Army veteran turned investor-entrepreneur wants to hear your ideas
By BILL MURPHY JR. | STARS AND STRIPES Published: September 28, 2011
WASHINGTON — Know any millionaire entrepreneurs? You do now.
Meet Joseph Meyer, Army veteran and private equity investor. The businesses he’s started or invested in over the past 20 years, he says, are now worth a half a billion dollars.
If you’re a servicemember, family member or veteran who has a great idea for a new business and who is sincerely looking for advice or mentorship, Meyer says he’s interested to hear from you. You can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Meyer credits the leadership skills and character traits he honed while on active duty in the 1980s for his success in business, at least once he’d learned to translate those skills to the civilian world. Now, he wants to help others achieve success.
“I look at kind of my whole military background and where I am today and I kind of chuckle,” Meyer said. “If you take a look at what I’m doing now, it stems from the fact that I could get into a situation, understand all the things that are going on around me very quickly, and see where the gaps are. … I’m able to do that because of how battalion commanders and company commanders would give you 10 minutes or two days, whatever it was, to do an operations order. You sat down and said, ‘Well, here are the resources I have and what I don’t have.’ And you did it quickly.”
Meyer grew up in Iowa as the seventh of nine children. He enrolled in the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps at Iowa State University, graduated in 1984, served as an armor officer until 1989, and then did another eight years in the Army Reserve. After his active-duty experience, he went to work as a marketing executive at Frito Lay and then climbed the corporate ladder to become the president of a $200 million division of Bell South before launching his own companies and becoming an investor.
Meyer said he joined the Army because all the top executives at the company where his father worked, John Deere, were veterans. But he didn’t really understand why his military experience would help him until he got back into the civilian world. He said he thinks many of today’s servicemembers and veterans are in the same situation. They have the skills they need to succeed, but they don’t realize it.
“I talk with people who are getting out of the military, and they don’t have a grasp of what they think they can do. What they’ve really learned in the military is to learn very, very fast,” Meyer said. “Young officers, NCOs, you guys and girls have learned how to move into a situation, understand it and move to the next level.”
Meyer’s first big success was a debit card company called Starlight that sold for $121 million. That gave him the seed money to launch and invest in other startups. He’s now the chairman and founder of FirstView, a financial services company in Atlanta.
So what’s the first thing an aspiring veteran who wants to succeed in the civilian business world should do?
Figure out what interests you, and find mentors who can show you how to get there, Meyer said.
”If you identify someone whose help you really think you need, be persistent,” he said. But, he added, “You’ve got to call.”
Or in his case, email.