Veterans Are Natural Entrepreneurs.


There is a super article on page 57 of this month’s Inc. magazine about veterans becoming entrepreneurs.  Interestingly, combat veterans become bored by everyday business life.  Blake Hall, a Bronze Star with Valor recipient in Iraq, headed home to the Harvard Business School and an internship at the prestigious McKinsey & Co.  Hunched over Excel spreadsheets in an office one night, Hall turned to another intern and said, “Dude 18 months ago I was hunting down an al Qaeda bomb network.  I don’t think I can do management consulting.”

It is a feeling familiar to many returning veterans, one that has long spurred them to seek out the challenges and reward of starting their own businesses.  Vets say that entrepreneurship is one of the few civilian callings that matches the intensity of combat and can bring a similar sense of accomplishment.  Other than the fact that on one’s shooting at you, everything about entrepreneurship is like the chaos of combat.

Those deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan have learned how to be resilient, to solve problems, and lead amid massive uncertainty under some of the most brutal conditions on the planet.  Fifteen years after September 11, that same grit is now being applied to the demanding civilian grind and glory of entrepreneurship.  In the military you know the problem you are supposed to solve, and you have a team that is waiting for you.

Hall’s own company was which iterated into TroopSwap, a version of Craigslist for military and veterans.  It raised just under a million dollars when he hit upon a new idea of creating a business that streamlines online checkout.  Merchants verify identities online in order to offer discounts to specific groups of people, including veterans.  Under Armour took a chance on Hall and integrated into its online checkout procedure.  Today’s Hall’s company has more than 2.5 million registered users, works with more than 200 brands, has raised about $21.5 million, and employs 41 people.  Hall says, “that product-market fit. We’re in business.”

There is no question military training helps veterans become better entrepreneurs.  It teaches a person to be resilient, to plan a mission, and then execute.  Nothing ever goes according to plan so a soldier’s job is to continue  to lead in not-ideal circumstances.  Sounds a lot like the entrepreneurial mindset!

Editor, a Vietnam Vet who was an entrepreneur.