Hofstra Veterans Venture Challenge

2021 Hofstra Veterans Venture Challenge

The 2021 Hofstra Veterans Venture Challenge will support entrepreneurs who are veterans, military spouses, and Gold Star Families around the country. The program will be virtual in 2021, consisting of a Semi-Final Round to select Finalists, executive mentoring, a Go-to-Market Strategy program, and Business Bootcamp Accelerator focused on cutting-edge business training methodologies, connections to experienced advisors, and sources of capital. The 2021 program builds on the success from 2020 and has over $160,000 in prizes, including seed grant funding for winners and the value of in-kind support services for Finalists and winners. The Challenge will give back to the brave veterans who have fought to defend and protect the United States.

Apply Now Rules FAQ

2020 Finalists

Congratulations to the Finalists of the Hofstra Veterans Venture Challenge, who competed 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

2020 Semi-Finalists

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.

2021 Veterans Venture Challenge Schedule

  • January 31, 2021:
    Applications Due
  • March 24, 2021:
    Virtual Semi-Final Round
  • April – June 2021:
    Virtual Go-to-Market Program and Bootcamp
  • June 2021:
    Virtual 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

How are over $160,000 in prizes distributed for the Hofstra Veterans Venture Challenge?

Ten finalists will each receive mentorship and a go-to-market strategy team devoting time to develop a strategy, each package is valued at $4,000, for a total of $40,000.

First Place Total Package: $56,670
$47,000 – Seed capital funding
$7,500 - In-kind go-to-market strategy value
$1,000 – Advertising credit
$1,170 – Virtual services at the ideaHUb value

Second Place Total Package: $36,670
$28,000 – Seed capital funding
$7,500 - In-kind go-to-market strategy value
$1,000 – Advertising credit
$1,170– Virtual services at the ideaHUb value

Third Place Total Package: $26,670
$17,000 – Seed capital funding
$7,500 - In-kind go-to-market strategy value
$1,000 – Advertising credit
$1,170 – Virtual services at the ideaHUb value

Additionally, the Hofstra University ideaHUb will offer a six-month virtual services agreement at no-cost for three additional finalists ($1,170). For more information please visit ideaHUb. Please note some services are only available to companies based in NY.

What is the go-to-market in-kind assistance for all ten finalists?

The elements developed during the GTM phase are leveraged to enhance and mature their business through a focus on customer acquisition and market awareness. These initiatives validate their business vision, accelerate the initiation/growth of revenue, and mature their valuation proposition.

Key elements of the GTM Program, which will include a team of marketing professionals, includes:

  • Develop: Buyer Profiles and Messaging
  • Strengthen: Engagement Campaigns for B2B, B2C and Distributor Audiences
  • Scale: Network and Cadence/Velocity of Outreach

In the 2020 Hofstra Veterans Venture Challenge, many companies booked their first sales, and launched digital marketing programs that, so far, have resulted in over 154,000 ad impressions and views.

When were applications due?
January 31, 2021.
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.
My business is not revenue producing yet. Am I eligible to apply?
Contestants need to have formed a company to participate and demonstrate visibility to revenues in the next 12 months.
If I am a finalist what are my responsibilities?
Entrepreneurs must participate in a virtual program that will require a significant amount of time. The same entrepreneur must attend the virtual sessions.
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 the company must be incorporated in the United States.
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.
When will I be notified if I was accepted?
Applicants will be notified by March 1, 2021 if they are invited to pitch in the Semi-Final Round.
Will I be eligible for the Pitch Competition?
We will select ten finalists at the Semi-Final Round, who will participate in the GTM, mentorship, and Bootcamp program. The finalists will be eligible to pitch in the Final Round Competition for the seed capital funding.
Will Hofstra University or mentors take equity or intellectual property stake in my company?
No, and the seed capital funding is non-dilutive.
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.
If I participated in 2020, am I eligible for the 2021 program?
Participants in the 2020 program are eligible unless they placed in first, second, or third and received prize money.

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.