Supporting America and Veterans through Mission Focused Investing
By Lt Gen Brooks Bash, USAF (Ret)
Stony Lonesome Group General Partner
As a former senior military service member with multiple combat tours and having served in the White House National Security Council, I know the imperative of a strong military in order for the United States to sustain a global leadership role. I also know, first-hand as the Pentagon’s head of Military Health Services, the imperative of supporting our Military Health System and our military veterans who dedicate(d) so much to support our great Nation.
Investing in veteran-led start-up companies supports both of the imperatives above. The Mission Focused portfolio of Stony Lonesome Group supports veteran entrepreneurs and is laser focused on duel use technology companies that support National Security as well as innovative companies in the military & veteran health care sector.
Over the past few decades, our U.S. technological advantage vis-à-vis strategic competitors, such as China and Russia, has eroded. The United States technological advantage has diminished through offshoring, intellectual property transfer, and diluted technology advantage due to foreign investment. We can no longer simply depend on the U.S. Government to spawn R&D breakthroughs such as supercomputers, the internet, LED lighting, MRIs, GPS, supercomputers, etc. to ensure future U.S. military technological ascendency. The Department of Defense recognizes that Federal R&D, which used to be the majority of cutting-edge R&D in America, is now a fraction of the innovative R&D emanating from the U.S. public sector. Furthermore, the U.S military can no longer keep pace with the rapid technological advances among global competitors. Therefore, it is essential that we embrace home grown U.S. technology innovation through U.S. based capital investment.
As suggested above, I believe U.S. global leadership is not necessarily assured; it is not a guaranteed “state”. Rather, I would argue that U.S. global leadership is a timeless “aspiration” that we must patriotically attend to. Indeed, Chinese venture capital investment in U.S early-stage technology companies has tripled in recent years…with risk-inducing intellectual property transfer and access entanglements. (For more, visit War on the Rocks- The US Military's Investment Eco-system is Missing in Action)
Yes, I strongly believe the U.S. should remain a global leader, as a moral imperative, to act in defense of freedom and democracy. We can all agree that America is not perfect, but America is our home and we should all continuously work to make it better. The U.S. is a global beacon that treasures individual freedom; embraces the rule of law; seeks peace, cherishes liberty; provides support for the core principles of democracy; and seeks to respect all human rights. The U.S. has made many historic contributions to world peace and stability. All of those historic accomplishments and those going forward are underpinned by cutting-edge technology, economic vibrancy and a strong military.
Technological innovation is just one of three legs of the stool for an early-stage company to survive for the benefit of national security. The other two legs to success for a start-up are strong leadership and investment capital. At Stony Lonesome Group we support Vetrepreneurship…innovative companies led by military veteran leaders. As a life-long military veteran I know the character, the grit, the determination, the training, the experience, the leadership skills and the values that our veterans developed to be successful. Our veterans took a solemn oath to serve our country, to put their life on the line, they understand what it means to sacrifice and overcome challenge. And by their successful commitment to serve our Nation, veterans have internalized core values that are essential to successful companies. Values that include integrity; embracing a cause that is greater than themselves; and to aspire to excellence in their obligations and endeavors. These are many of the same values needed to be successful as a business leader, especially with the rigors of start-up small business. At Stony Lonesome, we just don’t invest in great ideas, we also invest in great leaders! And most importantly, with our team of seasoned business experts and senior military professionals we provide the “mentor-capital” to give our portfolio companies the best chance of success. At Stony Lonesome Group there are no “fire and forget” investments.The final leg of the stool is providing investment capital. A lot of early-stage companies are small and they that don’t have the resources, expertise or contacts to reach sources of capital. Many simply cannot find U.S. based venture capital and they seek funding offshore to survive…and that’s where you can come in! SLG’s portfolio of 40 companies, through two sector focused risk managed funds, provide a great opportunity to support U.S. early stage companies in need of capital.
Our veterans just need a chance to succeed and that’s where Stony Lonesome Group comes in. Typically, SLG investors consider three main factors when deciding to make a venture capital investment: 1) Risk; 2) Potential ROI; 3) Impact...a personally compelling cause for a greater good.
Indeed, there are many investment opportunities that potentially meet an investor’s first two criteria, but for many investors, Impact is the deciding factor between investment options. The recent dramatic growth of Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) funds and Socially Responsible Investing (SRI) funds are examples of Impact investing. Heretofore, there has been a lack of opportunity to make Impact investment in American veteran start-ups.
I would submit that as a part of “giving back” for the freedom, education, and the opportunity that we have received from our Nation, we can endeavor to invest in promising American companies, run by tested military veterans with the goal to create value and to help ensure that America will always remain a global leader.
Freedom is not Free, make an investment that can make a difference!
About the Author
Lt Gen Brooks Bash, USAF (Ret) is a General Partner and military advisor with Stony Lonesome Group. Since transitioning from the military, he has become an experienced C-Suite executive and board member, to include President of Western Global Airlines. While serving in the active duty military he commanded multiple military organizations and was a combat leader. He served as the Pentagon’s principal advisor to the Chairman of the JCS for DOD’s logistics and health enterprises. He also served as the Deputy Executive Secretary for the White House National Security Council under two Administrations. Lt Gen Bash is a service-disabled veteran and recipient of the Defense Distinguished Service Medal, third in precedent after the Medal of Honor and the Distinguished Service Cross.