Articles

9 incredibly successful companies founded by military veterans

It should be no surprise that skills learned in the military such as decision-making under pressure, organization, and leadership translate well to the corporate boardroom. And those skills tend to make a big difference, with companies led by former military officers tending to show better performance.


People like Fred Smith or Sam Walton have become household names for their business success. Lesser known is their service prior to the companies they founded.

Also read: 10 entertaining military podcasts you need to know about

After World War II, nearly 50% of veterans went the entrepreneurship route, though that number has substantially declined today. Still, there are currently around 3 million veteran-owned businesses.

Here are 9 companies started by military veterans.

1. RE/MAX, cofounded by Air Force veteran Dave Liniger

RE/MAX

Prior to founding "Real Estate Maximums" — better known as RE/MAX— Dave Liniger served in the Air Force during the Vietnam War.

From 1965 to 1971, he served as an enlisted airman in Texas, Arizona, Vietnam, and Thailand, according to his LinkedIn.

"The military really gave me the chance to grow up. It was fun. I thought it was a fabulous place," he told Airport Journals. "It also taught me self-discipline and a sense of responsibility."

After he got out of the military, he started flipping houses for profit, and eventually got his real estate license. He cofounded RE/MAX with his wife Gail in 1973.

2. Sperry Shoes, founded by Navy veteran Paul A. Sperry

Sperry

You can thank a former sailor in the US Naval Reserve for inventing the world's first boat shoe.

In 1917, Sperry joined the Navy Reserve, though he didn't stay in for very long. He was released from duty at the end of the year at the rank of Seaman First Class.

Still, his experience there and further adventures sailing led to the founding of his company, which eventually created the first non-slip boating shoe. He founded Sperry in 1935.

During World War II, his Sperry Top-Sider shoes were purchased by the boatload by the Navy. Now nearly a century later, they are still a favorite of sailors everywhere.

3. FedEx, founded by Marine Corps veteran Fred Smith

Back before FedEx was the behemoth logistics company it is today, founder Fred Smith was observing how the military was getting things from point A to point B.

After graduating from Yale University, he was commissioned as a Marine Corps officer and served two tours in Vietnam. He earned a Bronze Star, Silver Star, and two Purple Hearts,according to US News.

Only two years after he left the Corps, he started Federal Express.

"Much of our success reflects what I learned as a Marine," he wrote forMilitary.com. "The basic principles of leading people are the bedrock of the Corps. I can still recite them from memory, and they are firmly embedded in the FedEx culture."

4. Walmart, cofounded by Army veteran Sam Walton

WalMart is the largest company in the world.

It was founded by a former Army intelligence officer named Sam Walton.From 1942 to 1945, Walton was in the Army and eventually rose to the rank of captain. His brother (and cofounder) Bud served as a bomber pilot for the Navy in the Pacific.

According to the company's history, Sam Walton's first WalMart store, called Walton's Five and Dime, was started with $5,000 he saved from his time serving in the Army and a $25,000 loan from his father-in-law.

5. GoDaddy, founded by Marine Corps veteran Bob Parsons

Creative Commons

The company responsible for registering a large portion of the world's web domains, GoDaddy, is the brainchild of Marine veteran Bob Parsons.

Parsons enlisted in the Corps in 1968 and later served in Vietnam, where he earned a Combat Action Ribbbon, the Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry, and the Purple Heart for wounds he received in combat.

"I absolutely would not be where I am today without the experiences I had in the Marine Corps," he writes on his website.

In 1997, he started GoDaddy. In 2014, it filed for a $100 million IPO. He left the company around that time to focus on his philanthropic efforts

6. WeWork, founded by Israeli Navy veteran Adam Neumann

Adam Neumann | Adam Neumann

Hot coworking startup WeWork is the 9th most valuable startupin the world, and it was started by a veteran of the Israeli navy.

Adam Neumann started a coworking office space for entrepreneurs in New York City back in 2011.Today, WeWork has 128 offices in 39 cities around the world.

Born in Tel Aviv, Israel, Neumann served as a navy officer there for five years before moving to the US in 2001.

7. Taboola, founded by Israeli Army veteran Adam Singolda

Taboola Founder and CEO Adam Singolda. | Taboola

Another veteran of the Israel Defense Forces is Adam Singolda, the founder of content recommendation engine Taboola.

Like many other successful Israeli entrepreneurs who served in the IDF (military service ismandatory in Israel), Singolda developed many of the skills that would help his company later on in the military intelligence field.

He ended up serving for seven years as an officer with the elite Unit 8200, the Israeli military's version of the NSA.

He started Taboola back in 2007, and you have surely seen his work under the many millions of articles who feature "Content You May Like" that the company generates at the bottom. Taboola raised a round of financing in 2015 that put its value at close to $1 billion.

8. Kinder Morgan, cofounded by Army veteran Richard Kinder

The fourth largest energy company in North America was cofounded by Vietnam veteran Richard Kinder. Along with his business partner William Morgan, he started the company in 1997.

He earned his law degree at the University of Missouri before serving in Vietnam as a US Army captain. He was in uniform for four years as a Judge Advocate General officer (aka a military lawyer).

9. USAA, founded by a group of Army officers

Flickr/Fort Rucker

It may not be a huge surprise that USAA — a company that exclusively caters to military veterans and their families — was started by veterans.

Interestingly though, it doesn't have just one founder. It has 25.

Back in the 1920s, it was pretty hard for military service members to get (or keep) auto insurance, since it was either way too expensive or likely to get cancelled since they moved around so much.

So Maj. William Henry Garrison and 24 of his fellow Army officers got together in 1922 and formed their own mutual company to insure themselves, according to Encyclopedia.com. Today, the United Services Automobile Association provides insurance, banking, and investment services to nearly 12 million members.

Disclosure: I personally have USAA insurance and use its banking services.

Military Life

Female veterans pose on same ship that carried WW2 troops

Award-winning nonprofit Pin-Ups for Vets is releasing its 13th annual fundraising calendar to raise money for VA hospitals; ill, injured, and homeless veterans; deployed troops; and military families. The 2019 calendar, photographed on the iconic Queen Mary in Long Beach, CA, features 19 female veterans decked out in World War II inspired fashion.

"Fans of Art Deco will appreciate the look of the upcoming calendar that reflects the vintage glamour of this 1936 cruise liner, now permanently docked in Long Beach, CA as a floating hotel," said Pin-Ups For Vets Founder, Gina Elise, who established Pin-Ups For Vets in 2006, as a way to honor the WWII service of her grandfather.

Gina Elise, Founder

Gina has devoted her life to giving back to the military community. To date, Pin-Ups For Vets has donated over $58,000 to help hospitals purchase new therapy equipment and to provide financial assistance for Veterans' healthcare program expansion across the United States.

The 2019 calendar is officially ready for pre-order at www.PinUpsForVets.com. All 2019 Pin-Ups for Vets calendar pictures were taken by Shane Karns Photography — and let me just tell you...he really nailed it.


Kirstie Ennis, U.S. Marine Corps veteran

From a linguist, to a Human Intelligence Collector, to a combat photographer, to a combat medic, to a motor transportation operator, to a heavy equipment transporter driver leading convoys in Iraq, to a helicopter door gunner in Afghanistan, these ladies also include an above-the-knee amputee veteran (Marine Corps veteran Kirstie Ennis — who, by the way, at the time of this publishing was climbing Mount Denali in support of Service to Summit to raise money for Building Homes for Heroes, a nonprofit organization that builds or modifies homes and gives them to veterans in need).

Julie Noyes, Army veteran

Army veteran Julie Noyes says, "It can be so difficult as a female service member to feel empowered in her beauty without feeling like she may betray the professionalism of her uniform when we only seek to be treated like our male counterparts. I feel that Pin-Ups for Vets does a superb job at raising money and awareness for our elderly, wounded vets and our currently deployed troops while also showcasing the class and beauty of female veterans without objectifying them. What Pin-Ups Vets Founder Gina Elise has done with this publication and non-profit is nothing short of empowering and inspiring."

Naumika Kumar, Navy Veteran

"I will always be thankful to the Navy. I met my husband in the Navy who is also a veteran now and I graduated from National University with Master's Degree in 2012 as well. I am happy to see there are organization such as Pin-Ups For Vets who are doing so much to support the military and Veterans. I am happy that I got an opportunity to be part of the organization."

Patti Gomez, Army veteran

Patti is a veteran of the United States Army, where she proudly served in the New York Army National Guard as a 35M (Human Intelligence Collector) of the 42nd Infantry Division, located in Glenville, New York. She volunteered to attend JRTC in Fort Polk, Louisiana, alongside the 27th Infantry Brigade Combat Team in July 2016. She also trained at Warfighter at Fort Indiantown Gap, Pennsylvania, with her unit in October 2017. Patti attended Basic Combat Training at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, and attended Advanced Individual Training at the United States Army Intelligence Center of Excellence in Fort Huachuca, Arizona.

"Pin-Ups for Vets is an incredible organization with an important mission. Being a part of a nonprofit that helps veterans and empowers women at the same time is truly an honor and one that I couldn't pass up when I was asked to be a part of the 2019 calendar. As the reigning Mrs. New York America, my platform is veteran organizations — and Pin-Ups for Vets is truly among the best of them!"

Check out that cover image!

The 2019 calendar can be purchased at: www.PinUpsForVets.com or by check to: Pin-Ups For Vets, PO Box 33, Claremont, CA 91711.

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