The Homeland Security Startup Studio (HSSS) is an innovative program that brings together entrepreneurs, mentors, and inventors to deliver technology solutions for homeland security. Conducted in partnership with the venture-building company FedTech, HSSS pairs the next generation of entrepreneurs with federally-funded, cutting-edge technologies to help move them from the lab to the market.
Recruiting for the 2024 Cohort
Applications are now being accepted for the 2024 HSSS Cohort that will run from February 2024 through May 2024. Entrepreneur participants are expected to devote ~20 hours a week (weekends and evenings) to the program. All teams take part in the first phase of the program, and some may progress to Phase II, based on a competitive process. Apply here through January 5, 2024.
Join S&T and FedTech for a virtual Information Session to learn more about the HSSS program. At these interactive sessions, the HSSS team will answer questions and discuss opportunities to engage with DHS-relevant technologies and explore launching a new venture through the HSSS. Upcoming Information Session dates:
- December 6, 2023 from 1:00 – 2:00 p.m. ET
- December 19, 2023 from 1:00 – 2:00 p.m. ET
How does the HSSS program work?
FedTech forms teams of entrepreneurs and matches them with promising federally-funded technologies to assess their commercialization potential. Each team has two or three budding entrepreneurs who bring diverse expertise in technology, engineering, and business. The FedTech curriculum provides teams with entrepreneurial training and experiential learning with coaches and mentors.
During phase I, program entrepreneurs are taught foundational basics and skill sets so teams can quickly assess potential use cases for their matched technology. During weekly breakout sessions, teams will practice pitching for mentors who will act as sounding boards. Entrepreneurs will participate in lectures on lean programming and spinout topics such as: fundraising, intellectual property, business models, and customer outreach. Participants also engage in customer discovery interviews to help identify the problem-solution fit for their technology.
Phase II participants will set up early-stage companies with pragmatic and ambitious company goals. Entrepreneur teams will be guided by program mentors on how to navigate crucial formation steps from pitching to licensing their technologies. The content of this phase will be customized for the team.
Who are we looking for?
HSSS is looking for diverse applicants who are ready to continue their entrepreneurship journey or take a step into the world of entrepreneurship. Most prior participants have been employed full-time over the course of this program but must be willing and able to commit to the workshops, team meetings and mentorship sessions of this program, which typically occur during the week on evenings and occasional weekends.
Technologists: A competitive technical applicant has deep technical experience in a technology vertical(s). Although not required, a relevant PhD is generally a plus for deep tech startups along with 5+ years of industry experience. This role is for a future chief technology officer or vice president of research and development.
Business Experts: A competitive business applicant (non-technical) typically has experience in the business aspects of the vertical (i.e., business development, operations, marketing, fundraising, strategy). Although not required, an MBA or prior operating experience in a startup is preferred, along with 5+ years of experience. This role is for a future CEO, COO, CMO, or VP of Sales.
Career Shifters, Veterans, & Re-Entrants to the Workforce: Individuals who are looking to step out and explore new career pathways are encouraged to apply for the Startup Studio Program.
Individuals or teams are welcome to apply.
In July 2023, HSSS hosted its third annual and first in-person Converge in Arlington, VA, the culminating event of the 16-week program. Eight teams pitched their efforts to commercialize groundbreaking technologies sourced from U.S. laboratories and universities to a hybrid audience and an expert panel of judges. Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) Director Jen Easterly provided a keynote addressing the HSSS entrepreneurs. View the Converge 2023 recording on YouTube.
The judges chose NAS-LIION as the Converge 2023 Winner. The team’s battery leak detection technology uses a colorimetric indicator to detect electrolyte leakage from Lithium-Ion batteries. The Audience Choice award went to Full Spectrum Imaging (FSI), an improved resolution imaging technology from S&T’s Transportation Security Laboratory. FSI's Randomized Precious-Metal Attenuation Filter (RPAF) is a simple after-market attachment used with any X-ray or Computed Tomography system, enabling full color (energy spectrum) pictures.
Seven teams completed the 2022 Cohort by participating in Converge, the culminating event hosted by S&T and FedTech in July 2022. View Converge on YouTube to watch the teams in action and hear opening remarks from Julie Brewer, Executive Director of S&T’s Office of Innovation and Collaboration. Seven teams pitched their early-stage companies and technologies to a public audience and a panel of judges, highlighting market opportunities and plans for further development and growth.
The judges selected two winners of Converge ’22, HorizonAI and Aether. HorizonAI worked with a technology sourced from the DHS Federally Funded R&D Center HSSEDI and Aether worked with a Naval Research Laboratory technology. HorizonAI pitched the ROSIE technology, which uses an optical sensor to safely collect accurate, automated, continuous, and real-time vitals data and is effective on masked individuals and groups. Aether pitched a sensor technology that can “see” chemical threats and provides a higher level of selectivity and specificity than its predecessors.
Additional program information and outcomes can be found in the 2022 Cohort Report.
In the inaugural HSSS ‘21 cohort, FedTech assessed over 450 technologies from federal labs and academia to identify 10 commercially-promising technologies that align with homeland security missions. From there, 30 entrepreneurs were selected to participate in the two-phased program. In Phase I, 10 teams learned foundational entrepreneurial knowledge and skillsets to quickly assess potential use cases for their matched technologies. Phase I concluded with an internal pitch day that resulted in six teams progressing into Phase II, where they focused on forming early-stage companies to commercialize their technologies.
Featuring a broad array of distinguished experts across various fields (81% of whom were women or people of color), five teams capped off Phase II by pitching their technologies to venture capitalists, homeland security experts, and other innovators at the HSSS ’21 Converge event. With technologies ranging from network security and machine learning to nighttime facial recognition alert systems, each team had 6 minutes to present their progress in forming a company and licensing their technology.