HUSTLE Defense Accelerator Frequently Asked Questions

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

Are you a tech startup pushing artificial intelligence, machine learning, cybersecurity, quantum science, or unmanned aircraft system solutions?

We are looking for early-stage and pre-seed startups that could benefit from participation in the HUSTLE Defense Accelerator.

     EMERGING Track- emerging pre-seed, early companies attempting to tackle nationally relevant defense technology commercialization.

     ELEVATING Track- seed stage companies that are a little more advanced than those in the emerging track and could use additional mentorship to elevate their Minimal Viable Product (MVP).

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

Got Questions? 


What is the HUSTLE Defense Accelerator? 

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. 

How do I apply for the HUSTLE Defense Accelerator? 

Once applications are made live, the next application availability is planned for December 8, 2022, a complete application is made available as a web-based form and interested parties are notified.  

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: After an evaluation round, teams 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:  


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

EMERGING 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). 

What kind of startups are eligible for the HUSTLE Defense Accelerator? 

The HUSTLE Defense Accelerator is open to all pre-seed and seed-stage startups with a 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 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.

What is the specific eligibility for both tracks of the HUSTLE Defense Accelerator?  

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

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

Teams 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.  

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

Teams 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. 

When do the Emerging and Elevating cohort tracks begin? 

The Emerging cohort will begin on May 22, 2023 and run for twelve (12) weeks. The Elevating cohort will begin on June 20, 2023 and run for eight (8) weeks. Both cohorts end at Demo Day scheduled for August 18, 2023. 

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 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.   

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 a 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. Individuals in startup teams eligible to receive government information will be trained on to handle and store CUI and will be required to pass a training module required of all contractors doing work for the government.  

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, to receive Demo Day competition prize investments, at the end of the program, will require substantial businesses operations in the Mohawk Valley, for at least 12 months after the HUSTLE Defense Accelerator.   

Can a team with individuals less than 18 years old participate in the HUSTLE Defense Accelerator? 

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. 

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 pre-seed and 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? 

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

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. Also, teams selected to participate in the cohort will receive prize money based on their category of startup company. 


$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 up to $100,000.  


$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.  

What does the HUSTLE Defense Accelerator involve?


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

The Griffiss Institute aspires to carry out three (3) consecutive cohorts of 8 or 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 Griffiss Institute (GI) a Simple Agreement for Future Equity (the “SAFE”), in the form attached hereto, pursuant to 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 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 GI’s option to exercise the Pro Rata Agreement, the SAFE may convert to an equity demand at a future time.

Besides curricula, mentoring, networking support, and prize money, what other benefits are associated with being a part of the HUSTLE Defense Accelerator? 

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

Amazon Web Services (AWS) 

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) 

Patent Hacks 

As part of your participation in the HUSTLE Defense Accelerator teams will receive one (1) month free access to the Patent Tool and resources. Following graduation, any Demo Day team prize winner will be eligible for six (6) months of free access. For more information: 

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 New York State's 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 on Demo Day?  

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

What’s my commitment to the program? 

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 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 provided financial assistance for housing.  

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 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!