USAA 2023 Pitch Competition Powered By Bunker Labs

On October 19th, 2023, in Washington DC, seven companies will compete at the USAA Pitch Competition Powered by Bunker Labs. All applicants were drawn from the security, data, AI systems, fintech, insurtech, and enterprise infrastructure industries, and are pitching to earn their share of $85,000 in prize money! Learn more about the event here!

Update: Competition Winners Announced!

Robert Thelen and Rownd won the $50,000 first prize in DC for their new user digital authentication and sign-up solution. Anthony Gadient and Vali Cyber’s Linux cyber-security solution took second place, and $25,000, while Lawrence Nunn and Cyberspatial earned third prize, taking home $10,000 in prize money.

The event also featured Pretaa CEO and Co-Founder Michael Madon and who joined Bunker Labs’ own Chief Development Officer Becca Keaty for a fireside chat.  Together, the two spoke about a wide range of issues, from the importance of finding your trusted peer group, to disagreeing with funders when necessary. There was also discussion on the long grind of getting from an early adopter consumer base to becoming a mainstream option. Madon suggests there is no real secret to it: you just keep incorporating feedback from customers to better solve the problem and run lean or find funding to iterate over and outlast competition.

Need Help Honing Your Pitch?

Pitching under ideal circumstances is difficult, but pitching for a competition is even more intense. Take another look at your pitch with Bunker Labs’ How-To Pitch Your Business blog series!

Guest Speaker Michael Madon

In addition to the pitch competition, attendees and competitors have an opportunity to hear from the CEO Michael Madon of behavior analytics software company Pretaa. After a nearly 25-year career in Airborne, Mechanized, and Military Intelligence Units stateside and overseas that earned him a Bronze Star, Michael retired as a technology scout for the U.S. Army. His business experience goes beyond founding Pretaa. He’s served as a senior vice president for Mimecast, a cybersecurity firm, and was an early member of Red Owl, a behavioral analytics firm, which was acquired by Raytheon’s Forcepoint.  Moderating the fireside chat will be Bunker Labs’ own Becca Keaty, Becca is the Bunker Labs Chief Development Officer, and a 20-year retired veteran of the Army National Guard. 

The Competitors

Judges will hear business pitches from seven US military veterans. Each competitor has just seven minutes to make their pitch, followed by a five-minute Q&A with the judges.

Robert Thelen, Air Force Veteran
CEO & Co-Founder, Rownd

More than half of potential users abandon an app during the sign-up phase, largely due to outdated and static data collection and authentication methods. Rownd revolutionizes this process for businesses by offering adaptive and dynamic authentication, which can effectively double user conversion rates. By granting product managers and growth teams the flexibility to customize the user onboarding journey, Rownd ensures a seamless and user-friendly experience for their customers. With a comprehensive self-service tool suite that encourages experimentation and rapid iteration, supported by 12 SDKs for versatile integration and underpinned by cutting-edge intelligent authentication, Rownd is the go-to solution for businesses aiming to significantly enhance user experiences and metrics.

Anthony Gadient, Air Force Veteran
CEO & Co-Founder, Vali Cyber, INC.

Vali Cyber provides a disruptive, dual-use cyber security solution purpose-built to protect Linux systems. From the cloud-to-the-edge, Linux is at the heart of our national security and critical infrastructure. Vali’s patent-pending solution is built on DARPA-funded research from MIT and CMU. Vali is led by a team of serial entrepreneurs and cyber experts who have built and sold a half-dozen successful startups with a total exit value of over $1B. Vali’s solution enables a zero-trust architecture, uses 80% less CPU and memory than legacy tools, and is 2x as effective at stopping ransomware than legacy tools.

Lawrence Nunn, Army Veteran
CEO, Cyberspatial INC

Cyberspatial does for networks what satellite imagery does for the earth. We’re building an attack surface intelligence platform that maps and discovers any network without agents or scanning, helping teams gain a complete view of their security risk environment.

Kyle Aquino,Navy Veteran

Making Networks NVISible to External Cyberattacks. NVIS takes remote communications “off the grid” through our network cloaking technology, effectively eliminating the entire public attack surface while preserving the existing infrastructure and development investments.

Cynitra Stewart, Navy Veteran
Chief Technician, Cynitra Information Systems

Cynitra Information Systems LLC was established with a clear mission: to provide top-tier cybersecurity solutions while fostering diversity and inclusivity within the tech sector. Our unique combination of leadership and collaboration has resulted in strategic partnerships, groundbreaking research, and visionary projects.

Ian Garrett, Army Active Duty/Reservist
CEO & Co-Founder, Phalanx

Phalanx is a lightweight Data Loss Prevention (DLP) and document mapping solution that secures document access by combining automation, identity, and encryption. We transform existing workspaces, such as Office 365, Google Workspace, or local devices, into secure systems to provide security teams with cyber risk intelligence of their sensitive documents and automated security to mitigate the risk.

Sergio Rodriguera Jr., Navy Veteran
Co-Founder, Straylight Systems

Straylight Systems is an Artificial Intelligence (AI) company helping commercial and government customers operationalize their data by ingesting thousands of disparate and unstructured PDFs, text files, and CSVs to unify and normalize in seconds so businesses can accelerate and improve decision-making.

The Judges

Our judges have the unenviable task of figuring out who takes home the grand prize of $50,000.

Darrius Jones
SVP, Enterprise Digital, Design, and Innovation Officer

Darrius Jones and his team are responsible for delivering the breadth of the association to as many members as possible in the most efficient and scalable ways available. This is accomplished by partnering across USAA on the strategy and execution of consistent, member-centric digital experiences for all products and services. He is a servant leader who drives empowerment through clear accountability by creating empowered, diverse teams that are focused on delivering strategically aligned outcomes.

Prior to rejoining USAA, Darrius held several leadership roles with increasing responsibility, including Chief Strategy and marketing Officer for Polycom/Plantronics, Head of Digital Channels & Experiences at Schwab & Cisco Systems, where he led strategy and new product dev for the Collaboration and Customer Care business. Earlier in his career, Darrius had a wide breadth of experience in technology architecture and execution while at Merrill Lynch and Computershare.

Darrius grew up just outside of NYC in Montclair, NJ. He proudly hails from a military family in which his grandfather, father, uncles, and sister all served.

Jason Witty
Chief Security Officer, USAA

Jason Witty serves as the Chief Security Officer (CSO) at United Services Automobile Association (USAA), where he is accountable for Information Security, Physical Security, Privacy, Operational Resiliency, Crisis Management and Corporate Investigations across the firm. He is additionally responsible for Enterprise Security Engineering & Technology Strategy, Planning, Risk and Execution across the Technology Division. Prior to his current role, Jason was the Chief Information Officer (CIO) of Cybersecurity & Technology Controls and Global Chief Information Security Officer (CISO) at J.P.Morgan Chase. There, he had responsibility for the firm’s cybersecurity, technology controls and technology resiliency programs. He le d a team of approximately 3,300 people operating in 23 countries and nearly 50 cities driving transformative change across the company

Jason is an award-winning CIO/CISO and a certified Information Systems Security Management Professional (ISSMP) with more than 30 years of experience in technology and information risk management. He is also an NACD.DC certified independent Board Director. Throughout his career, Jason has also provided extensive industry leadership. He has led multiple classified and unclassified sector-wide initiatives to upgrade the security posture for U.S. Critical National Infrastructure, including overseeing creation of industry-wide products for destructive malware best practices and utilization of clearances within the financial sector.

Jason is married with three children. He is also an avid martial artist with a 3rd degree Black Belt in Hapkido, and active practitioner of Ryushin Shouchi Ryu Iaido (Japanese sword), and Krav Maga.

Adam Bixler
Principal for Cybersecurity Portfolio, Squadra

Adam is the Principal for the Cybersecurity portfolio at Squadra, a venture capital firm that invests in early-stage cyber and national security companies. At Squadra, Adam oversees cybersecurity technology startups’ sourcing, diligence, and investment decisions and supports post-investment products, go-to-market, and growth strategies.

Adam founded multiple successful startups. He was co-founder and chief product officer of Morta Security, which was acquired by Palo Alto Networks in 2014, and co-founder and COO of Efflux Systems, which was acquired by Netscout in 2017. He most recently served as the Global Head of Third Party Cyber Risk Products and services at BlueVoyant, where he led product expansion and market growth acceleration that supported their unicorn fundraising in 2022.

Adam’s professional career began in the United States Air Force, where he spent more than two decades on both active duty and in the reserves as an operator, technologist, and cyber warfare expert. His efforts began in predecessor organizations to US Cyber Command, later supporting Air Force cyber mission growth.

Adam holds a BS in Information Science with a concentration in Computer Science from the University of Pittsburgh and an Executive MBA from the University of Maryland.

Show Your Support!

Cheer on our veteran entrepreneurs in person! If you’re in the Washington D.C. area October 19th, you can attend the event and enjoy the opportunity to network with the competitors, judges, guest speakers, and other attendees during the post-event reception. Tickets are free, reserve yours today!

Bunker Labs is Now Part of IVMF

As of January 2024, Bunker Labs is now a part of Syracuse University’s D’Aniello Institute for Veterans and Military Families (IVMF). In addition to ongoing Bunker Labs programming, we’d encourage you to browse IVMF’s deep wealth of entrepreneurship programming, much of it available virtually or at locations across the country. Find the program to help your business take the next step today!