Now Introducing athenaLINK!

By: LCDR Drew Barker


The most effective incubators tie burgeoning entrepreneurs with great mentors and guides to help them develop their business concepts, expand their network, and provide encouragement. Fortunately, the military has a number of senior level leaders who are very supportive of Service Members who are willing to take risks to improve the service they love.

We feel that if someone has the intellectual courage to develop an idea, polish a pitch, stand in the scrutiny of peers, superiors, junior personnel, as well as community members, and then continue to champion an idea then they deserve the opportunity to connect with someone who could serve as a mentor and an accelerator for the development of their idea.

And that, in essence, is what athenaLINK is all about! But, we need your help.

We’re looking for senior leaders in the military, government organizations and laboratories, University Affiliated Research Centers, industry and beyond. We need leaders who have experience in the field to help our junior presenters refine their big ideas as they work to find paths to turn the concepts into reality!

An incubative sponsor could be thought of as an egg warmer – helping keep an idea hot until it hatches. Or, since we occasionally quip that ATHENA is like Shark Tank meets TED Talks, the perfect leader to be involved would essentially be one of the Sharks in the Shark Tank – one of the seasoned leaders who can navigate the murky waters of military bureaucracy, avoid the shoals, achieve results and who is hungry to sink their teeth into an idea that will pay dividends for the military.

How will athenaLINK be managed? With the two words that describe the essence of the ATHENA undertaking – organically and simply. We need to tie incubative sponsors to the idea champions – Sailors who’ve bravely and passionately pitched their idea – and provide a simple agreement outlined below:

Incubative sponsors agree that for a specific idea champion they will provide:

  • 3-6 months service as an active coach, guide, advisor, and encouraging supporter to help get the idea off the ground.
  • Focused instruction and assistance in developing a personal network to advance the idea.
  • Probing questions and intentional critical thinking aimed at resolving obstacles and potential conflicts.
  • A personal commitment to help the willing achieve measurable results.

Meanwhile idea champions agree to:

  • Continue in the pursuit of implanting their idea with their greatest effort, seeking measurable improvements.
  • Take the initiative in communicating with their sponsor on a regular basis.
  • Accept feedback and criticism with an open mind and willingness to challenge their own assumptions.
It takes a team to grow an idea

It takes a team to grow an idea

Now to make the connections happen. Whether as a seasoned leader and agent of positive change you consider yourself a sponsor, egg-warmer, or shark, take a look at the list of ideas in the concept catalog and see if one matches an area of interest for you and consider sponsoring that person. Email us here: and we will connect you! If you are an idea champion and are looking for an incubative sponsor, feel free to reach back to us or reach out to someone you would like to connect with and give them a little explanation of what this program is about, share the points of agreement mentioned above, and ask them to join you in making a positive difference. Lastly keep us informed of your progress so we can share it with everyone to inspire others to step out in courage.

Finally, as we roll out this new program here is a quick refresher on a couple of our other programs.

athenaTHINK: Learn methods of design thinking, systems thinking, creativity and more generally critical thinking through a workshop aimed at conjuring new ideas and approaches to pertinent problems and strategies.

athenaSPEARs: Bring the network together to solve a specific problem, leveraging talent in a hack-a-thon environment and exercising skills developed through athenaTHINK.

Of course, if you’re interested in getting involved in either of those initiatives, don’t hesitate to shoot us a note!

athenaLINK is a great opportunity to get involved with the ATHENA Network and we’d love to hear from you! We’re excited for the future of ATHENA and hope you join us as we grow the wave of creativity in the fleet!


LCDR Drew Barker is an E-6B pilot returning to the TACAMO community as a member of the VQ-4 Shadows. 

Get involved with Athena in San Diego at Societe Brewing Company on August 28th and in the Norfolk area this fall! Stay tuned for more grassroots projects!

Have questions or interest in hosting an event? Connect with us on Facebook:, follow us on Twitter: @AthenaNavy, or e-mail us at!


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