and SDVOSBs can pursue these valuable sole-source and set-aside contracts under the VA’s Vets First program.

Some military veteran VCs have already left significant footprints in the industry. Besides O’Connor, Raj Shah of Shield Capital was a successful serial entrepreneur before becoming a VC focused on the defense industry. Matt Shortal, a decorated ex-fighter pilot flying F-14s, is now chief of staff at Andreessen Horowitz, one of Silicon Valley’s top VC firms.

Military veteran VCs enrich the VC ecosystem with their skills, experiences and perspectives. Investing in veteran-led firms not only honors their service but also makes sound business sense, leading to a greater diversity of thought and more successful investments.

Ikram Mansori serves as the COO of VetsInTech, a nonprofit dedicated to advancing career opportunities for veterans and military spouses in the tech industry. Her career began in the 82nd Airborne Division and included service in Iraq and Afghanistan, before she transitioned from military service to a focus on technology and entrepreneurship. Previously, Mansori was appointed by San Francisco Mayor London Breed as the city’s veterans affairs commissioner, charged with tackling local and national veterans’ issues. In her role as VetsInTech COO, she spearheads the organization’s daily operations and oversees key initiatives such as the VetsInTech Startup Network, VetsInTech Venture Capital and Women VetsInTech Program.

Illustration: Dom Guzman

Clarification: This story has changed since its original publication.

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