Veteran and Minority-Led Upstate NY Startup wins Top Prize at Griffiss Institute’s HUSTLE Defense Accelerator

EMPEQ recognized for ability to contribute to Hardware Supply Chain Security using Instant Equipment Insights

Griffiss Institute President and CEO Heather Hage (far right) awards EMPEQ management team top prize at HUSTLE Defense Accelerator Demo Day

Ithaca, NY – EMPEQ (Empower Equity, Inc.) was named the top company at the 2023 HUSTLE Defense Accelerator hosted by the Griffiss Institute. EMPEQ’s Fast Site Survey™’s underlying artificial intelligence (AI) technology, known as Instant Equipment Insights, was recognized for its potential to help the U.S. Department of Defense ensure security within its hardware supply chain. Announced August 17, 2023, the honor included a $150,000 investment into EMPEQ from Empire State Development. 

The HUSTLE Defense Accelerator is an elite and immersive accelerator for pre-seed and seed-stage tech startups offering AI/Machine Learning (ML), cybersecurity, quantum computing, and/or Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) solutions with potential use within the Department of Defense. The program seeks to aid startups in understanding the defense enterprise as a customer, defining partnerships in delivering national security solutions, and learning the secrets of startup success. Conducted onsite at the Innovare Advancement Center in Rome, NY, HUSTLE also provides access to an inclusive community of scientists, engineers, and entrepreneurs who are inspired and committed to elevate national security and economic competitiveness.

The recent HUSTLE cohort included six teams on the Elevate track – including EMPEQ. These teams were defined by their commercial success prior to entering the program. The Demo Day competition was judged by a five-person panel representing technical insight, venture investing, entrepreneurship, and Department of Defense stakeholders. The judges had full discretion to allocate a prize pool of $350,000.

Ultimately, EMPEQ’s Instant Equipment Insights technology rose above the competition and was awarded the competition’s top prize. The software uses artificial intelligence to allow users to identify mechanical and electronic equipment and parts with one photograph from their smartphone’s camera; additionally, this single picture can immediately provision insights like age and remaining useful life, country of origin, predictive maintenance, and part authenticity. The judges determined that such capability in the hands of warfighters defending the front lines of the Department of Defense’s supply chain would be of incredible value.

Having begun his career in the United States Marine Corps as a National Security Agency (NSA) tasked cryptanalyst, the award has special meaning for EMPEQ Co-Founder/CEO Herbert Dwyer. “This is an incredibly important moment for America’s military, and I was thrilled that the Department of Defense was able to attract such high value solutions to this accelerator. For our company to be chosen as the most promising technology out of such a competitive field is truly a humbling reality.”

Co-Founder/COO and Kanienʼkehá꞉ka Nation member Derek LaClair considered the company’s aims post award, “The one thing that I know and love about our country is that it never backs down from a challenge. Having the opportunity to work shoulder-to-shoulder with our military in its battle against authoritarianism is both exciting and inspiring.”

Details about the HUSTLE Accelerator are available at



There are over 80,000 unfilled HVAC technician jobs in the U.S. due to the lack of labor supply – and that’s just one of the dozens of field worker professions suffering through a severe labor shortage. EMPEQ’s revolutionary Fast Site SurveyTM SaaS product lowers the barrier to entry to field work in buildings while scaling workforce deployment, by utilizing artificial intelligence and machine learning to identify parts and equipment and provide actionable Instant Equipment Insights to engineers, contractors, and building owners. Learn more about EMPEQ at and Fast Site Survey at

About Griffiss Institute

The Griffiss Institute is a nonprofit talent and technology accelerator for the United States Department of Defense and an international network of academic, government, and industry partners. Since 2002, the Griffiss Institute has served the Air Force Research Laboratory Information Directorate, the Mohawk Valley region, and the United States, empowering diverse teams with talent and technology development programs that lead the nation in technical and economic impact. Devoted to converging teams and technologies to solve complex national challenges, Griffiss Institute is proud to enable its international network from its home at Innovare Advancement Center in New York’s picturesque Mohawk Valley. Learn more about the Griffiss Institute at