Veteran Entrepreneurs Bring ‘Threshold Of Pain’ To Startup World In Valley

Published: Wednesday, January 4, 2017 - 4:14pm
Updated: Thursday, January 5, 2017 - 7:36am

Supported by BeachFleischman
(Photo by Lauren Gilger - KJZZ)
Jeremy Gocke is a veteran and the founder of local startup Ampsy.

When we hear about veterans, we usually hear stories of war, about issues at the VA, or their struggles with PTSD or homelessness.

But, there’s another side to that story that veteran Phillip Potter wants you to hear.

Too often, Potter said, the narrative about veterans is negative: “We’re all homeless or we’re broken, or something is wrong with us,” he said. “And that’s not the narrative that I want out. Yeah, there have been experiences that many of us have went through that were impactful. But, you also have to understand the experiences, the teamwork and camaraderie, made us incredibly successful in the face of adversity.”

Potter is the founder and CEO of The Armory, a startup incubator that recently opened in downtown Phoenix. At their opening, he told KJZZ how successful veterans actually are in the entrepreneurial world.

“Eight percent of the population in Phoenix ZIP codes are veterans,” Potter said, “but we own almost 12 percent of privately held companies, and we generate 15 percent of all sales receipts and more than 16 percent of all payroll in the city of Phoenix ZIP codes. Like, we’re not broken.”

Potter said the real problem is that veterans today are much less likely to be entrepreneurs than they were in the past.

And, he said, even though there are so many programs out there to help veterans get stable jobs, Potter actually thinks all of that is really stopping veterans from pursuing startups.

“The drumbeat is so loud to polish up your resume, and go to a job fair that the veterans, sometimes, might be doubting themselves to say, ‘Well if everybody’s telling me to go get a job then it must mean that I can’t be a startup founder,’” Potter said. “And we’re trying to show that no, that’s not the case. In fact history has shown us that veterans, as a group, might be the best startup founders out there.”

Local startup founder Jeremy Gocke said he got into the startup world after he left the Army and he’s found that there are many things he learned there that have come in handy in running his own businesses.

“I think there’s kind of this inherent threshold of pain that you kind of pick up in the military,” Gocke said. “There’s a lot of kind of hurry up and wait, times that you are without resources and funding and all those things that you need to do your job.”

And that translates well to entrepreneurship, he said, especially in the early stages of a company.

Gocke founded Ampsy, a hyperlocal social aggregation and analytics company, which runs out an office in Scottsdale. He said the entrepreneurial community in the Valley is growing quickly and the community of veterans within it is starting to as well.

Gocke said he would like to see more veteran incubators join The Armory in the Valley, as well as participation from local universities and city leadership to help accelerate the growth of the veteran entrepreneur community here.

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