Dear Veterans, Here is Your Next Mission

War must be, while we defend our lives against a destroyer who would devour all; but I do not love the bright sword for its sharpness, nor the arrow for its swiftness, nor the warrior for his glory. I love only that which they defend. –J.R.R. Tolkien

We’re living through a crazy time in history. Watching the news can be debilitating… and exhilarating. Many of the 2.8 million post 9–11 veterans who are looking for the next mission are watching. Many of them are wondering:

“What can we do to help out or fix it?”

As a veteran-turned-founder of a top tier, venture backed company, I have the honor of getting to meet many veterans, technology executives, CEOs, and Venture Capitalists in Silicon Valley.

Many of them (and myself) are trying our best to improve things. But the question remains:

Can we save, redeem, and rebuild the most successful startup of all time called America?

The answer is a resounding “Yes!” But, it’s not going to be easy. For those with the courage and imagination to do so, read on…

Veterans are witnessing the demise of many institutions for which we risked our lives.

Whether it’s the endless wars without a clear purpose or exit plan, the rise of ISIS, or political upheaval at home, at times it can be heartbreaking. As veterans, we all know people who gave their lives and made unspeakable sacrifices for the freedoms we enjoy.

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At home, there are still too many veterans who take their own lives each day. There are cities in the U.S. that are becoming the murder capitals of the world. Mass shootings fill the news. History is no longer taught in schools. America’s debt is rising. Our country is adrift politically.

More Americans than ever that are losing hope that redeeming American enterprise is possible.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

American veterans poss the skill, talent, and experience necessary to rebuild and redeem America. We hold the power to reemerge as the undisputed leader of the free world. We hold the power to protect the ultimate open source operating system: The Constitution of the United States of America. We can work to ensure that America continues to be the platform on which the best businesses are built. When we see a mission-driven business like SpaceX helping the U.S. and NASA accomplish their missions at a fraction of the cost previously imagined, we can support them.

There is change stirring, and our veteran population is ambitious for the next mission. The military and government have had an incredibly challenging time providing veterans with a strategic path or inspiration for, “What to do now?” It’s becoming more apparent that the best answers for veterans may not come from the military. When certain people inside the government and military try to “help” veterans, I can’t help but think of this Frederick Douglass quote:

Do nothing. It is your meddling that has done the mischief.

Veterans volunteered for the military out of a willingness to work hard and risk our own personal livelihoods for our country. Now, there are startups, technology companies, and venture capitalists all around the country who need us.

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What is the path for veterans who want to seek out the next mission?

Level up our skills, learn industry lingo, and then create or join those that are building technology companies.

The word technology causes some people’s eyes to glaze over. But what if we define the word the way it was originally intended?

Technology is any tool or system that does more with less.

A chair or a book is technology, so are the systems behind how we buy our coffee, the books we use, they’re all technology.

Looking at the data and numbers behind companies that produce technology, we can see its true virtue. I know what you might be thinking, “virtue?” Isn’t that a bit of a stretch? Nope. In fact, it might be an understatement.

During the past three decades, startups in the United States have created nearly 40 million American jobs, all the net job creation in the country over that period. –Steve Case

The class of business responsible for 100% of those jobs are startups and technology companies. Any company that starts up, survives, and creates jobs is by definition a technology company. They do more with less.

As veterans, our entire military service and deployments are spent doing one thing:

Doing more with less.

Survival in our global economy and redemption of the enterprise we call America is predicated on technology.

We must create it. If not create it, then we must join or help those who are creating it.

We must create processes and products that do more with less.

Venture capitalists already know this. They hunger for chances to invest and risk money behind those building technology. These are the risk takers (and literal value alchemists) that fund the technology behind products and services we all enjoy.

It’s why you can walk into a Starbucks, and purchase any type of coffee and have it customized to your liking. It’s why and how Amazon delivers a Kindle Voyage to us in two days that has access to more books than your local library.

So how exactly are these technology creators worthy of the words, “alchemists” or “virtuous”? Aside from the fact that they’re creating jobs, they create wealth.

Each year, venture capital investments into startups account for .2% of US GDP. That minuscule yearly investment fuels 21% of our national GDP, or $3.57 trillion. The 12 largest technology companies in the US are now responsible for over $2 trillion in yearly revenues. They were all venture capital backed.

This industry of value alchemy requires a steady stream of skilled leaders who can endure risk and uncertainty. Veterans have the experiences necessary to create technology.

We are masters of learning new skills on the spot.

We have learned to endure feelings of hunger, cold, uncertainty, or outright chaos. That is another day at the office for us. According to the Small Business Administration, veterans are 45% more likely to be self-employed (entrepreneurial) than non-veterans.

There are more than 21.8 million veterans in America. There are more than 250,000 service members transitioning from the military each year. Imagine what would happen if all of us went ALL IN on ourselves and working to create technology.

The national debt would be wiped out in a decade. The boom created would dwarf anything that came before. For the first time in the history of humanity, we would have those who have taken the most personal risk for the country, leading the country.

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Every single veteran I meet is eager for the next mission.

Many of them don’t know where to start, or think they are stuck at archaic companies that do less with more. The answer is easier said than done, but here it is:

Level up your skills. Learn everything you can about the technology industry. Then create or join the best technology companies in the world.

Over the coming years, we’ll see a flood of success stories from veterans who choose themselves and break into startups and technology. Veterans need a new challenge worthy of their skills, abilities, and character. The technology industry is here and waiting, and needs those who can learn on the fly, understand leadership, take risks, have skin in the game, and who are hungry to rebuild and redeem America.

To all the veterans out there reading this, now is the time for us to roll up our sleeves, and begin the next mission at home.

America is salvageable. It’s worth saving, and we are the leaders we’ve been waiting for. As veterans, it’s time for us to lead here at home. It’s time for us to redeem the most successful startup of all time, America.