Photo by Major Shawn Fitzgerald, West Point’s Dept of “PANE,” Physics & Nuclear Engineering
Part of our approach at Grand Central Tech to fostering tech-enabled entrepreneurship is a clear recognition that the broader startup economy often feels like it’s shaped by a few players, “constrained to a narrow few of the well-connected,” as our co-founder Matt Harrigan puts it in another post. So as we strive to build a more inclusive and diverse tech culture, one that reflects the fabric of New York City, we tap sources of innovation that might be overlooked by other accelerators.
One of them is communities of veterans, who along with underrepresented minorities, and female founders constitute the majority of our first class of startup entrepreneurs. Beyond veteran-powered GCT startups such as VA Loan Captain, Nagare, and Augmate, we’re finding ways to help foster innovation and entrepreneurship among the next generation of our armed forces.
So we’re thrilled by the opportunity to play host to a strong example of this in action from a singular source, the United States Military Academy’s Department of “PANE” (Physics and Nuclear Engineering) at West Point. This semester, Major Shawn Fitzgerald challenged his students in his Advanced Physics II course to take on the challenge of creating infrastructure to support the nation’s growing electric vehicle fleet.
“Every cadet at West Point takes a year-long core physics curriculum that includes mechanics and electricity and magnetism. As part of this curriculum, cadets complete an interdisciplinary project,” says the major, who notes this type of project has never been done before at West Point. “This year, I wanted to challenge my advanced students to attack a real-world problem that has interdisciplinary aspects from a different angle.”
One of the end results of his teams tackling a go-to market plan? A chance this spring to pitch real VC’s, including several West Point alumni, at our offices for real-time critiques, including from GCT company startups.
Jourdan Urbach, founder of video app Ocho, dives into the cadet presentations, business plans
Ocho founder and CTO Jourdan Urbach prefaced in his feedback to the first set of cadet presenters, noting that thinking like startup founders is more than a classroom exercise: “Your future has even higher stakes than leadership at the startup level. You’re going to be the future leaders of our country: the generals, the governors, the CEOs. So your innovation is truly America’s innovation, and the earlier you get in touch with your entrepreneurial sides, the stronger our country will be in your hands.”
We couldn’t agree more and look forward to sharing more from this spring’s cadet presentations and insights from Major Fitzgerald’s students, the next generation of leaders, in innovation and overall.
(And if you or or a vet startup founder you know is tackling a real-world problem through technology, taking inspiration from Uncle Sam’s recruitment strategy: “I Want YOU!”)