By Maj. Tony MayneDecember 15, 2016
On Dec. 6, 2d Ranger Battalion veteran Vincent Kuchar and his business partner, Air Force veteran Josh Phifer won the Greater Philadelphia Veterans Network's "Veteran Shark Tank." One of five veteran teams selected for the competition, Kuchar and Phifer pitched their veteran-owned company Barn Owl, a remote sensor technology business aimed at increasing efficiencies in the ranching and farming industries.
The duo walked away from the shark tank with a $10,000 prize.
Kuchar, a former Ranger platoon leader and company commander, is in his second year at the University of Pennsylvania's prestigious Wharton Business School with a focus in entrepreneurship and finance.
Ranchers and farmers still rely on manual methods to ascertain the health of land, animals, or to simply measure the water available to livestock. The initial concept behind Barn Owl was to use drones, similar to those they experienced in the military, to monitor infrastructure, land, and animals on large ranches and farms. Kuchar and Phifer are developing technology to replace this manual monitoring with wireless sensors.
While Barn Owl will place its first sensors in water tanks of select Colorado and Wyoming ranches beginning in January, Kuchar remains deeply involved in assisting Rangers and Soldiers who are seeking education opportunities, and serves as the president of Wharton's Veterans Club.
Kuchar has helped more than a dozen Rangers gain admissions into top tier colleges. Many of the Rangers selected were non-commissioned officers.
"A Ranger NCO is a valuable commodity, but the transition to top colleges, like UPenn, requires a mentor to make the goal a reality," Kuchar stated.
Under Kuchar's leadership, the Wharton Veterans Club negotiated a no fee application for veterans applying to Wharton's MBA program.
"The application fee for Wharton was $300 which posed a potential obstacle for veterans looking to apply to one or more schools," Kuchar said. "Removing the fee has resulted in more than $60,000 in savings for over 200 veterans."
A student at Wharton, a veterans' club president, co-founder of a start-up, officer in the National Guard, and a husband and father. Where does Kuchar find the motivation?
"Serving in the Ranger Regiment, I learned from the best NCOs and Officers in the Army. They never accepted the status quo and were constantly striving to make themselves, others, and the unit better," Kuchar replied. "Since my transition I've tried to take that same mentality to the business world while trying to do as much as I can to give back to the Ranger and veterans communities."
"Also, doesn't everyone want to be their own boss? Entrepreneurship is exciting; there is no handbook, no processes, no headquarters," Kuchar continued.
"With Barn Owl, our team is in control of its success or failure; that is a situation we are extremely comfortable with given our military background," Kuchar stated.