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INNOVATE

Veteran Entrepreneurs Licensing Inventions That Serve

Meet two veterans working to bring solutions to market for active duty military, while creating a platform for veteran innovation.

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BY Tracy Leigh Hazzard - 04 Jan 2018

Veteran Entrepreneurs Licensing Inventions That Serve

PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

Last year I spent some time interviewing veteran and bestselling author, Nick Ripplinger. His book, Front Line Leadership, laid out the importance for entrepreneurs to focus on strategy, structure, systems, quick deployment, inventiveness with meager resources, and a team that has your back, advice I wholeheartedly second.

During that interview, I learned that Nick had received the Defense Meritorious Service Medal (the third highest peace-time award) during active duty service in the US Army, but because he was medically discharged without a college degree, he could only find work supporting his family by stacking boxes in a warehouse. This time, when I circled back to see how Nick's journey into entrepreneurship was treating him, I was thrilled to learn about his progress.

A Thriving Partnership

Leaning into his own advice, Nick found himself a partner with the same passion, background, and inventiveness as himself. Not only has Bennett Tanton completed tours as a member of both the Army and the Marine Corp, but he also runs a successful podcast network, and dedicates his time to helping veterans.

A New Take On Licensing From Start to Shelf

This new venture, Battle Sight Technologies, for Nick and Bennett is one that puts a new spin on licensing a product, and proves that there are many paths to success for entrepreneurs. Let's use the Air Force Research Lab for example, because this is the government entity this duo are working with. AFRL invests money into research, technologies, products, and inventions. The AFRL will support the life cycle of that product, all the way down to the patent process, by providing facilities and funding as needed.

Once an invention or product reaches completion, it goes on the shelf until someone comes along who is willing to license the product and bring it to market. This is an eye-opening approach to licensing that can benefit so many in the process - troops, government, tax payers and veterans who they will employ, retrain, and empower.

These guys have experience and knowledge that allows them to effectively recognize the value in some of these shelved products, that others may never be able to identify. When you've spent time in combat or on the front line, you understand, more wholly, the technology and tools either necessary or lacking.

Branding + Structure + Strategy (oh, and patience)

While they still have a lot of work to do, their marketing channel is clear, their social podcast network is a great support platform, and their knowledge and perspective is right where it needs to be. Their work on building a brand with Battle Sight Technologies is consistent and structured. Those are some of the biggest battles, and so now, with a lot of heavy lifting done, they're now looking at packaging optimization, so soldiers can get the best use out of their products.

Patience, which Bennett so graciously referred to as foresight, is a necessary part of the process, especially when dealing with so much red tape, bureaucracy, and government level paperwork. The process to go this route of licensing, while not totally streamlined, is also not difficult, you just have to be willing to put in the time. For their first licensed product with Battle Sight Technologies, the timeline was approx. 6-months.

Making the Most of the Time

During that 6-month wait period, Nick and Bennett never shifted their focus from growth. Instead, they used that time to go to work on all of that heavy lifting I mentioned earlier. This approach is so smart because it positioned them to, when the time was right, execute each step of their master plan. And this is how success happens. Entrepreneurship, much like this licensing process, is a hurry-up-and-wait type of game. But if you are willing to play it, the benefits, as you can see, are extreme.

Service Over Self

I started in business with my heart in service over personal gains and I have never strayed too far from that. While their service is of entirely different merit than mine, I value this start-from-service mindset in others, and will share that business approach with you anytime I get the chance.

For these two veterans, whether they are lining up new licensing deals, or seeking out technologies for our men and women on the front lines, their hearts are also in service, and this is how sustainable business is done.

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