Veterans played a significant role in the entrepreneurship boom that took place after World War II. While veterans are more likely to be self-employed than their civilian counterparts, the veteran population as a whole is shrinking.1 Likewise, entrepreneurship has generally been on the decline in the United States.2 Despite this overall decline, the success of many technology startups has inspired renewed focus on entrepreneurship among policymakers, educators, and the business community. The military and veteran community has been no exception, and since 2012 the military has offered an introduction to entrepreneurship as part of its training program for service members leaving the military.3
This report builds on the 2017 Center for a New American Security (CNAS) report “Lost in Translation,” which examined the veteran hiring and retention process, and the 2016 CNAS report “Onward and Upward,” which examined veteran retention and performance in the workforce. Through in-depth research on the landscape for veteran-founded tech startups, this report explores popular current ecosystems for veterans and simultaneously examines similarities and differences with the startup ecosystem more broadly.
Existing research has largely been positive about the capability of veterans to succeed as entrepreneurs and suggests that veterans may have the personal characteristics or experience that contribute to successful entrepreneurship. However, research also suggests that these traits alone are not sufficient for success in the challenging world of entrepreneurship, particularly in the high-stakes world of technology-based startups. Pairing a unique dataset of veteran-founded companies with extensive interviews, this report adds to our insight of veteran entrepreneurs by mapping out veteran-founded companies nationwide and examining veterans’ pathways to entrepreneurship in the context of existing entrepreneurial ecosystems.