Membership in NBIA is an important part of the business plan at VETransfer, the Milwaukee-based incubation program for U.S. military veterans.
VETransfer is different from other incubation programs in several ways. While it has 15,000 square feet of office space in Milwaukee, its clients are not assigned offices or charged for incubation services. Most of its client businesses are located off site, some hundreds of miles away. And while VETransfer provides classes for veterans who want to become entrepreneurs and offers other incubation services as well, some of its clients need the kinds of services that tech or industrial incubators elsewhere offer.
“NBIA membership is very important to us with some of these new businesses,” says Greg Meier, one of the founders of VETransfer. “Dealing with veterans around the country, it’s important for our businesses to be able to walk into a local incubator, an existing program. NBIA lets us know where those programs are, and membership makes communication with them easier.”
VETransfer got its start in 2011, when Meier and three partners responded to an advertisement for an incubator-accelerator by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs as part of its Innovation Initiative program, commonly called VAi2. They submitted a proposal and ended up with a two-year, $3.2 million government contract. In March of this year, the government honored VETransfer co-founder Ted Lasser, now its president and executive director, as one of the White House’s Champions of Change.
As the only incubation program in the U.S. dedicated exclusively to veterans, the program accepts “any honorably discharged veteran who seeks our help,” Lasser says. “Our contract calls for us to be working with about 20 veteran-owned businesses, but we’re working with 230 of those businesses, across the country.” VETransfer provides its services free of charge to the veteran-owned businesses, including coworking space at its Milwaukee offices.
Adds Meier: “We take them from ideation to business, and we take them from business to scaling, to take their businesses to their full potential. They vary from nonprofits to advanced technology to manufacturing.”
It’s the geographical and industrial diversity of those businesses that makes NBIA membership pay off for VETransfer and its clients. For example, operating from its Milwaukee offices, VETransfer is able to help a light manufacturing concern in a distant state maximize its business potential by the ability to help that company find a local incubation program serving that kind of business.
“We give them a future,” says Lasser. “We give them hope.”—Dennis E. Powell
Keywords: incubator development - general
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Athens, OH 45701-1565