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Washington, DC., June 5, 2024 —Mesa Quantum, an early-stage startup focused on developing chip-scale quantum clocks and internal sensors for mass-market opportunities, secured a $75,000 cash grant for winning the pitch competition at the 8th Annual Service First Foundation Veteran Startup Showcase.

Sponsored by the Service First Foundation, the event highlights former military and national security founders driving solutions in Cybersecurity, Defense, and Healthcare. This year’s event represented the largest single award to date, with Mesa Quantum emerging as the winner of a $75,000 grant. 

The Winners

Mesa Quantum (Cyber Security): Based in Boulder, Colorado, and Led by Co-Founders Sristy Agrawal, CEO and U.S. Air Force veteran Wale Iawal, Ph.D, Mesa Quantum. Mesa Quantum impressed the audience with their approach to securing critical systems. “Today’s GPS / GNSS systems can be severely limited or non-existent when needed in remote environments and are useless if satellites are disrupted. MesaQuantum is  uniquely focused on chip-scale quantum clocks and inertial sensors for the mass markets.”  –Sristy Agrawal, of CEO Mesa Quantum

Judge Take: “Mesa Quantum has the right team to tackle the serious problem of GPS signals being spoofed, jammed, or simply unavailable. The devices we all rely on daily must remain secure and reliable.- Jeff Eggers, (R Squared Ventures)

QuickcodeAI (AI / Government & Commercial Tech) based in Mclean, Virginia, took second place and a $12,500 cash grant to advance their work on improving trade compliance with large language models and generative artificial intelligence. “This award will help us introduce Quickcode AI to more manufacturing firms who want to save money and avoid costly fines on their imported goods.” – Shannon Hynds, CEO of QuickcodeAI.

Judge’s Take: “There is a tremendous opportunity to use machine learning and artificial intelligence to help secure our economic borders by ensuring regulatory and trade compliance.- Jennifer Simpson

Quickcode AI

Why It Matters

“We’re proud to support these exceptional founders tackling critical societal issues.  The Foundation exists to enable these startups to grow.  We are incredibly thankful to our donors and sponsors who helped us organize our largest prize.” – Abbey Johnson, Director, Service First Foundation.

“It’s hard to believe that our small pitch competition idea back in 2016 has evolved into a meaningful, annual event.  What I love most is that we continue to put the Founder at the center of the Foundation’s work.”  – Brandon Shelton, Founder & Managing Partner, TFX Capital.

The Decision Makers

The judging panel included Karl Hightower, Jeff Eggers and Jennifer Simpson.  They represented a cross-section of healthcare, AI, defense tech, data, and investor expertise. The event also featured a panel discussion on national security and innovation featuring:

  • Ambassador Cofer Black 
    • Former CIA Operations Officer, Head of the Counterterorrism Center
  • Joe Williams
    • Managing Director, SteerBridge
    • Former OSD Director- Strategy and Programming
  • Carrie Marshall
    • Co-Founder & CEO, Rebel Space
    • Former Air Force Technical Expert

2024 Veterans Showcase Startups: 

  • Mesa Quantum: Co-Founded by Sristy Agrawal, and Wale Iawal (Veteran, U.S. Air Force)
  • Quickcode AI: Shannon Hynds, CEO, Becky Fair (Civil Service, CIA), Joe Morales, CTO (Veteran, U.S. Navy)
  • IndeHealth: Tsikata Apenyo, Founder and CEO (Veteran, U.S. Army): “Our mission is to improve healthcare for college students and reduce administrative overhead for universities and insurers.”
  • Artifacts: Heather Nickerson, CEO. (Civil Service, CIA) “From saving memories while decluttering to preserving the value behind your things, Artifacts gives families a secure and simple way to organize for posterity.” 
  • Foresight Data: Jason Miller, CEO. (Veteran, U.S. Army) “Providing actionable insights through data analytics. We are on a mission to increase venture capital’s ability to source great companies.”

Sponsors & Partners

We are grateful to our title sponsors: Wells Fargo, The Falfurrias Foundation, The Hesselbirg Family, TFX Capital, DataTribe, and the 17 additional donors for their generous support.

About the Service First Foundation

The Service First Veteran Startup Showcase is an annual competition featuring pre-vetted, early-stage SaaS startups founded by servant-driven Veteran & Intelligence Community leaders. Since its inception, the Showcase has featured 40 early-stage startups and dispersed over $437,500 in non-dilutive cash grants. All finalists receive 1:1 mentorship, coaching, and introductions to potential investors and customers.