BATTLE SIGHT: MAKING THE CASE FOR MATCHING VETERAN ENTREPRENEURS, AFRL TECHNOLOGY COMMERCIALIZATION ACCELERATORS

26.06.18 06:30 PM By Jennie Hempstead

Successful tech startups are the product of expert teams. Subject matter experts understand the technical aspects of the company’s offering. Entrepreneurs have the stamina and passion to build a business from the ground up, along with a keen understanding of the market. When these teams have first-hand experience from the end user, success is accelerated.

When the Technology Accelerator Program (TAP) pilot was created in 2015, the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL), Wright Brothers Institute (WBI) and The Entrepreneur’s Center (TEC) conceptualized a new process: take energetic entrepreneurs, match them with an AFRL technology, and guide them through the startup process to bolster tech development in
the Dayton region. Nick Ripplinger, a US Army Veteran, saw an opportunity. During his TAP experience, he was made aware of microencapsulated chemiluminescent materials, developed by Dr. Larry Brott in the Materials and Manufacturing Directorate in Dayton, Ohio. He recalled his active duty deployment and immediately envisioned a “glowstick crayon” that would allow soldiers communicate in low-light situations. Nick could immediately see the value of the technology because of his experience as a veteran. Following a market analysis, Battle Sight Technologies, LLC was created.

Veteran-entrepreneurship or “Vetrepreneurship” is emerging as a valuable asset to the startup community. They have the desire: in 2016, the SBA reported that 25% of Post-9/11 veterans want to start their own businesses (Forbes, 2016). About 1 in 20 people of working age in the United States are military veterans. They create jobs: veteran-owned businesses in the United States employ approximately 5.8 million people. With over $210 billion being paid to 5.8 million employees a year, veteran business owners pay an average annual salary of over $36,000 (NFV, 2017). Because the TAP pilot works with technologies developed for warfighters, matching veterans to AFRL technologies could help replicate Battle Sight’s success.

Following TAP, Battle Sight developed the crayon-like writing instrument referred to as the MARC, which enables enhanced communication in low-light and no-light conditions for military and first responders. When Battle Sight experienced challenges in scaling the MARC for production, members of WBI worked with Ripplinger to develop a reusable applicator that facilitates effective use of the technology in the field. Their continued relationship with TEC led to financial and developmental support from the State of Ohio’s Entrepreneurial Services Support program (ESP). The Dayton region is also taking notice. Battle Sight was recently awarded the Dayton Area Chamber of Commerce 2018 SOIN Award for Innovation.
The product line is also growing. The MARC IR (a writing device that luminesces in the infrared spectrum) was successfully demonstrated to units from Air Force Special Operations Command (AFSOC), United States Special Operations Command (SOCOM), and United States Army Special Forces (Army SOF) in April 2018 and is now being considered for
acquisition.

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