5 veterans who are taking the startup world by storm

Folks, my team and I have been highlighting a lot of important startups and vets recently, and we thought it’d be a good idea to merge the two. We reached out to the community on Facebook and Twitter, and compiled a list of 5 veteran-founded startups who really have their boots on the ground.

Vets are effective entrepreneurs, and many of the skills veterans have overlap with those needed to found a startup. As this article says, “Tech startups to veterans: We love you, we want some more of ya.”

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5 Veterans Who Are Taking the Startup World by Storm (in no particular order):

  1. Kristina Carmen, Founder of TurboPup.
    (TurboPup isn’t on Twitter, but you can find them on Facebook.)
    TurboPup was founded to create a sustainable and socially conscious business, and give back to causes in support of our four legged best friends and our country’s heroes: Veterans.
  2. Jacob Wood & William McNulty, Co-founders of Team Rubicon.

    Team Rubicon is a group of military veterans and medical professionals irrevocably committed to changing veteran reintegration and disaster response.
  3. Blake Hall and Matt Thompson, Co-founders of ID.me.

    ID.me is a secure digital ID card that allows individuals to prove their identity online. Using ID.me, online shoppers can attach attributes of their identity, such as military service or student status, to a Single Sign On so they can quickly verify to any third party that they are who they say they are. The site offers exclusive benefits and discounts for military folks and vets all in one place. ID.me was founded by 2 Army Rangers who made a long-term commitment to the military and veteran community. 
  4. Chris Hulls and Alex Haro, Co-founders of Life360.

    Life360 is a free smartphone app that helps keep families and close friends connected stay in sync throughout their busy day. With Life360, you can see where your family and friends are on a private map, stay in touch with group and one-on-one messaging, and get help in an emergency.
  5. Dawn Halfaker, Founder of Halfaker and Associates, and President of Wounded Warrior Project.
    // Halfaker and Associates 
    provides professional services and technology solutions to the federal government. According to HuffPo, this “allows Halfaker to fight on two fronts: She helps equip on-the-ground troops to fight missions and helps U.S. veterans fight unemployment.”

If you’re able, please support and follow these vets and their startups. And, I’d love to hear what veterans should make version 2.0 of this list. Please leave comments below.

Hey, this isn’t altruism, it just feels right.

6 reasons to make a difference

Folks, I believe that it’s important to help people out when you’re able to, and that means making a difference. It doesn’t have to be big stuff to really create change.

A lot of the work I do on craigconnects involves quiet, back-channel communications, which I might never go public with. Mostly you hear from me bearing witness to good works of others, or, if I think I’m funny. (I know I’m not as funny as I think, though by Washington standards, I’m hi-larious.)

Here are 6 reasons that I work to make a difference:

  1. Code is power, and it’s important to encourage girls to learn how to code. Orgs like Girls Who Code and Black Girls Code are doing this.
  2. Vets and their families do a lot for us. If they’re willing to risk their lives for me, I’m willing to give back to them as much as I can. It’s one of the reasons I became the VA’s Nerd-in-Residence.
  3.  Ok, I really just want news I can trust. Trustworthy journalism’s far and few between lately, and that needs to change. Couple years ago, I blurted out that “the press should be the immune system of democracy,” and I still believe that.
  4. The Declaration of Independence reminds us that everyone is equal under law, and I figure election integrity is a big deal. However, there are some bad actors that are trying to pass legislation that will keep eligible people from voting. I’m working with folks like Voto Latino to stop ’em. Here’s an infographic the craigconnects team and I created about these issues: Think You Have the Right to Vote? Not so much!
  5. Consumer protection is needed to protect regular people from predatory financial institutions. That’s like home loaners who’ll make loans to people who can’t pay the bills, or payday loaners who deceive military families. Check out the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to see how an effective government org gets stuff done.
  6. I’d like to help give a voice to the voiceless and power to the powerless. Everyone should get the chance to be heard. It’s why I started craigconnects. My goal’s to team up with good folks in an effort to connect people and orgs around the world to get stuff done.

I’m looking to help solve problems that exist now, while learning how make things work better in the longer term by motivating people in increasingly large numbers.

social change
Photo Credit: Aleksi Aaltonen

That includes figuring out how to get people to work together, particularly the people at groups with similar goals. Nonprofits with common goals normally find it really hard to collaborate, and that begs for a solution.

To be sure, I don’t feel this is altruistic or noble, it’s just that a nerd’s gotta do what a nerd’s gotta do.

Sure, sometimes I gotta be a squeaky wheel, or sometimes I need to be annoying enough to motivate people, but will do so reluctantly. What are your reasons for making a difference?

Extra thanks for VBA workers from your nerd-in-residence

W-S files

(the Winston-Salem VARO before and after pictures, showing VBMS kicking in for real…)

W-S clean

The Dept of Veterans Affairs does a lot of different things for vets. Most of the workers are on the VA medical side, but there’s also a group that processes benefits payments for vets. That’s the Veterans Benefits Administration–VBA–and they work on over a million claims from vets each year. They work hard but get a lot of crap. So this is for them…

Okay, folks, I’ve seen you get the job done, with lots of extra hours, that’s appreciated!

Next steps involve lots more use of VMBS to get stuff done, those photos illustrates that around 75% of the claims inventory has gotten online. It also means getting VSOs involved, which also means connecting outside software like VetPro connected to VBMS via Digits to Digits, D2D.

This is in my role as “nerd-in-residence” at the VA Center for Innovation. (That’s my designated term, I know who I am, and have a sense of humor.) (For Washington, I’m funny; granted that’s a low bar.) (The wife reminds me that I’m not as funny as I think I am.)

Government Shutdown Resources for Vets & Milfams

Hey folks, with the government shutdown happening I felt it was real important to share resources for military families and veterans.

We’ll try to keep it current.

If you have resources that you’d like to share, please note them in the comments. As we get new resources, we’ll update this post.

The nerd-in-residence

The Department of Veterans Affairs has named me a “nerd-in-residence.” You can find more under VA team bios > Craig Newmark.

I really am a nerd, old-school, wore a plastic pocket protector, and glasses taped together, in the early sixties. I can now simulate social behavior for an hour, two hours tops, but then I start getting cranky. nerd-4

Far as my team’s concerned, this makes me the biggest nerd in the USA…

maybe the world.

(As you see, I’m comfortable being a nerd, and also, I might have a sense of humor. I don’t seem to be too concerned with dignity.)

On the other hand, I’m a customer service rep for craigslist, have been for more than eighteen years, and that changes humans. The stuff I do, I can see we help people put food on the table, and that matters.

The job also reminds me that crap rolls downhill, aimed at people with jobs that can be grinding and thankless. For example, I’ve first-hand seen that thousands of frontline VA people are doing everything in their power to do right by Vets, but government employees are being demonized or neglected.

(Dilbert is an excellent reference work regarding this. I’ve always resisted despair, that’s Wally; I’m Dilbert.)

Ever since connecting with the Iraq & Afghanistan Veterans of America I’ve been getting more and more involved with military family and veterans’ efforts.

The Department of Veterans Affairs is doing some really good stuff for vets that no one hears about, catching up since 2009. I’ve helped, in a very minor way for several years, now I gotta do more, for VA, military families, and vets.

Anyway, a nerd’s gotta do what a nerd’s gotta do.

Supporting more effective national service

President Obama and President George H.W. Bush present the 5,000th Daily Points of Light award to Floyd Hammer and Kathy Hamilton, a retired couple from Iowa who founded a nonprofit that has delivered more than 232 million free meals to children around the world.

A lot of really good people are helping Americans in need via the Corporation for National and Community Service. It’s a “private-public partnership,” meaning that people in business, government, and the nonprofit sector work together with citizens to get results.

That includes a lot of good work by AmeriCorps, which engages 80,000 Americans in results-driven service to meet local needs. In the last year AmeriCorps has teamed up with other agencies to launch:

Lots more needs to get done, and to that effect, the President just signed an official memorandum on expanding national service.

Basically, it tells federal agencies to work together in a task force to expand national service in six areas: emergency and disaster services; economic opportunity; education; environmental stewardship; healthy futures; and veterans and military families. It also encourages more partnerships with the private sector to unleash the energy of citizens to get things done.

This is a big deal; there’s still a lot of suffering out there best address by a combination of public and private efforts.

There are a lot of people out there who could use an extra hand, even right in your own neighborhood. Help out if you can.

Help me give back to vets and their families

Hey there folks,

I’d like your help, if you’re able, to raise money for nonprofits who work with veterans and military families. The Veterans Charity Challenge just launched today, and we’d love for you to be a part of it.

As Memorial Day nears, I’ve teamed up with CrowdRise and the Rahr Foundation to give $100k to organizations who really have their boots on the ground. Find out which nonprofits have already signed up here:  http://www.crowdrise.com/veteranscharitychallenge. And it’s not too late for other nonprofits to sign up, if you want to share this with your favorite org that works with vets.

I may be repeating myself, but it’s my philosophy that if someone’s willing to serve overseas and risk taking a bullet for me, I should give back at least a little. Also, everyone should remember that it’s not only a troop serving, it’s also his or her family who gives up a lot for all of us.

vet charity challenge

We’re helping to raise lots of money for these great orgs through the Veterans Charity Challenge on CrowdRise.

The challenge runs from May 23 at 12pm EST (today) through July 3 at 12pm EST.

Here’s the deal, the top 3 fundraising teams that raise the most for their cause by the end of the Challenge will win grand prizes:

  • 1st place: $35,000 donation
  • 2nd place: $25,000 donation
  • 3rd place: $15,000 donation

In addition to the grand prizes, $25k will be given to Veterans and Military Family charities throughout the campaign as weekly Bonus Challenges, and I’ve agreed to do an interview with one org who wins a Bonus Challenge. And we haven’t forgotten about the generous donors – there will be prizes throughout the Challenge for donors to win, too, like this t-shirt I designed that says “A nerd’s gotta do, what a nerd’s gotta do.”

custom_tee

If you’re able, please help out these orgs. They’re the real deal. I’d really appreciate it, and so would the nonprofits doing all the hard work. Visit: http://www.crowdrise.com/veteranscharitychallenge. And, if you’re on Twitter, follow the hashtag #VetsChallenge to join the conversation.

This is my small part to make a difference here; I don’t see it as altruism, it just feels good. A nerd’s gotta do, what a nerd’s gotta do, and if you could help, it’d really be a good way to thank the vets and their families.

Big IT development at Dept of Vets Affairs

(from the dept of giving-credit-where-it’s-due)

Peter Levin and Roger Baker leave Dept Veterans Affairs

VistA is the Dept of Vets Affairs health record system, and it’s been a huge success. VA has open sourced it, which is remarkable achievement for
Washington, a really big deal. It means that anyone can improve it or interface with it. Check out the Challenge.gov VA Medical Appointment Scheduling Contest.

What they’re now saying is that the Dept of Defense is considering a health records system, and that VistA should be considered for that.

That sounds right to me, it gets the job done, has been working well for years, and is already available publicly for the public to better help veterans. That means people can find ways to add function to better help active service troops. Find out more here: http://fedscoop.com/va-responds-to-defense-iehr-rfi-with-open-source-recommendation/

But wait, there’s more! Folks at VA have been doing some big stuff since 2009. They’ve announced the VA Center for Innovation. I’d say that the
following is a small part of VA innovation, I’ve seen it firsthand and it’s real. Here’s a little of what they have to say:

As you can see, the new VA Center for Innovation is more than a name change for us. And to make this all the more real, we get to announce a
few recent milestones along with the VACI rollout:

  • Launched a dozen new innovations covering telemedicine, prosthetic socket designs, kidney disease, mobile health/Blue Button, and robotics for sterilization of medical equipment
  • Launched the new VACI website at: www.innovation.va.gov
  • Published the 2010-2012 Stakeholder Report (available for download at www.innovation.va.gov)
  • Selected our first Senior Fellows (Dr. Adam Darkins and Dr. Peter Almenoff on telehealth and healthcare value, respectively)
  • Named serial entrepreneur and Air Force veteran Steve Blank as Senior Advisor to VACI
  • Appointed our first EiR in Doug Trauner, CEO of theCarrot.com and co-chair of the FCC’s mHealth taskforce
  • Added our first participant in the Partnership program with the nation’s largest health carrier, UnitedHealth Group
  • Added our second Partnership, this one with TEDMED

Craig Newmark’s big issues for craigconnects in 2013

Hey there folks, I’m figuring out what’s my deal, what do I spend time doing, and what’ll be my main focus for 2013. This seems to be the shortest version which makes any sense to anyone else.

A lot of this involves quiet, back-channel communications, which I might never go public with. Sure, sometimes I gotta be a squeaky wheel, or sometimes I need to be annoying enough to motivate people, but will do so reluctantly.

You’ll see a focus on matters in the here and now, looking to help solve problems that exist now, while learning how make things work better in the longer term by motivating people in increasingly large numbers.

That includes figuring out how to get people to work together, particularly the people at groups with similar goals. Nonprofits with common goals normally find it really hard to collaborate, and that begs for a solution.

Anyway…

craigslist customer service is something I’ve got a hard commitment to, only as long as I live. I got only lightweight stuff to do these days, which is a big deal since:

  • it reminds me of what’s real, when I hear from people who get food on the table via our site.
  • it reinforces my emotional investment in operating from the grassroots level on up, in identifying with the grassroots, and in viewing life from the bottom up.

Also, there’s my craigconnects.org stuff, which includes a number of areas, but the two big areas are military families/veterans issues, and journalism trust/ethics issues.

If someone’s willing to serve overseas and risk taking a bullet for me, I should give back at least a little. Also, everyone should remember that it’s not only a troop serving, it’s also his or her family who give up a lot for all of us.

1. There are networks of military spouses, often linked by the mailing lists (listservs) where spouses at specific bases help each other. Multiple spouse organizations maintain their own networks. Finally, the senior-most spouses talk with each other. If they would work with each other, and supported each other, they could get a lot more done, including much of what follows this item.

2. Military families sometimes need a hand from one of the tens of thousands of helping organizations around the US. This is what the Joint Chiefs call the “sea of goodwill” and the problem is locating who can help with what. A milfam group has built the beginning of a database and smartphone app toward this end. (Veterans need this also, but spouses groups might just have the lead.)

3. There are specific areas where maybe I can help in very minor ways, for example:

  • schools that serve military kids, at specific bases, are underfunded. A matching grants effort via DonorsChoose.org might be useful.
  • when a spouse moves from a base in one state to another, we need to find ways to make re-licensing fast to avoid loss of income.

4. Spouses and veterans need jobs, and the Veterans Job Bank is a good start. It needs updating, and then, we need to tell people it exists and is useful.

5. It’s really difficult for veterans to express military skills and experience in terms that civilian hiring managers can understand. Better programs need to be developed and they need to be actively used during transition from active service.

6. Troops who transition from active service can have a really hard time getting disability claims approved. The Fully Developed Claims effort needs to be amplified during transition and thereafter. Also, perhaps the Department of Veterans Affairs disability approval backlog can be helped by effectively getting the assistance of Veterans Service Organizations. VSO worker level personnel, maybe working directly with VA disability raters can help accelerate processing in unexpected ways. (Disclaimer: I’ve been personally involved with the VA employee innovation effort which has already helped a little.)

7. There needs to be greater outreach by VA medical centers via social media, and also regarding Blue Button efforts which allow veterans to download medical and work experience while in service.

 

Okay, the other big area I focus on involves journalism integrity and ethics, toward increasing the trustworthiness of news reporting. I really am aware that I’m not in the news industry, and won’t tell people how to do their job.

However, I really want to get news I can trust. After all, the press is the immune system of democracy… or should be.

Toward that end, I’m already working with the Poynter Institute, which is a really big deal in professional journalism. They’ve run a conference on journalistic issues, raising big issues. For example, to maintain a pretense of objectivity, it’s common to bring on a speaker a reporter knows will attempt to deceive the public. In such a case, is the reporter and news outlet complicit in that deception?

Moving forward, I’ll be increasingly involved in publicly raising such issues publicly, with the objective of finding news I can trust. That means working with more news organizations with a history of trustworthy behavior.

Finally, well, I was heavily involving in protecting the rights of all eligible Americans to vote, mostly by supporting organizations with boots on the ground. I figure this is about the values articulated in the Declaration of Independence, in that all are created equal, and that we really can be the “shining city on the hill.”

However, there are people who disagree with universal suffrage, and have taken that to the Supreme Court, so I’ll continue to help.

Anyway …

Please remember that I’m doing this real discreetly, not really rocking the boat except when a little of that is required, just the least amount needed.

Finally, nothing I do is altruistic the way I look at things; it just feels right. A nerd’s gotta do what a nerd’s gotta do.

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