By Tom Ballard, Chief Alliance Officer, PYA
Methodical, persistent and focused seem to be very appropriate words to describe Derren Burrell, President and Founder of Veteran Ventures Capital LLC.
For more than a year, the retired Air Force officer who last served as Resource Director of the White House Communications Agency has been patiently selling the idea of an early stage fund focused on helping entrepreneurs who happen to be military veterans.
At the end of January, Burrell formally launched the fund in conjunction with the Angel Capital Group, a leading national angel investor network that is headquartered in the Knoxville area.
“We’re focused on vetrepreneurs,” Burrell says in combining the words veteran and entrepreneur. “Our goal is to raise $5 million by the end of 2018.”
The retired Lieutenant Colonel understands the challenges of raising capital.
“When I got here in 2015, I tried to help secure additional funding for our business,” Burrell says. The company is TAG Resources LLC, a retirement services company. “It was difficult, and I decided that I can’t be the only person facing this challenge.”
The fund is designed to deliver angel capital industry-sized financial returns to its investors, while, at the same time creating quality, high-paying jobs and establishing access to emerging sector opportunities throughout the region.
Burrell said Veteran Ventures Capital is initially capitalized at $1 million, but will continue to raise funds until the $5 million goal is reached or the fund is fully invested. Typical investments will range from $50,000 to $250,000.
The focus on early stage, veteran-founded start-ups means the investors will be actively involved with the founders to help them build successful companies, possibly resulting in larger follow-on investments.
“We are ready and open,” Burrell said, adding, “We have plenty of pipeline opportunities.” Many of those come through the Bunker Labs organization. As noted in this recent teknovation.biz article, Burrell is serving as a Community Leader to help launch a Bunker Labs Nashville chapter in Knoxville.
Sectors that fall into the sweet spot for Veteran Ventures Capital include cybersecurity, particularly software and artificial intelligence; aerospace to include satellite and drone technology; manufacturing, particularly 3D printing, robotics and food processing; and technology like wearables and fintech.
“Having a highly trained and motivated, mission-accomplishment-minded veteran in a strategic decision-making role is the key ingredient on top of these sectors,” Burrell says.