Google hosts entrepreneur workshop in Raleigh for veterans

lfinaldi@newsobserver.comJune 5, 2013 

— As a young veteran suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, Hakeem Moore struggled to find a way to acclimate to life outside the military. Nothing, not even medication, seemed to help.

He began to heal only after extensive research turned him onto holistic medicine and agriculture. “(Horticulture therapy) helps the veterans overcome psychological and cognitive issues,” he said.

Moore, 35, now helps run the Rock Mountain Aquaponics, a Durham startup that aims to help veterans heal physically and mentally through horticulture therapy. The company also works to alleviate local “food deserts” – low-income areas that have limited access to a supermarket or large grocery store.

Moore was one of about 25 veterans and their families who attended a Google-sponsored event Wednesday at CAM Raleigh designed specifically for veterans.

Attendees learned about different Google products and other resources geared specifically towards veterans and their small businesses, including Google Plus and Google Hangouts, as well as some services offered by Syracuse University’s Institute for Veterans and Military Families.

Jesse Moore, 30, who spent five years and seven months in the Navy, said he was particularly interested in a program offered by Syracuse called Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veterans with Disabilities. The program provides veterans with extensive entrepreneurial training at one of eight universities, with all expenses paid. Jesse Moore is the founder and only employee of Key Lime Limousines, a local limousine service offering a bright green stretch limo and – coming soon – a party bus.

“(The conference) offered a lot of new programs that we hadn’t even heard of,” he said.

This is the second Google for Entrepreneurs conference held specifically for veterans, and the first this year. Bridgette Beam, Google’s global entrepreneurship manager, said the area’s large veteran community and its abundance of entrepreneurs led the Internet giant to decide to hold its second workshop for veterans in Raleigh. The company has a small office in Chapel Hill.

“We do see there is a lot of potential in technology and the Research Triangle,” Beam said.

About 9 percent of all U.S. businesses were owned by veterans in 2007, according to a recent U.S. Small Business Administration analysis of data from a U.S. Census Bureau survey of business owners. The Kauffman Index of Entrepreneurial Activity by Veteran Status reports that in recent years, there has been a significant drop in the number of veterans becoming entrepreneurs – down from 12.3 percent in 1996 to just six percent in 2011. The decline is largely due to a smaller working-age veteran population, as well as a small surge in nonveteran entrepreneurship, according to the index.

Ray Toenniessen, external relationships manager at Syracuse University’s Institute for Veterans and Military Families and a speaker at Wednesday’s conference, said the work ethic veterans learn in the service can easily translate into business ownership.

“In the military, oftentimes you are given short notice for a task and short notice (for a) mission that needs to be done quickly. You’re not going to get additional resources, money or time. You have to get it done,” Toenniessen said. “As (veterans) launch businesses, they’re very good at bootstrapping limited resources to accomplish their new mission, which is the business.”

Finaldi: 919-829-4582; Twitter: @lauraefinaldi.

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