The workforce is flooded with more veterans than ever before, many of which are trying their hand at entrepreneurship. Being one of these "vetrepreneurs" myself, I'm always on the lookout for the next big success story.
I recently came across RallyPoint.com. I like to refer to it as the LinkedIn of the military. I was instantly impressed and did some more research. The company was founded by two former Army officers, both combat veterans, who joined forces while attending Harvard Business School. I reached out to the CEO and co-founder, Yinon Weiss, and requested an interview.
Who are the founders of RallyPoint and what are their backgrounds?
RallyPoint was founded by Yinon Weiss and Aaron Kletzing, two military veterans who originally crossed paths while stationed outside of Baghdad in 2008, and later reunited as students at Harvard business School. Yinon first served in the Marine Corps and then as an Army Special Forces Officer, and Aaron is a West Point graduate who served as an Army Artillery Officer. Both founders have a desire to improve military life by offering the military community the best possible tools to be successful.
What was the original vision that spawned the birth of RallyPoint?
The common challenges and frustrations experienced in military life inspired the founders to launch RallyPoint. These included lack of transparency within the military, difficulty finding answers to common questions during their service, challenges in the transition to civilian life, and a desire to retain a connection to the military after leaving the service.
Webster's dictionary defines a rally point as "a point, place, or principle at or upon which scattered forces unite." Similarly, RallyPoint was created with the vision of being that point which unites all military members and veterans. On RallyPoint, military members and veterans can connect with the right people and get answers to their questions from others who have shared their experience.
There is a strong sense of camaraderie and kinship that persists among those who have worn the uniform. Members of RallyPoint appreciate the opportunity to connect and engage with others who have served, to have a better understanding of those they are speaking with, and to build on their shared experiences.
Facebook is a great place to stay connected with friends. LinkedIn is a fantastic place to connect with civilians in the workforce. Instagram is the perfect platform for sharing pictures. RallyPoint is where those who have served come to build upon shared military experiences and help each other, as members of a network and as members of a community.
Is RallyPoint for active duty military, retired military, aspiring military, all of the above...?
RallyPoint is for anyone who is serving or has ever served. We also recognize that there are many others that play an important part in our members' success, such as their immediate families who shared in the burden of service. Similarly, the Department of Defense has many civilians that work alongside our military. There are also many supporters and corporate recruiters that are interested in connecting with our veterans to offer them work opportunities.
While RallyPoint will always remain focused on our military and veterans, we acknowledge that the breadth of the true military community is much larger. There are tens of millions in the United States who could benefit from connecting with our network. In the future we will seek ways to enable them to contribute value while retaining exclusive features for our military and veteran members.
What role can RallyPoint play for service men and women transition into the workforce?
RallyPoint helps transitioning members in three ways:
1) Job Listing. We have military friendly job listings and company pages of employers who are eager to hear from transitioning military members.
2) Proactive Recruiting. When somebody creates their RallyPoint profile, corporate recruiters and hiring managers are able to proactively reach out to them with career opportunities.
3) Mentorship. One of the greatest challenges that a military member faces during transition is figuring out what he actually wants to do after the military, what he would enjoy, and discovering the path to get there. RallyPoint offers military members the opportunity to receive mentorship from veterans with a similar background (served in same unit, same specialty, etc.), who are already working in industries of interest.
There are many web sites out there with job listings, and they often lead to frustrating results. The hundreds of thousands of veteran RallyPoint members already working in civilian industries truly sets RallyPoint's network apart. They are happy to connect with and guide any service member interested in their career field. This personal network gives our members an incredible advantage when entering the civilian workforce.
Did the company raise capital to get started? If so, can you share those details?
The company got started with seed funding from angel investors, and then quickly went on to win $110,000 in competitions at the Harvard Business School Business Plan Competition and MassChallenge. Following the success of our launch, we raised venture capital, including a Series A in late 2013, bringing our total funding to $7M to date. Our venture capital investors are DBL Investors and Asset Management Ventures.
What have been some of the initial successes and milestones for RallyPoint?
Initially, our main focus was just on member growth. Reaching 10,000 members, 100,000 members, and most recently 500,000 members. We have also been focused on adoption by those currently in the military: recently reaching 10% of the entire US military on RallyPoint, and over 20% of the US Army in our first two years!
More recently we have been focusing on leading indicators, such as how much content is generated a day and how much help is offered to our member base. For example, we are now seeing over 5,000 daily comments, and votes on member questions, thereby crowdsourcing answers by subject matter experts within our the community.
In addition to these metrics, building a great team has also been critical, and it is something I am very proud of. We built an incredible Board of Advisors which includes two of the recent Joint Chiefs of Staff (General Casey of the Army and General Schwartz of the Air Force), in addition to other retired military leaders like Admiral Harvey, Lieutenant General Ben Freakley, and Brigadier General Craig Nixon. We have also added an exceptionally talented management to our team, leading engineering, marketing, business, and product development, which has helped create a culture of success and a strong sense of teamwork.
In addition to our existing investors, we also recently added Konstantin Guericke, one of the co-founders of LinkedIn, to our Board of Directors. Our team therefore has expertise in military culture, technology, business development, and social networking. There has never been a better team in place to help unite our military and veteran population.
What is the long term vision for RallyPoint?
RallyPoint will eventually become the standard bearer for all things military. It is on a path to become the go-to platform for anybody thinking of joining the military, for those who are looking to excel within their career in the military, for those transitioning, for those seeking to engage in discussion on military topics, for veterans who hope to reconnect or offer help, and for the sea of goodwill that exists in America (corporate, non-profits, and individuals) that wishes to support and honor our military.
The US military produces some of the most extraordinary men and women in every generation. RallyPoint will make sure those men and women will always have access to the right people and the right answers so they can realize more fulfillment in their lives, and achieve their full potential.