28 April 2015

Uvize: How A Navy Veteran Launched A Scrappy Technology Startup

Dave Cass is the CEO and Co-founder of Uvize, a technology startup focused on helping military Veterans succeed in higher education. Cass and the Uvize team have been leveraging their military training and experience to build a scrappy technology company in Boulder, Colorado.

After commissioning as a U.S. Navy officer through the ROTC program at Tulane University, Dave Cass became a naval aviator and flew SH-60B Seahawk helicopters. After ten years on active-duty, Cass chose to prioritize his family life and separate from the Navy.

Like many transitioning Veterans, Cass took a job with a large corporation upon leaving the military. Cass joined Sun Microsystems in Broomfield, Colorado and led efforts to craft business strategies for international markets.

While Cass found career success in corporate America, he missed the camaraderie and continual education he had enjoyed in the Navy. It was the desire to rekindle those feelings that drew him to pursue higher education through a graduate program at the University of Colorado. As a graduate student, Cass became passionate about helping other Veterans find success in higher education.

At the University of Colorado, Cass met David Parker, a U.S. Air Force Veteran, who was using the GI Bill to fund his second master’s degree. Parker is an amazing example of educational success for a military Veteran. Parker had earned his bachelor's degree using tuition assistance while on active-duty and knew what it took be successful in academia. In Parker, Cass found someone who could take academic concepts about mentorship and transform them into pragmatic technical solutions.

Cass and Parker aligned on a desire to improve lagging higher education graduation rates among Veterans. This mutual passion led to an idea that would became Uvize. Today, Uvize is a software platform that delivers mentorship, online academic orientation and preparation to military Veterans attending colleges and universities.

The idea for Uvize matured into a true startup in 2012 when Cass and Parker attended the first Patriot Boot Camp in Washington, D.C. The 3-day Patriot Boot Camp program helped the pair hone their startup vision and solidify their co-founder relationship.

After Patriot Boot Camp, Cass and Parker were accepted into the Techstars Rising Stars program - a year long mentorship pairing that extends technology startup opportunities to demographic groups that are underrepresented in the technology startup community (Veterans being the underrepresented population in this case). During their time in Rising Stars, Cass and Parker further refined and developed their idea for Uvize.

In 2013, Uvize applied to, participated in and graduated from the 2013 TechStars-Kaplan startup accelerator program in New York City. Techstars is an incredibly competitive technology accelerator that annually only accepts 1% of applicants to participate. By the numbers, the selection rates for participation in Techstars are more competitive than the admissions processes at some of the most revered U.S. universities. The Techstars accelerator experience gave Uvize seed capital and 13 weeks of intensive business mentorship. The Uvize team stood out among the thousands of tech startups that applied to Techstars in 2013, and joined an exclusive group of companies that can call themselves Techstars graduates.

By being accepted to Techstars, Cass and Parker achieved a sort of elite status in the technology startup community, and ultimately dispelled several false notions about the nature of technology entrepreneurship - the same notions that may be keeping other military Veterans from jumping into technology entrepreneurship.

Popular culture often portrays technology company founders as young university students who wear flip flops and come from non-traditional professional channels. These stereotypes can make many military Veterans feel too old or too institutionalized to even attempt a technology startup.

Military Veterans who are interested in launching their own technology startups can look to Dave Cass and the Uvize team for inspiration and a general roadmap for success! Today the Uvize platform has 29,000 online participants and is realizing Cass’s dream of helping Veterans be successful in higher education. The future for Uvize looks bright as they expand their mentorship platform to support entrepreneurship accelerators and corporate organizations.

The triumph of Uvize is a testament to how hard work, resolve and execution of a plan can bring success in business. Uvize stands as a shining example of Veterans leveraging their military training and personal perseverance to build technology companies of scale and impact.

This is the first profile in a three-part series to highlight successful Veteran-led technology companies. This series is a partnership between RallyPoint and Patriot Boot Camp.

Comment below or start the conversation here and connect within the military community.

1 comment:

  1. Very informative article. I liked it.
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