DEFENSE ACCELERATOR

READY…SET…HUSTLE! 

The HUSTLE Defense Accelerator Program is designed to empower tech startups pioneering advancements in artificial intelligence, machine learning, cybersecurity, quantum science, and uncrewed aircraft systems.

Through our comprehensive curriculum, participants gain invaluable knowledge and skills in business management, equipping them with the tools needed to thrive in today’s competitive landscape.

Led by a team of seasoned professionals, our program offers tailored education and mentorship, providing insights into navigating government contracts, establishing strategic partnerships, and securing funding to fuel growth.

Join us as we pave the way for innovation, collaboration, and the delivery of trusted technologies to drive the American economy forward.

Griffiss Institute is revving up for the third cohort of the HUSTLE Defense Accelerator!

EMERGE Track:A twelve 12-week course designed for emerging pre-seed companies ready to accelerate and tackle nationally relevant defense technology commercialization.

ELEVATE Track:An eight (8) week course designed for the seed stage companies that are a little more advanced and that could use some elevation with a minimal viable product (MVP).

If either of those sound like your start-up, please sign up below and we will notify you of the 2024 application process & other important dates.

HUSTLE is Supported & Sponsored by:

HUSTLE Defense Accelerator

The HUSTLE Defense Accelerator is an elite and immersive accelerator for pre-seed and seed-stage tech startups pushing AI/ML, cyber, quantum and UAS solutions with dual-use potential and the drive to elevate the United States’ national security and economic competitiveness.

This program is 100% in person and on site at Innovare Advancement Center in Rome, NY. 

Startups will be selected for participation in this elite program for defense innovation and summer residency in our world-class facility. 

Contact Our HUSTLE Leads

Hannah Reece
Venture Development Director

Dan Fayette
Subject Matter Expert

Latest HUSTLE Defense Accelerator News

Griffiss Institute’s HUSTLE Cohort 2 Unleashes Game-Changing Innovations in Defense Acceleration!

ROME, NY- Griffiss Institute welcomes the incoming cohort of teams to the HUSTLE Defense Accelerator, consisting of both 12-week and 8-week teams, the teams will be provided a unique opportunity...

Griffiss Institute Hosts First-Ever HUSTLE Demo Day for Startups to Make Their Home in the Mohawk Valley with $300,000 Investment

Rome, NY – Griffiss Institute President & CEO Heather Hage hosted the HUSTLE Defense Accelerator Demo Day, on August 18, where attendees, both in person and online, experienced the region’s...

Griffiss Institute Partners with Amazon to Provide Free AWS Services to Startup Companies

Rome, NY – Griffiss Institute President & CEO Heather Hage today announced that the Innovare Advancement Center, the 150,000 square foot open innovation hub on their Rome, New York campus, is...

Griffiss Institute Launches First Cohort of HUSTLE Defense Accelerator, Offers $300K Prize for Winning Innovation

ROME, NY — Griffiss Institute President & CEO Heather Hage announced today the launch of the first-ever cohort of the HUSTLE Defense Accelerator. The program is an elite and immersive 12-week...

HUSTLE Defense Accelerator graduates will…

  • Know the defense enterprise as a customer.
  • Know how, when, and where to make the perfect pitch.
  • Know the people and players who will be your partners in delivering national security solutions.
  • Know how to engage early-stage sources of capital to de-risk technologies and develop your team.
  • Launch your venture in an inclusive community of scientists, engineers, and entrepreneurs who are inspired and committed to elevate national security and economic competitiveness.
  • Learn the rich legacy of innovation in New York’s picturesque Mohawk Valley.
  • Learn the ropes of startup success from world-class trainers, coaches and mentors.
  • Compete for hundreds of thousands in seed funding to grow your company in the Mohawk Valley. 

HUSTLE Defense Accelerator cohort teams will be provided a unique opportunity to learn knowledge and skills to develop, market and grow their businesses and a special track focused on how to successfully work with the Department of Defense (DoD) and other government agencies. 

Business Development Track focuses on all aspects of establishing and growing your company through a combination of lectures and guest speakers. Topics include:

  • Motivation
  • Ideation
  • Customer Discovery
  • Minimum Viable Product (MVP)
  • Competition
  • Intellectual Property Strategy
  • Go to Market, Customer Acquisition
  • Key Activities, Resources & Partners
  • Business model, Revenues & Costs

Government Business Track focuses on requirements for the DoD/Air Force SBIR/STTR programs, How to Write a Winning SBIR/STTR Proposal, How to Handle Control Unclassified Information (CUI), International Traffic in Arms Regulations, Data Rights, Technology Transfer Agreements, Developing and Submitting a DoD License Request to DoD Labs, What is a Project Intermediary and How They Can Help, Government Procurement: Procurement Technical Assistance Center (PTAC), and DoD Contracting 101. 

The HUSTLE Defense Accelerator culminates in a Demo Day where qualifying HUSTLE teams will have the opportunity to compete for hundreds of thousands in prize money, based on their track, to scale their ventures in the Mohawk Valley!

Thank you, New York State and Empire State Development, for your steadfast support of HUSTLE Defense Accelerator! 

Interested in participating as a HUSTLE Defense Accelerator coach, sponsor or mentor? Email hustle@griffissinstitute.org

HUSTLE FAQ

The HUSTLE Defense Accelerator is an elite and immersive academy for pre-seed and seed-stage startups pushing AI/ML, cyber, quantum, and UAS solutions with the potential to elevate the United States’ national security and economic competitiveness. 

Cohort 3 went live on December 1, 2023, a complete application is made available as a web-based form, and interested parties are notified. Cohort 3 applications close on February 28, 2024.

The HUSTLE Defense Accelerator uses a multi-step process for selecting cohort startup companies.

Step 1: Complete application. 

Step 2: No more than twenty (20) semi-finalist startup companies will be selected for a further review via a five-minute video which will be used to down-select final participants. 

Step 3: After an evaluation round, companies will be invited to participate in this elite program for defense innovation and summer residency in our world-class facility from these two (2) categories of startups:  

 

EMERGE Track: A twelve 12-week course designed for emerging pre-seed companies ready to accelerate and tackle nationally relevant defense technology commercialization. 

ELEVATE Track: An eight (8) week course designed for the seed stage companies that are a little more advanced and could use some elevation with a minimal viable product (MVP). 

The HUSTLE Defense Accelerator is open to all pre-seed and seed-stage startups. We strongly prefer a startup company with at least two (2) teammates: one (1) with a technical background, and one (1) with a business background, and that all team members exhibit grit, tenacity, HUSTLE, and focus on National Security Challenges associated with AI/ML, cyber, quantum and Uncrewed Autonomous Systems (UAS) solutions. This is not a requirement, however, based on our experience, we find a combination of both technical and business expertise provides the startup the best chance to succeed.

EMERE Track: Emerging pre-seed, early companies attempting to tackle nationally relevant defense technology commercialization.   

Companies can be pre-formation but will be required to legally form if selected for prize money.  

Companies are not required to have a minimum viable product or sales.   

Maximum, total revenue from customers cannot exceed $500,000.   

Maximum, total investment from equity/dilutive funding can total no more than $500,000.  
  

ELEVATE Track: Seed-stage companies that are a little more advanced could use some elevation with a minimum viable product (MVP).   

Companies are required to be a going business concern, established as a corporation or limited liability company.   

Companies are required to have placed some product or service into the market already for revenue generation or pilot customer locations.   

Maximum, total revenue from customers cannot exceed $1,500,000   

Maximum, total investment received in the form of equity/dilutive funding cannot exceed $1,500,000. 

The EMERGE cohort will begin on May 21, 2024, and run for twelve (12) weeks. The ELEVATE cohort will begin on June 21, 2024, and run for eight (8) weeks. Both cohorts end on Demo Day scheduled for August 15, 2024. 

A two (2) person team or larger is preferred. A technical and business founder is the preferred arrangement. The HUSTLE Defense Accelerator application process details what you need to apply.  

Companies can be started by anyone. The HUSTLE Defense Accelerator is looking for startups that have a technical founder or an idea originator. This person has the technical background to develop the idea. People like this are usually engineers, programmers, web developers/designers, or scientists. The HUSTLE Defense Accelerator is also interested in a person with Business Development expertise as this is necessary for small early-stage startups to identify customers and new market opportunities needed for the startup to grow and prosper.   

Having a successful startup requires more than an idea. It requires a team that can take an idea, develop it, create a business around that idea, and make it grow. Ask yourself two questions about who should be on your team: Do I have a company without the individual? Can I get someone else to do what she/he can do? Entrepreneurial and creative thinkers, people with vision, passion, communication skills, and business insight, make good team members.  

Yes. To participate in the HUSTLE program, attendees must be a United States citizen or US Person. US Person is defined as a) any individual who is granted US citizenship; b) any individual who is granted US permanent residence (“Green Card” holder); (c) any individual who is granted status as a “protected person” under 8 U.S.C. 1324b(a)(3); and (d) any corporation, business, organization/group organized or incorporated in the United States under US law.

No. The HUSTLE Defense Accelerator is open to applicants from around the United States of America (USA). However, to receive Demo Day competition prize investments, at the end of the program, will require substantial business operations in the Mohawk Valley, for at least 12 months after the HUSTLE Defense Accelerator. Any business receiving prize money is required to become a member of the GI Business Incubator. As part of the GIBI, businesses will continue to receive support from GI staff to continue to grow their company.

Minors are eligible to participate in the HUSTLE Defense Accelerator. If accepted into the HUSTLE Defense Accelerator, a parental signature will be required on all agreement documents required for participation in a cohort. In New York State, an individual must be at least 18 years of age to execute legally binding agreements required for the HUSTLE Defense Accelerator. We strongly encourage this early-stage company to join the GIBI before applying for HUSTLE where you can EVOLVE your company.

For the HUSTLE Defense Accelerator, start with a great idea in one of the focus areas of AI/ML, cyber, quantum, and UAS/UAV solutions, meet the eligibility requirements, and submit a completed application. The HUSTLE Defense Accelerator is focused on helping pre-seed and seed-stage startups understand how to work with the government and increase market opportunities focused on National Defense and economic growth.

The HUSTLE Defense Accelerator engages its administration team comprised of stakeholders and Innovare network collaborators who are experienced in key areas of AI/ML, cyber, quantum, and UAS solutions, as well as business development, and entrepreneurship to review the applications and select participants.

A maximum of twelve (12) companies will be selected to participate in the HUSTLE Defense Accelerator for each cohort, as a mix of companies between the EMERGE and ELEVATE tracks.  

Yes, in addition to the curricula and guest speakers, participants will also have access to mentors and subject matter experts (SMEs). Furthermore, companies can compete for prize money as part of Demo Day, and 12 months of support post-Demo Day. Also, companies selected to participate in the cohort will receive prize money based on their category of startup company. 

EMERGE Track:  

$7,500 per founder, for one or two founders that are in residence in Rome for the summer  

$21,000 value of support programming during the HUSTLE Accelerator  

A competitively selected Demo Day prize investment of up to $100,000.  
  

ELEVATE Track:  

$5,000 per founder, for one or two founders, that are in residence in Rome for the summer.  

$15,000 of support programming during the HUSTLE Accelerator.  

A competitively selected Demo Day Prize investment of up to $350,000.

The Griffiss Institute aspires to carry out three (3) consecutive cohorts of 8 or 12 weeks each year. 

As part of your participation in HUSTLE Defense Accelerator, the Company will grant to Griffiss Institute (GI) a Simple Agreement for Future Equity (the “SAFE”), in the form attached hereto, under which $21,000 in-kind programming, plus $7,500 per founder (maximum $15,000) for ACCELERATING companies and $14,000 in-kind programming plus $5,000 per founder (maximum $10,000) for ELEVATING, (the agreed-upon value of the services and prize money provided to you by GI under this agreement), will be convertible into equity of the Company as outlined in such SAFE. You further acknowledge that the Company must be organized as either a corporation or limited liability company to facilitate this form of equity grant. At GI’s option to exercise the Pro Rata Agreement, the SAFE may convert to an equity demand at a future time.

We have established partnerships with Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Patent Hacks for use by eligible HUSTLE Defense Accelerator participants. 

The Griffiss Institute is an official AWS Activate Provider to help our startups access a host of free benefits, including AWS Cloud credits, AWS Business Support credits, exclusive members-only offers, and access to the Activate Console to help build and grow their businesses. Startups in our portfolio that meet the AWS eligibility criteria are eligible for: 

$25,000 in AWS Activate Credits valid for 2 years 

One (1) year of AWS Business Support (up to $5,000) 

As part of HUSTLE Defense Accelerator, companies are eligible to participate in Demo Day and compete for Demo Day prize money sponsored by New York State’s Empire State Development Corporation. In addition, companies will be required to become members of the Griffiss Institute Business Incubator (GIBI) which administers the HUSTLE program. Awards at Demo Day will also be structured as an additional SAFE instrument.  

Selected companies can compete for hundreds of thousands in prize money, based on their track. The best companies will receive prize money at various amounts as determined by the judging panel, not to exceed the amount allotted for each type of startup.  

The HUSTLE Defense Accelerator is an 8-week or 12-week, depending on your track, immersive and intense program that requires you to be fully engaged onsite at the Innovare Advancement Center in Rome, NY.  

Post Demo Day, there is a 12-month incubation program that requires the winning team to commit to having a presence in the Mohawk Valley, if not already to continue to grow their companies and continue receiving support from the GI and innovare Network of partners. The Mohawk Valley region is defined by Fulton, Herkimer, Montgomery, Oneida, Otsego, or Schoharie counties.

Yes, if you are participating in the HUSTLE Defense Accelerator, there is a residency requirement for your business. Griffiss Institute program staff will help HUSTLE participants work through the residency requirements should they need assistance in finding affordable housing. HUSTLE companies are not providing financial assistance for housing.  

If you have questions, we’re here to answer them. Email us at hustle@griffissinstitute.org

Mohawk Valley makes up one-sixth of New York State and serves over one million residents. The six counties that comprise the Mohawk Valley are an economic and educational hub of Central New York. Visit esd.ny.gov/regions/mohawk-valley for more information. 

Corporate sponsorship is always welcomed for our commercialization activities to help fund this growing program. Here at the Griffiss Institute, we have the vision of being a STEM talent and Technology Accelerator. We will achieve this vision through the development of an Innovation Center of Excellence that will help to foster new business in the Mohawk Valley region of New York State, and the Nation, and enable the Griffiss Institute to be a leader for education and training in information technology! If you love our vision as much as we do, please get in touch with us at hustle@griffissinstitute.org to find out more about our available sponsorship opportunities! 

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