By Richard Conn, CREO Staff Writer
Fort Walton Beach – Military veteran entrepreneurs showcased their burgeoning businesses during a networking event hosted by Innovation Coast and Venture Hive May 24 in Fort Walton Beach.
Venture Hive is partnering with the city of Fort Walton Beach to connect veterans, their spouses and dependents to the resources they need to grow their businesses through accelerator and pre-accelerator programs.
There are 10 veteran-owned and founded businesses that are part of this year’s accelerator class. A representative of each company briefly detailed his or her business plans at the networking event, which was organized in part by Innovation Coast, an alliance of companies and institutions of higher learning in Northwest Florida that works to promote and grow technology and knowledge-based companies in the region.
The networking event set the stage for Venture Hive’s “2016 Accelerator Swarm” held later in the afternoon on May 24 at the Fort Walton Beach Auditorium. There, the business owners gave more detailed pitches about their companies.
Over a 12-week period, each military veteran entrepreneur created a “pitch deck,” which could be used to raise funds or secure clients for their businesses, said Robert Foster, director of the veterans’ accelerator programs for Venture Hive.
“Their presentation actually consists of the building blocks of what you need to know to build and run a company,” Foster said.
Michael Veth, president and CEO of Aerial Autonomy, one of the businesses in this year’s veteran accelerator class, said his company develops software to make unmanned aerial vehicles, or drones, “smart.”
“In other words, we give them the capability to operate in all environments without a pilot,” Veth said.
The drones could then perform a number of services, including the inspections of structures such as cell towers and bridges, without the use of a pilot, Veth said.
Agustin Pabon, founder and CEO of CarQuicky, said his company offers mobile, waterless car wash and wax services for residential and commercial properties. He said his company already has locations in Chicago, Dallas, Milwaukee and South Florida.
“What we want to do is hire veterans as our – I like to call them – ‘field operations commanders’ in the various cities that we start up,” Pabon said. “So, as we’re reaching out to inner-city youth and at-risk young adults that are a large percentage of our workforce, they’re going to be exposed to veteran leadership, management, expectations, guidance, etc.”
Other members of this year’s Venture Hive accelerator class are: Michael Percy, Airtime Aircraft in Fort Walton Beach; Samantha St. Raymond, Beachside Table, Fort Walton Beach; Larry Curell, Better Deal Printing, Scottsdale, Arizona; Clarice Lopez, Decurator, Fort Walton Beach; Joseph Caruth, GR77 Solutions, Fairfax, Virginia; Heather Burelson, High Caliber Lady, DeFuniak Springs; Tami Carr, Holy Kidz Camps, Santa Rosa Beach; and Esther Hemphill, Sharing Hands Network, Fort Walton Beach.
The networking event was also attended by Fort Walton Beach city officials, as well as business leaders from around the area.
“We’re so excited about this partnership with Venture Hive,” said Michelle Horton, treasurer of the board of directors for Innovation Coast. “This is part of our strategic outreach.”