Veteran Capital: Bridging military experience to startup success

By Tom White, Senior Editor | Business Inclusion

This is the second in a series of posts we're producing with Google for Startups, Google's initiative to help startups thrive across every corner of the world. 

In the series, we'll feature the people and teams who collaborate with Google to provide a community where startups can connect with each other. In this interview, we meet up with Tim Horan and Brian Abrahamson, the Co-Founders of Veteran Capital, which they describe as a Modern Military Transition company located in Durham, North Carolina. 

Best friends from growing up in Burnt Hills, NY, Tim and Brian were sports teammates and classmates throughout high school. Abes and Timmy — as they refer to one another — went their separate ways for college and for a bit of their professional lives.  They reunited to inspire those serving in the military to pursue vocations within technology companies, as well as to inspire those pursuing technology initiatives to serve the United States. They don’t play sports together anymore, but, as they put it, now they’ve teamed up in a different, more meaningful way, leveraging each of their skillsets and perspectives to support others. 

Tim is an alumnus of the United States Military Academy and a four year member of the Army Football team. Tim served eight years in the Army, notably as an Aide-de-camp to a General Officer in the 10th Mountain Division and a Company Commander in the 101st Airborne Division. Upon transitioning from his service in the Army, Tim leveraged the Army Career Skills Program to join GoldenKey, a venture-backed startup. As COO, he led the company’s initiatives around product management, people operations, and enterprise sales. After his stint at GoldenKey, Tim teamed up with Brian to launch Veteran Capital. Tim and his wife Bridget have an eighteen-month-old -son, and one baby on the way as of this writing. As Tim says, what better time to start a family and a company than at the same time

Brian is an alumnus of both Boston College and St. John Fisher College and has served in a variety of roles within the venture capital industry. He began his career at KPMG as an accountant, where he attended what he calls “business bootcamp.” After spending nearly a decade in venture capital at Charles River Ventures and Summit Partners, the itch to start a business only grew stronger. When the opportunity to partner with TIm to start Veteran Capital presented itself, he jumped. In his role, he is responsible for the firm’s strategy, business development, and sales. Brian lives with his wife Emily and their two boys. When he’s not at a military installation or in a meeting he’s typically enjoying the outdoors with his family.

Recently (mid-2019), I spent some time with both Tim and Brian in person at the Veteran Capital office in Durham. Here are highlights from our conversation.

What compelled you to establish Veteran Capital?

Tim: The U.S. military and the world around it has changed drastically in the last twenty years. In the military of the past, information flowed slowly through layers of bureaucracy and technology was limited in its use and scope. In the modern military, technology and information are ubiquitous and distributed throughout organizations. Modern military service members are powered by the latest innovations in hardware and software, and develop hard and soft skills that make them world class leaders.

Service members face a set of unique challenges when transitioning out of the military. This is where Veteran Capital comes in. Those who serve in the modern military deserve a modern military transition. The United States asks and expects its service members to meet the most challenging threats in environments as familiar as land and as foreign as space and the transition to civilian life. The modern military transition should bridge agile and adaptive service with agile and adaptive employment opportunities. 

Fundamentally, we believe three key things:

  • Modernizing the military transition will inspire people to serve the United States
  • Modern military service members have the skills and experiences to thrive in technology companies and startups alike, trading one agile and adaptive environment for another
  • It’s important to inspire both those serving to pursue startups and tech, and those pursuing tech and startups to serve our country

What programs do you offer to veterans?

Brian: The Veteran Capital Fellowship program is our starting point in modernizing the military transition.

This immersive, three month experience couples work at high-growth technology companies with a number of educational workshops that expose service members to entrepreneurs and industry experts. 

As one of our fellows, Grant Peterson, has said to us, “The greatest gift the military gave me is a greatly expanded capacity for discipline. I think life's most worthy projects, including starting a business, require an inordinate amount of discipline.”

Grant has told us he believes that “service members are uniquely positioned to succeed in the startup world because they are uniquely disciplined. From training and deployments in austere environments, service members come to appreciate the power of not deviating from a single mission for months or years at a time. That power is a prerequisite for building a business from the ground up.” 

Why are veterans uniquely suited to thrive within technology companies?

Tim:  Modern military service members, in our opinion, are underleveraged as a talent pool for technology companies. But military leadership training empowers service members to solve problems efficiently. The focused resolve and discipline to identify the task at hand, to set goals, and to execute effectively is something that comes naturally to veterans. 

Additionally, military experience fosters certain, highly desirable fundamental character traits. For example, unmitigated devotion to a vision and to causes that are bigger than service members themselves, is a quality that typically provides an abiding sense of purpose. The discipline and perseverance learned in the military allows veterans to see missions through, especially during difficult times (which are early and often for startups!).

How can people get involved with Veteran Capital?

Brian: If you want our most innovative people to answer the call to serve our country; if you want service to be equally distributed among the poor, the middle class, and the affluent; if you want our most talented veterans to pursue careers in tech and entrepreneurship; if you want to lay a brick to help build a bridge suitable for a modern military transition, please drop us a line via email.

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