Rosie Lee, Veteran Spouse, COO Divergent Dimension and Operations Manager, OPSU Beth Kerly, HCC Business Professor and Co-Founder of OPSU Andy Gold, HCC Business Professor and Co-Founder of OPSU Valerie Ellis Lavil, US Army Veteran, CEO, Luminary Global, and Director, OPSU
OPERATION STARTUP (OPSU)
NEARLY ONE IN FOUR ACTIVE DUTY SERVICE MEMBERS AND VETERANS WANT TO OPEN AND OPERATE THEIR OWN BUSINESS OPPORTUNITY, FREEDOM, AND SOLVING PROBLEMS ATTRACT THEM TO THE CHALLENGE OF ENTREPRENEURSHIP.
Operation Startup (OPSU) is disrupting the entrepreneurial ecosystem in Tampa and the U.S., becoming the first business actuator for early-stage entrepreneurs. Incubators and accelerators offer entrepreneurs co-working spaces and amenities at lease terms or equity shares that are unaffordable for early-stage entrepreneurs.
As a business actuator, however, Operation Startup serves early-stage entrepreneurs from the military Veteran community who may have not yet fully developed their business ideas and strategies. Even a modestly priced incubator is not a viable starting point for an early-stage business idea, and these entrepreneurs are a long way from attracting investors that may be available through an accelerator.
Robert Blacklidge, US Air Force Veteran, Serial Entrepreneur, OPSU Entrepreneur in Residence Travis Ingram, US Army Reservist, Aspiring VetrepreneurBrian Mann, Ed.D., Director, Associate in Science Degree Programs Rosie Lee, Veteran Spouse and Operations Manager, OPSU Beth Kerly, HCC Business Professor and Co-Founder of OPSU Valerie Ellis Lavin, US Army Veteran, CEO, Luminary Global, and Director, OPSU
Business actuators, as described by Operation Startup co-founders Dr. Andy Gold and Mary Beth Kerly, bridge that gap for budding small business owners, and are the necessary precursor to incubators and accelerators.
“There is a chasm in the entrepreneur eco-system, not just in Tampa Bay but around the world,” explains Gold. “Successful entrepreneurs do not dive into incubators until their business ideas are validated, their products tested, or their businesses have launched.”
Adds Kerly, “But those businesses fail more often than not because they were not formed strategically with a solid understanding of the market, the customers, or the cost involved in starting a business.”
“Our niche is helping early-stage entrepreneurs develop an idea, validate the idea, and learn best practices before laying down that first dollar to start a business.”
Supported in collaboration with Hillsborough Community College and Hillsborough County government, as well as private and corporate donations, Operation Startup offers all its services, resources, and guidance at no cost to the eligible members.
Members participate in workshops on pertinent business topics, from ideation validation to customer discovery to financial planning. Business advisors, local experts who volunteer their time to mentor entrepreneurs help craft development plans and provide networking opportunities.
“We tap into local and national experts, business executives, investors and philanthropists to offer robust services to help new small businesses and high growth scalable enterprises get moving in the right direction with the right business model,” explained Kerly.
“Our goal,” says Gold, “is to help these business innovators launch their ideas after carefully modeling the business, testing their assumptions, pivoting when necessary and laying the groundwork for long-term success. Equally critical is to prevent the formation of unsustainable business models, saving individuals unrecoverable time and money.”
Membership in Operation Startup is currently restricted to Veterans, active-duty military, National Guard, Reservists, military spouses, and their civilian business partners.
“Five, ten years from now, Operation Startup is going to be noted as the founder of the business actuator, much like Mancuso for the incubator and Y Combinator for the accelerator,” Gold says.
Kerly adds, “Businesses developed in this actuator will populate incubators and accelerators across Florida with more viable business ideas, stronger business planning, and businesses with a greater likelihood of success. Investors will actively compete for investment opportunities in actuator-founded businesses because the ROI will be greater and the regional economic impact more evident.”