For many of you leaving military service, the idea of starting your own company and becoming an entrepreneur is attractive. Whether you have an idea you need to explore, a product you’re dying to build, or a mission you’re passionate about pursuing, entrepreneurship can be a fascinating and empowering journey.
I recently sat down with Greg Adams, CEO of Stabilitas, who shared insights into his transition from military to entrepreneur. Here are some highlights from our conversation:
1. What is your background?
After graduating West Point in 2001, I served as an Infantry officer in Mosul, Iraq before being selected to undergo special forces training. As a Special Forces Captain and later as a Major, I deployed throughout Asia and eventually to Afghanistan. Afterward, I attended grad school at Harvard, earning a dual master's degrees in Business Administration and International Development.
My experiences both as a Green Beret and a graduate student led me to found an A.I. startup, Stabilitas. Our mission is to help organizations keep their people and assets safe by harnessing the information that is out there, under our noses but may be hard to find, all over the world.
2. What made you interested in starting a tech company?
When I was in uniform, everything was about having a meaningful mission, an important problem to solve, and the freedom to develop creative solutions for that problem.
After my time in Iraq and Afghanistan, I had a hard time seeing myself in the traditional corporate world. The idea of creating a new mission and being wholly accountable for its success intrigued me.
3. How did your military career prepare you for entrepreneurship?
More and more I find that my experiences in the military are pivotal to Stabilitas’ successes so far, and need to be a bigger part of our success going forward.
When I was stationed in Afghanistan in 2009 and 2010 during the “Afghanistan Surge,” we were tasked with a pilot mission that I don’t think many people wanted to do. It was a tough, loosely defined mission and the idea was to win over the locals by moving in next to them and building local security forces to give space for better governance and economic development so we could eventually reduce our footprint.
To get everyone on the team - and in the village - aligned with our mission, we needed to really understand our goals, first, and then try to concretely understand what problem stood in the way of those goals. As a startup founder, just as a military leader, the first step in solving a problem is trying to understand and constrain it.
The big problem we are solving at Stabilitas is breaking down barriers in intelligence-sharing so that we can better understand the world around us, especially as it pertains to safety-related information about the physical world.
Our process led us to the conclusion that making significant progress required more than people. It required a technology that facilitated the collection, analysis and targeted dissemination of useful threat intelligence. Essentially, we had to build a machine that did the work of hundreds of analysts and shared relevant intel with the folks who needed it most.
4. What do you wish investors knew about working with veteran entrepreneurs?
I wish they understood our skill sets. Investors have to conduct due diligence prior to meetings. And, as an entrepreneur, you have to do your research on them too.
Oftentimes, if the investors aren’t veterans, their knowledge of military matters and experience tends to be limited. They might not be versed in our resiliency, problem-solving skills, adaptability, technical acumen, leadership skills, service mentality, etc. These are great assets for investors to consider when evaluating companies to support.
5. What advice do you have for veterans interested in starting a venture
Hire great people that know their domains and let them do their jobs. Then you can delegate as you did in the military. If you’re hiring people that you need to micromanage, you’re making the wrong hires.
Also, find some mentors that you can go to with challenges and whom you can seek counsel with. This was a concept that was new to me after the military, where the person that counseled me was my superior in the chain of command. If you can find 2-3 people that have some experience and are a little farther along career-wise then you’ll have a reliable sounding board for ideas and make the road a little less lonely. If this person is a successful entrepreneur with military experience, even better. You need some people in your corner!
And lastly, keep at the PT - you’ll need all the energy you can get.
The Next Step: Find the Right Veteran Job
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