There are 2.4 million veteran-owned businesses in the United States, according to the U.S. Small Business Administration. Like many small businesses, veteran entrepreneurs looking to grow their business or get to the next level are looking for one important element: their next source of capital.
USAA and Bunker Labs are teaming up to give veteran-owned businesses a chance to win $100,000 to invest in their business in 2022 with the "From Service to Startup" pitch contest.
The contest is part of USAA's 100th anniversary celebration, but Bunker Labs will be handling the applications from eligible businesses. Although the grand-prize winner will receive $100,000 from USAA, the military-only bank and insurance company is giving out almost $300,000 in total awards to those businesses who make the cut.
Bunker Labs will choose 36 total applicants to compete in regional pitch contests, hosted in Los Angeles; Austin, Texas; Chicago; Washington, D.C.; Seattle; and Charlotte, N.C. Winners will be selected by a panel of judges (yet to be determined) in each city. The regional winners from each city and four "wildcard" businesses will be invited to the finals in San Antonio, where USAA is headquartered.
The first-place winner from each regional event will also receive $10,000. The second-place winner will receive $5,000 but will not move on to the next round in San Antonio. The grand prize will be awarded to the first-place winner in San Antonio, but the second-place finisher at the finals will receive $50,000 while third place will receive $25,000. A "Crowd Favorite" will also be selected to receive $15,000.
The competition is open to U.S. active-duty military members and honorably discharged and retired veteran entrepreneurs. Widows, spouses and children of these members are also eligible to enter, but there are a few other rules for what businesses can apply.
First, an eligible vet-owned business must have raised less than $5 million in capital already. Second, the business must have demonstrated annual revenues, not to exceed $1 million, or have demonstrated an executed pilot.
Applicants also must be able to travel to the site of at least one regional pitch event and abide by local masking and vaccination requirements. Travel and lodging expenses must be paid by the applicants, but those traveling to San Antonio for the finals will receive a travel stipend.
Finally, applicants don't have to be members of USAA, but if they are, they must be members in good standing. As Bunker Labs says on the contest website, any business owner who is unsure if they meet the requirements should still apply. They can apply to any and all regional competitions.
The dates of the competitions are as follows:
- Los Angeles: Feb. 17, 2022
- Austin, Texas: March 24, 2022
- Chicago: April 21, 2022
- Washington, D.C.: May 26, 2022
- Seattle: July 21, 2022
- Charlotte, North Carolina: Sept. 15, 2022
- San Antonio (Finals): Nov. 10, 2022
The 10 entrepreneurs who are invited to compete in the finals in San Antonio also will be featured in USAA and Bunker Labs storytelling campaigns and will be invited to attend support programs from both organizations.
To learn more about the "From Service to Startup" pitch contest or to apply, visit the competition page on the Bunker Labs website. It also has helpful frequently asked questions to help veteran entrepreneurs prepare for the contest, along with a list of industries that are not eligible to participate.
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