Hofstra Veterans Venture Challenge

Hofstra Veterans Venture Challenge

The Hofstra Veterans Venture Challenge is a business mentoring program offering $100,000 in competitive seed funding and in-kind services to veteran entrepreneurs around the country. A partnership of Hofstra’s Center for Entrepreneurship, Entrepreneur-in-Residence Kevin Hesselbirg and the United States Veterans Chamber of Commerce, the program consists of a virtual course based upon Business Model Canvas, a virtual business Bootcamp, mentoring from experienced CEO’s and marketing executives, collaboration with Hofstra University interns, and the opportunity to participate in the Pitch Competition, which will provide seed capital, in-kind services, and connections to funding sources and mentorship.

The Hofstra Veterans Venture Challenge will give back to the brave veterans who have fought to defend and protect the United States. The Hofstra Veterans Venture Challenge is designed to further develop and translate your innate leadership skills by supporting your new entrepreneurial dreams and helping your business develop from ideation through initial funding.

Rules FAQ

United States Veterans Chamber of Commerce
Hofstra University Continuing Education


Congratulations to the Finalists of the Hofstra Veterans Venture Challenge, who will compete for $100,000 in seed capital and in-kind prizes on August 6, 2020:

At Ease - A two-sided marketplace which connects hosts with homes that meet federal lodging criteria to federal and military travelers during business travel. Austin, TX
CathWear - An all-in-one medical undergarment for catheter leg bag users. Lawrence, MA
Custom Donations – A secure donation platform with customizable, mobile-friendly forms to optimize fundraising efforts while using your own organization’s branding. Florence, SC
Eqwal Footing - Military grade combat boots sized especially for the female foot; to facilitate optimal performance and equal footing. Memphis, TN
Explorer’s Guide Online - Offers digital maritime licensing courses that meet all federal licensing requirements and can be taken anytime, anywhere. Milwaukee, WI
knowRX - A digital health platform that delivers relevant data and tools to empower patients to better assist physicians, health institutions, and caregivers in providing the best possible care. Austin, TX
LegionX - LegionX’s flagship solution is a cloud-based tool capable of rapidly analyzing millions of emails for patterns with the use of applied AI and features advanced, customizable visualizations. Centerport, NY
Revolution Agriculture - A scalable logistics platform that sources excess land within communities to grow all crop types year-round with less water within 10 miles of consumers. Tacoma, WA
RopeSafe USA - A dual use rope protector and anchor strap that protects military and first responders serve our country and keep our families safe. Killingworth, CT
Rownd - A Data Ownership Platform that is simple to integrate into any app or website, provides easy data privacy and security for developers, and elegant data control for every consumer end-user. Durham, NC


In addition to the finalists above:

13 Stars – A hot sauce compan serving premium hot sauce and giving back to U.S. veterans, first responders, and their families.  Warren, RI
Biao - A digital skincare line for environmental protection. New York, NY
CavnessHR - CavnessHR delivers HR to small businesses with 49 or fewer people to help small business owners recover the 25% of time they are spending on HR. Dupont, WA
Custobee - We protect online shoppers orders from porch pirates. Hampton Roads, Virginia
FitFighter - A complete strength and conditioning system originally designed for firefighters and now available to coaches, athletes, and the general public, with Steelhose weights, iOS App, and Live workout training platform. Port Washington, NY
K9 Salute - Natural dog treats that honor and give back to K9 Heroes. Tacoma, WA
PIACET - A digital solution for managing employee credentials. Colorado Springs, CO
Supply IQ - A technology platform that eliminates transparency issues in logistics and provides increased quality of procurement of courier services through improved provider and supplier collaboration. Baldwin, NY
UPROOT Homes - A financial technology-driven mortgage services platform that reduces barriers to homeownership for active duty service members. Washington, DC.

2020 Veterans Venture Challenge Schedule

  • Nov. 11, 2019 – February 29, 2020:
    Application period
  • March - April 2020:
    Selection process, virtual orientation
  • April – June 2020:
    Virtual mentorship, collaboration with Hofstra interns
  • June 2020:
    Virtual Bootcamp hosted by Hofstra University
  • June 17, 2020:
    Veteran business resources zoom panel discussion featuring national speakers
    RSVP here
  • June 23, 2020:
    Semi-Final Round
  • August 6, 2020:
    Final Round

Kevin Hesselbirg

Entrepreneur-in-Residence, Center for Entrepreneurship

Kevin Hesselbirg has long supported Hofstra University’s entrepreneurship programs as an Executive-in-Residence and Entrepreneur-in-Residence, and is a successful corporate executive CEO of three growth-oriented financial technology companies resulting in combined exit values in excess of $1.5 billion.

Read more about Kevin Hesselbirg


Veterans Venture Challenge FAQ

When were applications due?
Applications were due February 29, 2020. If you are interested in future programs please contact veteranschallenge@hofstra.edu.
Who is eligible to participate?
The CEO of the company and/or the Team Leader participating in the Challenge (as defined below) must be a veteran of the United States military (as defined in 13 CFR § 125.11), the spouse of a veteran, or a Gold Star family member (family members eligible to receive the gold star lapel button as set forth in 10 USC § 1126.) Companies must be 50% or more veteran-owned.
Are active duty service members eligible to apply?
Yes, if they meet certain eligibility requirements. For example, if you are within six months of end of active service, on TDY, on personal leave, or in a Warrior Transition Unit you may be eligible. Please email veteranschallenge[at]hofstra.edu with more details about your service so we can verify your eligibility.
My business has been in operation for more than three years. Am I eligible to apply?
The rules state, “Companies do not need to be revenue-producing to apply, but must not have revenues greater than $250,000 annually to participate. Companies can be in existence for no longer than three years. Exceptions will be made on a case-by-case basis.”

Please email veteranschallenge[at]hofstra.edu to verify your eligibility if you have been in operation for more than three years. The company will be asked to demonstrate that it is still in the early stages through financial history.
Can non-profit organizations apply to the Hofstra Veterans Venture Challenge?
Yes, a non-profit organization can apply to the Challenge.
If I am accepted what are my responsibilities?
Entrepreneurs must participate in a virtual mentorship program that will require a significant amount of time and online coursework in the spring of 2020. The same entrepreneur must attend the in-person Bootcamp at Hofstra University from June 14 through 19, 2020. Additional meetings with mentors will be required.
Do I have to live on Long Island or in New York State?
No, you do not have to live on Long Island or New York State, but you must attend the Bootcamp at Hofstra University in Hempstead, NY on June 15 though 19, 2019.
What is the Hofstra University Center for Entrepreneurship?
The mission of the Center for Entrepreneurship is to provide Hofstra University's students, faculty, staff, alumni, and the community with the skills and training necessary to become accomplished entrepreneurs and to serve as a leader in Long Island's entrepreneurial ecosystem.  Follow the Center on Twitter and Instagram at @HuideaHUb.
Does my business need to be in a particular sector?
Any type of business can be submitted, as long as it is meets the eligibility criteria and is an early stage business with high growth potential.
Does this program cost anything?
There is no cost to participate in the Hofstra Veterans Venture Challenge.
Does this program fund my travel costs to Hofstra University?
The program will fund housing in Hofstra University’s residence halls from June 15 – June 19, 2019 and will provide meals during the program.  Participants are responsible for their own transportation to and from Hofstra University.
When will I be notified if I was accepted?
We anticipate to notify applicants if they were accepted by March – April 2020. Any updates will be posted to this website. 
Will I be eligible for the Pitch Competition?
Eligible participants will need to complete the mentorship in advance of the program and the entire on-site Bootcamp at Hofstra University to be eligible to compete in the pitch competition.
How are the $100,000 in prizes distributed for the Hofstra Veterans Venture Challenge?
There is currently over $100,000 in seed grant funding and in-kind services for the participants in the Hofstra Veterans Venture Challenge and benefits for all participants.

All participants: $15,000 is being devoted to in-kind mentorship services and technical assistance.

First Place: $50,000 prize package ($44,000 in seed grant funding, $6,000 in in-kind services)

Second Place: $26,000 prize package ($22,000 in seed grant funding, $4,000 in in-kind services)

Third Place: $14,000 prize package ($12,000 in seed grant funding, $2,000 in in-kind services)

What are the in-kind services?
The in-kind services package will be developed working with the winners of the Hofstra Veterans Venture Challenge depending on the needs of their company, and may include incubator space at the ideaHUb, prototyping assistance, courses focused on digital marketing, QuickBooks training, or other professional development courses in partnership with Hofstra University Continuing Education.
If I have more questions how do I get them answered?
Email Veteranschallenge[at]Hofstra.edu. All questions and responses will be posted to this website as they come in.

Kevin Hesselbirg

CEO, The Gemini Companies

After more than 25 years leading growth oriented companies in a senior executive capacity, Kevin Hesselbirg currently serves as board member and advisor to multiple private entities ranging from start-ups to firms with more than $100M in annual revenues. Kevin, a three-time Chief Executive Officer (CEO), was first named CEO of OpenLink Financial after previously serving as OpenLink’s Chief Financial Officer and Chief Operations Officer. Under his leadership, OpenLink Financial became the is leading global software developer of financial and energy, trading and risk management solutions with more than $300M in revenue, 1200 employees, and offices in 9 countries. Thereafter, he became CEO of Primatics Financial, a leading SaaS provider of finance and risk solutions for the banking sector. Kevin was more recently the CEO of The Gemini Companies, a leading fund administrator serving more than 600 mutual, private, and hedge funds. As CEO, he led multiple transactions with various private equity firms eclipsing more than $2B in capital activity. Kevin began his career with the Private Owned and Emerging business group at Ernst & Young. Hesselbirg received a B.S. from Fordham University.