Jim Vesterman is the CEO of Raptor Technologies, which is the nation's leading provider of integrated safety technologies for K-12 schools. He got his undergraduate degree at Amherst College, after which he worked at both the Monitor Group and for a software startup. He deferred his MBA to join the Marine Corps as part of 3rd Force Recon Company. After he got his MBA from Wharton, he started an entrepreneurial vehicle called a search fund - which we’ll get into - called Liberty Place Capital. Liberty Place Capital ultimately purchased Raptor Technologies in 2012 and he has been running that company for 5 years.
Evan Hafer is the Founder & CEO of Black Rifle Coffee, a small batch coffee roasting company. He started out at the University of Idaho, after which he spent 14 years in the U.S. Army as an infantryman, a Special Forces soldier, and a CIA contractor.I came across Evan in a 2016 Forbes Article about the Top 25 Veteran Founded Startups in America.
Nick Taranto is the Co-Founder & CEO of Plated, a company whose "Mission is to Help People Eat Better, and Live Better." Plated has raised over $55M in funding, and been featured in the Wall Street Journal, Forbes, NYT, Wired Magazine and more. He started out at Dartmouth College, after which he worked at KOMPIP Microfinance before going on to Harvard Business School. After HBS, he graduated from the Marine Corps' The Basic School, where he Drilled as an active reservist for 3 years. He also worked at Goldman Sachs as a Private Wealth Advisor prior to starting Plated.
Elijah Crane (Eli) is the Founder and CEO of Bottle Breacher, a company that creates hand crafted 50 caliber bottle openers made by Military Veterans. As President of Bottle Breacher, Eli has grown Bottle Breacher’s annual revenue to over $5 million in 2015, applied for and received 7 patents, and Negotiated a partnership with Mark Cuban and Kevin O’Leary on ABC’s hit show Shark Tank. Eli started out in the Navy, where he served as a SEAL for over 15 years. He started Bottle Breacher while on active duty and has run the company for nearly five years now.
Justin M. Nassiri is the Founder & CEO of StoryBox, a digital marketing start-up that helps companies transform their customers into brand ambassadors. He started out at the Naval Academy, after which he served five years as an officer onboard nuclear submarines. After his transition from the military, he went to the Stanford Graduate School of Business, after which he started StoryBox. He started Beyond the Uniform at the end of 2016 in an effort to help military veterans navigate their civilian career.
Jacob Martinez is the President of Market Traders Institute, a trading technology and education company with over 200 employees. Jacob started out in the Army, where he served for 4.5 years in military intelligence achieving the rank of sergeant. He started out at Market Traders Institute as Vice President of Managed Accounts and has held virtually every position in the company.
Seth Jordan is the Founder & Chairman of Dog Tag Brewing Foundation, a brewery that provides the highest quality crafted beers that deliver a message of gratitude for the selfless sacrifice of our nation’s military. Dog Tag Brewing donates 100% of profits to benefit charities created or selected by Gold Star Families,the families of fallen warriors.
Joe Musselman is the Founder & CEO of The Honor Foundation. He started out at DePaul University. Joe enlisted in the Navy with intentions of becoming a Navy SEAL, but as he says, “God had other plans.” He sustained an injury that ultimately lead him to found The Honor Foundation. He is also the Founder of The NEXT Series and The SOF Garage.
Drew is a Founding Partner at Empire Growth Group, a hybrid consulting agency, services provider, and investment vehicle. He started out Harvard, after which he served in the Navy as an intelligence Officer for four years. After his transition from the Navy, Drew attended Stanford Business School. After a role at Commerce.TV in Business Development, Drew co-founded Design Public, an 'inventoryless' ecommerce company focused on the home furnishings market, which Drew bootstrapped from $0 to 7 figures in under one year, eventually selling the company after eight profitable years. Drew also runs the site NerdMarketing.com, where he writes about marketing automation and customer segmentation rules that have driven over $100 million in transactions in 2015.
Nick Karnaze is the Founder & CEO of Stubble & Stache, a new breed of skincare for men, and a company that also donates a large of profits to high impact charities helping veterans travel the road to recovery. Nicholas started out at the Naval Academy, after which he served in the Marine Corps for over 7 years as an Intelligence Officer and the Special Operations community. After the Marine Corps he served as the Co-Founder and CEO of The Stabilization Group, and then as Program Lead at Praescient Analytics.
Doug Nordman is an early retiree, who has found financial independence far before he thought it possible. He is the author of The Military Guide to Financial Independence and Retirement - a book where all royalties are donated to military charities. He started out at the Naval Academy, after which he served on submarines for 20 years. Since retiring from the Navy, Doug has worked to help other veterans reach financial independence, for free. Doug's spouse is a Navy Reserve retiree, and his daughter is about to start her 2nd Surface Warfare Officer junior officer sea tour on the USS GERALD R FORD. He holds a Masters in Engineering Science/Computers/Weapons Engineering from the Naval Postgraduate School.
Rhumbix is based in San Francisco and is a mobile platform designed for the construction craft workforce. They were founded in 2014 and have raised over $13M in funding from investors including Greylock Partners, Brick & Mortar Ventures, Spectrum 28, and Glynn Capital.
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“ Stop worrying about the beta, and just get the product out. If you are not embarrassed by your first product, then you're doing it wrong. It should be ugly, it should be clunky, it should be what you think it should be... but less. And once you get it in the hands of the customer, the customer is going to tell you what they like and what they don't like. And that's what we realized - we were trying to be perfectionists. You want your product to be perfect, but you make these assumptions that it's going to be valuable. And the best way to do that is get it in the hands of the customer who will tell you if they find value in it." – Josh Carter
Josh Carter is the Co-Founder & CEO of Brightwork, a microservices platform that enables developers to build faster on a reliable and scalable solution. Since their founding they’ve raised over $300K in funding and have gone through Techstars in Chicago. Josh started out in the Navy, where he served for about 3 years. Since his time in the Navy he’s held multiple engineering roles in the Telecom industry and eventually a Senior Support Engineer at the startup, Twilio, a communication startup that went public earlier this year. Josh founded his own digital marketing agency - Plunk - and is also a former founding board member of Operation Code.
The top reason to listen to today’s show is:
- Support - Josh has been living in the startup world for a while, and has a great overview of different resources available for other veteran entrepreneurs. In particular, he talks about TechStars, and gives a fantastic overview of this 3 month program, as well as Patriot Bootcamp and other great resources. In this conversation, we cover a lot of topics, including:
- TechStars - this was a great help for Josh in starting a venture backed company. It is a 3-month program offered all over the United States. They take 6% of the company in exchange for $120,000 in funding.
- FounderCon - all TechStar founders get together for one year
- Patriot Bootcamp - offshoot of the TechStars core program. It's a one weekend program that is very intense, but very targeted in preparing veterans for entrepreneurship
- Operation Code - Chris was a founding board member; they help transitioning veterans get into coding - finding mentors and sharing advice for becoming a programmer
- Meetup.com - Coffee with CoFounders - lowkey get togethers are rotating coffee shops for founders to connect with each other and talk about what they're struggling with
- 1:45 - Josh's background
- 2:30 - When Josh knew he would leave the military and how he approached this decision
- 3:20 - What Josh's first job search looked like and how he found the Art Academy to be different than he expected. He talks about how he found his way to the Telecom industry
- 4:23 - An overview on the Telecom industry and the sorts of jobs Josh held
- 5:16 - An overview of Josh's work at Brightwork, as well as the engagements he held before then
- 7:57 - What it was like for Josh to be actively employed at Twilio while running his own digital agency
- 9:15 - The moment when Josh first had the idea of Brightwork
- 11:55 - An overview of TechStars and how Josh ended up in Chicago
- 15:28 - How TechStars provides an investment of $125k for 6% of the company
- 17:38 - An overview of Patriot Bootcamp and Josh's experience
- 19:46 - What Josh's founding team looks like and advice to veterans for finding initial team members
- 25:48 - What Josh's life looks like on a day-to-day basis as part of an early stage startup
- 28:50 - Josh's advice to other veterans considering starting their own company
- 35:10 - Other resources Josh would encourage other veterans to check out
- 39:32 - An overview of Operation Code and how Veterans might engage with them
- 41:00 - One of the biggest mistakes Josh made in his entrepreneurial journey and what he learned from it
- 44:00 - Josh's final words of wisdom
Michael is the President & Owner of M3S Networking, a small business that focuses on dynamic problem-solving, particularly with startups and small businesses. He Started out at the Naval Academy, after which he served for seven years as a submarine officer. After his transition from the Navy, he spent two years working on a spy satellite job with the National Reconnaissance Office as an Acquisition/Project Officer. Michael is also the Chairman of the Navy Nuclear Power Officer Career Conference (NUPOCC), a career fair helping veterans transition from the military or find new jobs- those of you who have listened to Episode #55 with Ashley Snyder will remember this as the organization that she credited with landing a job at Google directly out of the Air Force. Finally, he's a husband, dad of 3 boys and is a credentialed baseball media member.
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“At this point, I don't think I really could have a boundary [between professional and personal life]. It's not about a forty-hour work week, and being able to accomplish everything in forty hours; I get that. It's about constantly thinking about the product, thinking about the customers we have and the customers we want, where we're going to go and what the next steps are. I just can't turn it off: I dream about it, I think about it every minute, and there is no separation. Maybe that's unhealthy and a bad thing, but at this point if no one is as fanatically excited and obsessed with the product we're trying to create than the founders then I don't think it can work at this stage." – Alex Martin
Alex Martin is the CEO & Co-Founder of AC Global Risk, a company that creates solutions to transform how companies & governments vet, screen and assess internal and external human-based risk. Alex started out at the Naval Academy and served in the Marine Corps for seven years as a Infantry & Ground Reconnaissance Officer. After his transition from the Marines he founded Skye Maritime - maritime security services to commercial shipping - as well as the Kenya Team Leader for the non-profit, Nuru International. Alex is currently a Major in the Marine Corps Reserves.
The top three reasons to listen to this episode are:
- Service - Alex has continued to serve in the Marine Corps Reserves, he worked in Kenya with the organization Nuru helping local farmers grow their income, and his own company - AC Global Risk - has a service element as well. He’s a great role model for keeping service an active component in his life, and talks about how to serve as a for-profit venture
- Startups - Alex started his first company straight of the Marine Corps and it failed. He learned from it, and is on his second company, AC Global Risk. He is very honest and balanced in this interview about failure, about mistakes, and how these are essential for entrepreneurs
- Stanford Ignite - Alex goes in depth on the Stanford Ignite program as well as many other really valuable resources for those of you interested in startups
Audible is offering one FREE audio book to Beyond the Uniform listeners. You can claim this offer here, and see a list of books recommended by my guests at BeyondTheUniform.io/books
- A great article on Alex and his company: http://www.military.com/veteran-jobs/career-advice/job-hunting/from-marines-to-entrepreneur-alex-martin.html
- Team of Teams: New Rules of Engagement for a Complex World
- The Hard Thing About Hard Things: Building a Business When There Are No Easy Answers
- Get Backed: Craft Your Story, Build the Perfect Pitch Deck, and Launch the Venture of Your Dreams - more on technical side, the top 15-20 pitch decks. Can take this and pick and choose what you like and choose your ownBook Recommendations
- The Entrepreneur's Guide to Business Law, 4th Edition - save $1000's on legal
- Related Podcasts
- Great EO Fire podcast episode that talks about the power of obsession in startups. I reference this in the interview and think it’s really relevant to entrepreneurship. Be Obsessed or Be Average, it’s that simple says Grant Cardone
- Don Faul interview - referenced as a huge resource of support
- 2:08 - Alex's background
- 2:50 - Alex's decision to transition from the Marine Corps to a civilian career
- 3:39 - Alex's experience being part of the Reserves and how it has impacted his civilian career
- 5:32 - Alex's experience as part of the Stanford Ignite program and how this impacted his entrepreneurial experience
- 7:49 - An overview of Stanford Ignite as a program for veterans
- 10:22 - Alex's experience at Nuru International
- 15:15 - The genesis of Alex's second company, AC Global Risk
- 17:40- An overview of AC Global Risk
- 19:21 - What Alex's day-to-day life looks like as the CEO of AC Global Risk
- 21:11 - Alex's lifestyle as an entrepreneur married to another entrepreneur
- 24:27 - How long it took Alex to be able to pay himself as salary while he was starting his own company
- 28:43 - Alex's biggest mistake in starting his own company and what he learned from it
- 33:03 - Alex's team size at AC Global Risk and what his team looks like
- 34:22 - Advice for any veteran thinking of starting their own company
- 35:36 - Resources Alex would recommend to any veteran thinking of starting their own company
- 37:53 - Advice for veterans seeking to raising capital for their own company, and the fundraising experience
- 43:40 - Habits that Alex had to break when he left the military in order to be successful in his civilian career
- 45:55 - Other mistakes that Alex made since departing the military and what he learned from them
- 48:47 - Final words of wisdom for veterans of the Armed Forces
John Lee Dumas is the founder and host of EOFire, a daily podcast that interview entrepreneurs 7 days a week, where, as reported by Forbes, he has generated #2M in sales by his second year in the business. He started out at Providence College where he did Army ROTC, after which he served in the Army as an Armor Platoon Leader for eight years. After his time in the Army, John enrolled in Law School, but left after his first semester. He then worked in corporate finance at John Hancock in Boston, and later at a tech startup in New York. In 2009 he moved to San Diego to work in real estate. During his long drives, he started listening to podcasts, until he decided to start his own podcast, which launched in September of 2012. He is the author of Podcast Launch, the creator of Podcasters’ Paradise, and has been named the Best of iTunes in 2013, with over 7.4 Million downloads. and subscribers in 145 countries. John is very open about his financials - they’re available on his website - it’s worth checking out because the numbers are staggering.
Don is the CEO at Athos, a company that offers a wearable technology that is fully integrated in workout clothing, and can track your muscle groups, heart rate, breathing level and more. They have raised over $50M in funding since their founding 4 years ago. Don started out at the Naval Academy, after which he served for five years as an Marine Corps as part of the Force Recon. After his transition out of the Marines, he went to Stanford Business School, after which he joined Google in 206 as a Manager of Online Sales and Operations. Two years later, he joined Facebook as the VP of Online Operations, and four years after that Pinterest as the Head of Operations. He serves on the Board of Nuru international, which listeners may remember from Episode #68 with Nuru’s founder, Jake Harriman.
Mark Frank is the CEO and Co-Founder of Sondermind, a startup that is focused on making mental health services more accessible and accepted for everyone. He started out West Point and served as an Logistics Officer in the Army for five years. After the Army, Mark earned both his MBA and Masters of Engineering Management at Northwestern University. After grad school, he an Associate Investment Banker at Morgan Stanley for two years before serving as Founder & CEO at Next Oncology. After six years at Next Oncology, he sold the company in a deal that brought a 12X return to investors. In addition to founding Sondermind and Next Oncology, Mark has also started SafeImageMD and TermScout, as well as served as the Managing Director of the investment company, Goldwing Capital.
Todd is the Founder of Kill Cliff, maker of the recovery drink with the same name. Kill Cliff has about 40 employees and makes continuous donations to the Navy SEAL Foundation. Todd also serves as the CEO at BAM Worldwide, the leading provider of cash management technology for small to medium transportation companies. He is also the Founder & Chairman of Triserv Appraisal Management Solutions, a real estate appraisal management company. Todd started out in the Navy, where he served as a SEAL for four years. After his transition from the military, he held a variety of positions at Kroll Associates, United Rentals, and Jacobs Private Equity.