[author] [author_image timthumb='on']https://media.licdn.com/media/p/8/005/046/2f6/151fb0d.jpg[/author_image] [author_info]Jeff Swanson is the Founder and CEO of StreetBuff. Jeff is an Army Veteran who attended Patriot Boot Camp in 2014 and returned as a community member at the New York program in 2015.[/author_info] [/author]
After exiting the military world, I read "The 4-Hour Workweek" and decided to create my first startup. Since then, I have been reading more and more, testing my ideas, taking risks, and learning from failures and successes. Last summer, I attended my first Tech Conference, The NYC Patriot Boot Camp. This incredible event was a game-changer for me. Here is how these four days impacted my battle plan and how I thought about startups.
First of all, I would say that my first major boost of confidence was when my idea was accepted and I was invited to attend. I had applied to the TechStars program twice before and didn't quite make it. Funny story - I found out that I was accepted through a friend of a friend and had to dig through my trash bin to find the official e-mail. Learning that I made the cut was similar to the feeling I had when I first said the oath at MEPS: joining a group of inspiring people who chose to do something that others are unwilling to do. At the time, I didn't quite know what to expect, but I knew that it was a great opportunity and that I needed to make the most of it.
As soon as I arrived to New York City, I took it all in. Monumental buildings, sub-cultures under sub-cultures, the rich and famous living among the poor and hopeful - anything and everything within an arm’s reach. This is the place where dreams are pursued and conquered. It's New York City! It felt like when I had first left the walls of Liberty and witnessed with the consequences of war with my own eyes for the first time. No longer was NYC just a fictional place, the City you see on TV. It was real, right here in front of my eyes sharing its entrepreneurial energy with me and sparking ideas into my brain. More on that later.
Let's talk about the people. The TechStars staff was an overall presence of encouragement. They went above and beyond to express gratitude for our service. The speakers were an all-star lineup. There were people who have experienced wild success, like Craig Newmark, who made us dream big, and people who are living the day-to-day grind, like David Cass, who gave us sound practical advice. We were also able to mingle and network with some very influential professionals from top tech companies like Google and Amazon. Being around all these people was in my mind like a weeklong training with the Special Forces. An elite level of people with real world experience willing to teach you what you need to know to survive and complete your mission.
And then, there were the other veterans. One of my favorite parts about the Bootcamp was meeting people who had so much in common with me. Let's face it: we've done things that most people could never dream of and we now devour the business world as civilians. Put a bunch of us together and we’ve got a lot to talk about! Ask any one of us what we miss about the Military and 9 times out of 10, you'll hear "the camaraderie". It's what keeps us waking up in the morning to face another day of challenges. We share struggles and victories and together we drive on.
This brings me back to the fact that when you are around great people and in the right environment, ideas show up. My idea came as I was walking around the city looking for authentic experiences. In my quest, I was asking locals questions like: "Where’s the best Mexican food around here?" and "Is there anything fun happening tonight?" I learned that New Yorkers are very kind, despite the reputation. Some of them really went out of their way to help me, and I found myself wishing I could pay them back somehow. That's when it hit me: how about we create an app that connects travelers like me with friendly, street-savvy locals in real time, and then offer them a tip to show our gratitude? It's called StreetBuff. We are now launching in NYC and helping visitors have a better, more authentic experience of the City. And thanks to the recon I did while at the Bootcamp, we are accomplishing our mission.
If you want to learn more about the Patriot Boot Camp or StreetBuff, feel free to send me an email at: firstname.lastname@example.org. I’m always happy to share my insights and answer your questions. And if you need some insider’s tips to make your visit to the Big Apple special, download StreetBuff from the app store and just ask the locals for some "on the ground intelligence".