“Never was so much owed by so many to so few.”
–Winston Churchill (during World War II)
Today America celebrates Veterans Day, and it’s a great opportunity for us to thank all our veteran clients, followers and partners who served. We’d also like to tell you about some of the veterans who have become successful entrepreneurs in the crypto space.
The United States has a very strong tradition of veteran entrepreneurship. It’s believed that 50% of World War II veterans started their own business. Currently there is exciting growth of post-service entrepreneurship among younger veterans. According to the US Census Bureau’s Survey of Business Owners, about 10% of US businesses are majority owned by the veterans. These businesses employ about 5 million people and make more than one trillion dollars in revenue. According to the US Small Business Administration, one in four military personnel leaving the services is interested in starting their own business.
What makes American veterans so successful in business? There are many reasons, but one of them is that the US military forces are building and operating the world’s most innovative and transformative technologies, such as AI, virtual reality, nuclear technology, robotics, satellites, etc. Technology is definitely the foundation of today’s and tomorrow’s businesses, especially if we talk about cryptocurrency and blockchain. Veterans who participated in these programs and got military training make great leaders in this era of fast technological transformation.
For ZenLedger, Veterans Day is a very special day because our CEO and Co-Founder Pat Larsen is a veteran. Pat graduated from the U.S. Air Force Academy. As a mission commander for the U.S. Navy, he commanded search & rescue and combat medical evacuation missions on two combat tours in Iraq.
Jonathan Allen is Managing Partner at Dekrypt Capital, a blockchain investment firm with an emphasis on privacy-preserving protocols and early-stage ventures. Jonathan started Blockchain at Berkeley and grew the student organization quickly to hundreds of consultants working with Fortune 500 companies and large crypto companies. From 2009 till 2014 Jonathan served as an Explosive Ordnance Disposal Technician disarming bombs in the theater of operations and the contiguous United States (CONUS).
I had a chance to speak to Pat and Jonathan and discuss what makes veterans so successful in crypto space.
I.B.: Pat, how has your service in the Navy helped you achieve success in your business? What qualities has it built in you that are helping you to be a successful entrepreneur?
Pat.: There are just tons of things I learned and got to practice in the Navy that have helped me in business.
Working hard and providing an example to others is one. You have to be a subject matter expert and you have to be able to train your co-workers as well. You really have to put in your best everyday and try to get better.
Being calm under pressure and having a good perspective are also important. I work hard and I take things seriously, but I know that a startup is not life and death. It allows me to take a deep breath and make clear decisions rather than panic or overreact to bad news.
I.B.: Jonathan, how about you? For several years your military service was to disarm bombs. I can only imagine that the stress of managing a startup is nothing compared to that. How has your service prepared you for your today’s career path?
Jonathan: I learned to work hard in challenging situations and to take the right decisions. When you are working with bombs, you have to be right.
The Army teaches you to “embrace the suck”, to have an entrepreneurial mindset and to avoid doing the same thing twice because patterns make you predictable. When you constantly work in ambiguous, risky environments with no perfect answer, you learn how to think harder. And this skill is crucial when running a business.
I.B.: Are there any similarities between your military service and your being entrepreneurs in the crypto space?
Jonathan: Crypto is the most militant of technologies. It is about making your own decisions and going around incumbents and entrenched interests.
Running a startup in crypto and disarming bombs both can be either an immediate success or an immediate failure. Things break badly and you will have your blockchain attacked. Also, there are no gatekeepers in crypto. If you are early in an industry, no one can keep you from being a leader and you don’t need capital – all you need is to work hard, learn fast, and have passion to overcome obstacles and find answers.
Pat: Lots of things are important no matter what you are doing. Leadership obviously matters in both areas. You have to pay attention to what you are trying to accomplish and how the team is going about its business. You have to conduct yourself with integrity to your investors, your business partners, your customers, and your employees. You have to work hard and be ready to change directions quickly. Some mental toughness but also being flexible and adaptable are really important as you are trying to get a new business off the ground in a fluid and competitive environment.
I.B.: Leaving the military is a big change, and for many people it takes a lot of time and effort to get adjusted. Shifting from being in military to starting your own business in the crypto space, it sounds like a huge change. How did it go for you?
Pat: This process took many years for me. I started reading business books while I was still in the Navy from 2004 through to today. I went to get my MBA from 2008 to 2011 and had many mentors. I then worked in investment banking, at Amazon, and at a couple startups from 2011 to 2017 before I could bring it all together to form a business idea, form a team, raise capital, build a software product, and market it successfully. There were a lot of personal and professional bumps along the way and you just have to make up your mind that it is a very long game you are playing.
Jonathan: I knew I didn’t want to be a cog in a big machine. I was at Berkeley and the Bay area and was able to get immersed in startups. Startups are fun because you can work with the most passionate people in the space. That is what makes it inspiring.
I.B.: What advice would you give to young men and women who are leaving military service and want to start their business?
Jonathan: There is a path where you don’t have to start at the bottom. Have the confidence that you can be just as effective as anyone else, you can catch and surpass anyone.
Be resilient, don’t give up. Have grit. Avoid burnout. Keep your eye on the mission and do what it takes. Be motivated and effective. See it through. Be able to be told “No” 100 times and keep going.
Pat: Take your time and learn as much as possible. Get relevant experience. Find someone great to work for and learn from. Realize that you should have confidence that you can succeed in business. But, don’t be overconfident. Use your network. There are lots of resources and plenty of people that are happy to help veterans transition to the work force or starting their own businesses.
Crypto community includes quite a long list of people who served in military and defended our lives and values. Here are some of them:
Anthony “Pomp” Pompliano – Co-founder & Partner at Morgan Creek Digital. Anthony was a sergeant in the US Army from 2006 to 2012, was deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom (2008-2009). He is The Distinguished Leader Graduate of the Warrior Leader Course and a Commandant’s List Graduate of Infantry Leadership School.
James Glasscock – Co-Founder & CEO at Good Human Inc., and Co-Founder of DNA.fund, a firm focused on investing in and launching blockchain ecosystems for enterprises and entrepreneurs. Prior to starting a brilliant career with large corporations including Warner Bros. Entertainment, James was an Electrical Division Manager USS Sides in the US Navy during Operation Desert Storm and was awarded Sailor of the Year, Naval Achievement Medal.
Luke Riddle – CEO & Co-Founder at Phoenix Labs, LLC, former Operations Leadership executive at Coinbase. Prior to becoming a successful trader and a well known figure in crypto world, Luke helped save lives in Iraq as a Naval Aviator – Lieutenant Commander. He was an aircraft Commander, flight lead with Combat Level III, & Strike Level II pilot ratings.
Michael Novogratz – the CEO of Galaxy Investment Partners, a cryptocurrency investment firm, who calls himself “the Forrest Gump of bitcoin,”. He was ranked a billionaire by Forbes in 2007 and 2008. Prior to becoming a prominent name in crypto world, back in 1980s Michael served in New Jersey National Guard that included service as a helicopter pilot.
Robert Viglione – CEO and Co-Founder of Horizen Labs, a blockchain development company that makes blockchain technology accessible for businesses. In 2003 – 2007 he served as an Air Force officer leading teams of data analysts and software project team.
We wanted to thank these great men for their service and for their work developing cryptocurrency industry, as well as all other men and women who served to defend our country and its people.
This week we are giving a 15% discount for any of our product plans to everyone who wants to support our veterans. Use discount code VETERAN15 by November 18 to get 15% off and help people who sacrificed their lives defending ours. ZenLedger will give 50% of funds raised from this campaign to The Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS) – a charity foundation helping people grieving the loss of a loved one who died while serving in our Armed Forces or as a result of his or her service.
ZenLedger simplifies the tax reporting process for digital currencies by importing transactions and automatically making these time-consuming calculations. You can even auto-fill popular IRS forms and determine if it’s tax advantageous to sell existing digital currencies to realize the tax loss and minimize tax exposure — known as tax loss harvesting.
Sign up for ZenLedger and see how easy it is to get started!