HUSTLE Frequently Asked Questions

What is the HUSTLE Defense Accelerator?

The HUSTLE Defense Accelerator is an elite and immersive 12-week training academy for seed stage startups pushing AI/ML, cyber, quantum, and UAS solutions with potential to elevate the United States’ national security and economic competitiveness.


How do I apply for the HUSTLE Defense Accelerator?

Applications for the HUSTLE Defense Accelerator can be found here. Cohort applications are made available on a rolling bases and the next application availability is planned for early 2023.The HUSTLE Defense Accelerator is using a multi-step process for selecting cohort startup teams.

The HUSTLE Defense Accelerator is using a multi-step process for selecting cohort startup teams.

Step 1: Complete application

Step 2: No more than twenty (20) semi-finalist startup teams will be selected for a further pitch and evaluation round

Step 3: Ten (10) startup teams will be selected for participation in this elite program for defense innovation and summer residency in our world-class facility 


What kind of startups are eligible for HUSTLE Defense Accelerator?

The HUSTLE Defense Accelerator is open to all early-stage startups with special interest in University and Air Force Founders. We strongly prefer a startup team with at least two (2) Teammates: One (1) with a technical background and one (1) with a business background, and all team members exhibit grit, tenacity, HUSTLE and focus on National Security Challenges associated with AI/ML, cyber, quantum and 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.


Can I apply if I have an existing business?

The objective of the HUSTLE Defense Accelerator is to promote the establishment and growth of new startups. Therefore, eligibility for the HUSTLE Defense Accelerator requires you to be, (or become), a true startup. Our definition for a startup is an entity that usually leverages technology and is scalable and fundable, (can grow quickly).


Can I be an individual or do I have to have a team?

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.


Why do I need a technical founder and a business developer?

Companies can be started by anyone. The HUSTLE Defense Accelerator is looking for startups that have a technical founder or the idea originator. This person is someone that 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. 


Who should be on my team?

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.


Do I have to be a US citizen or US person to apply?

No. However, to be provided with certain information that will be communicated by the government as Controlled Unclassified Information, at least one member of the startup business must be a United States citizen or resident. US Persons 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. Any information approved for public release will be available to all participants.


Do I have to live in New York to apply? 

No. The HUSTLE Defense Accelerator is open to applicants from around the United States of America (USA). However, the Demo Day competition for cash prizes at the end of the program will be limited to businesses operating in the Mohawk Valley as part of the HUSTLE program.


What is the process to qualify?

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.


Do I need to have a specific technology solution for a Department of Defense application in order to apply to the HUSTLE Defense Accelerator?

No, you do not. We are also interested in technologies that are being developed for commercial use and can be repurposed to support a defense application.

The HUSTLE Defense Accelerator is focused on helping seed stage startups understand how to work with the government and increase market opportunities focused on National defense.


Who selects participants?

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, to review the applications and select participants.


How many participants will be selected for the HUSTLE Defense Accelerator?

Ten (10) teams will be selected to participate in the HUSTLE Defense Accelerator for each cohort.


Is additional support provided to me and my startup as part of the HUSTLE Defense Accelerator?

Yes, in addition to the curricula and guest speakers, participants will also have access to mentors and subject matter experts (SME). Furthermore, teams are eligible to compete for prize money as part of Demo Day, and 12 months of support post Demo Day.


What does the HUSTLE Defense Accelerator involve?

HUSTLE Process







How many HUSTLE Defense Accelerator cohorts will take place each year?

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


How much equity do I need to give?

As part of your participation in HUSTLE Defense Accelerator, the Company will grant to the GI a Simple Agreement for Future Equity (the “SAFE”), in the form attached hereto, pursuant to which $21,000 (the agreed-upon value of the services provided to you by GI pursuant to this agreement) will be convertible into equity of the Company as set forth 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 the GI’s option to exercise the Pro Rata Agreement, the SAFE may convert to an equity demand at a future time.   


What happens after I complete the HUSTLE Defense Accelerator?

As part of HUSTLE Defense Accelerator, teams are eligible to participate in Demo Day, and compete for Demo Day prize money sponsored by Empire State Development Corporation. In addition, teams 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.


How much prize money will cohort teams compete for?

Selected teams will have an opportunity to compete for up to $300,000 in prize money for the cost of workspace, capital expenses, consultants, and legal services.


What’s my commitment to the program?

The HUSTLE Defense Accelerator is a 12-week 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 locate/relocate their business in the Mohawk Valley, if not already. The Mohawk Valley region is defined by Fulton, Herkimer, Montgomery, Oneida, Otsego, or Schoharie counties.


Will I have to find housing?

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 you need assistance in finding affordable housing. HUSTLE teams are not necessarily provided financial assistance for housing at this time. The Griffiss Institute will consider such assistance and funds as available, and appropriate.


Who can I talk to about the program before applying?

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


What’s life like in the Mohawk Valley?

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


Can my company be a sponsor?

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 vison 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 contact us at to find out more about our available sponsorship opportunities!