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Startup 'boot camp' targets vets, service members

Air Force Reserve Senior Master Sgt. Jose Cortez,

Air Force Reserve Senior Master Sgt. Jose Cortez, seen here with son Justin, 14, will attend this week’s startup training to work on his idea for an advice service that helps parents and children. (July 16, 2013) Credit: Chuck Fadely

Jose Cortez has served his country in the Air Force Reserves. Now, he hopes to serve his community as an entrepreneur.

Starting Wednesday, the Valley Stream resident will participate in Patriot Boot Camp -- a three-day program to educate veterans and armed forces members looking to launch their own technology companies.

The event, held in Washington, D.C., will teach participants the basics of entrepreneurship and building a concept and company, in addition to connecting them with mentors in the startup and venture capital community. The program is run through TechStars -- a highly competitive national accelerator for startups.

For his proposed business, Cortez, 46, outlined an idea for a parenting advice service that would engage both parent and child through technology, allowing parents to pinpoint where they need to improve.

"I have a 21-year-old and a 14-year-old, and . . . I felt that there were some things I could've done a little better," he said. "Some parents . . . may think they're doing everything right, but they could teach their kids a lot more about financial planning, education and fitness."

The concept for the business was also inspired by Cortez's job in analyzing crime statistics for the New York City Police Department -- through which he came to appreciate the ability to target certain problems using numbers and trends.

As a reserves member, Cortez focuses on logistics and cargo work as part of the 35th Aerial Port Squadron, which is based near Trenton, N.J. He has served five tours in the last two decades, deploying to Kuwait, Iraq and Afghanistan.

About 150 veterans and service members applied for Patriot Boot Camp, and 75 were selected, said David Calone, an organizer of the event and the chief executive of Setauket-based venture capital firm Jove Equity Partners.

"These service members have a lot of key traits to be a success as entrepreneurs," Calone said. "What they don't have is access to the tech community, investors and mentors. The idea was to create this program where [they] can get feedback on an idea, help on building the company, access to mentors and the ability to showcase what they've already built."

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