VEI launches tech accelerator for veteran-owned businesses

LAKE NONA — An Orlando group that focuses on helping veterans navigate the business landscape has partnered with Johns Hopkins University to create an accelerator for veterans who run tech companies.

Veterans Entrepreneurship Initiative’s SPEAR accelerator will offer mentoring, curriculum and other resources.

The announcement was made at VEI’s Veteran Business Summit at the Guidewell Innovation Center in Lake Nona.

“This is a tremendous opportunity to scale businesses by working with one of the best healthcare institutions in the country, VEI cofounder and U.S. Air Force veteran Ricardo Garcia said in a press release. “Veterans are uniquely equipped to lead and innovate, having faced some of the toughest challenges imaginable and SPEAR Accelerator will teach them how to harness these capabilities, helping transform their ideas into highly successful ventures.”

Interested parties can apply for the accelerator starting in July with the first class expected to start in February. The first cohort will focus on healthcare-related businesses.

VEI has helped more than 600 veteran businesses since its inception in 2013.

Garcia said the transition from the military was difficult until he discovered what he considers his new mission: helping veteran entrepreneurs.

In the military, he said, he was “part of a greater purpose. Oftentimes, I think a lot of the reasons a lot of veterans struggle with the transition (out of the military) is because we long for (the camaraderie). That is ingrained within us.”

At the summit, VEI cofounder Rafael Caamaño said the event exists to connect veterans and help them on their journey.

“I ask that you make sure that you take something away from today, whether it’s a new contact, a new friend, a strategic partner or some knowledge,” he said during introductory remarks.

Johns Hopkins’ Center for Bioengineering Innovation and Design managing director Adler Archer said he saw firsthand the military-developed resilience and grit while serving in the U.S. Air Force.

“I have a profound appreciation for the capabilities of veterans, he said.