“Entrepreneurship is an adventure,” began Matt Thompson, co-founder and COO of Troopswap.com, as he spoke to a group of first and second year MBA’s from William and Mary’s Mason School of Business in an event organized by the Entrepreneurship & Innovation Club on February 23rd.
Troopswap is a fast-growing start-up that has established a military-exclusive online community where service members’ credentials are verified in a one-of-a-kind process, allowing them access to exclusive deals. Thompson and his business partner, Blake Hall–both former Army Rangers and recent HBS graduates—created the Troopswap idea for a case competition while still in business school. Even though they lost the competition, they maintained faith in the idea. Troopswap was launched in June 2010 using private and investor capital from sources including friends, family, and other business professionals.
Before launching Troopswap, Thompson had a secure and monetarily rewarding job with a private investment bank. So why, one might wonder, would he leave that security for the long hours, extreme pressures, and uncertainty of a start-up? No one can put it better than Thompson himself, “you must define what you value—making a comfortable living or making a difference—and take the net present value. I evaluated the net present value of believing in myself and saw that outcome as far greater than money.”
Thompson’s commitment to his investors, employees, and customers was a main topic during his visit to Miller Hall, “work ethic is important because you have responsibilities to lots of people; people put lots of trust in us, giving us their entire life savings. I have to do the right thing with their money to ensure the company has a future.”
Despite all this pressure, Thompson soldiers on daily, crediting his MBA experience for teaching him the lessons he’s used every day, “I needed my MBA to make this happen. I don’t have all the skills, but I have the shell now and the resources to fill it out. Blake and I refer to cases from business school at least three times a week.” These lessons extend past book knowledge and classroom learning, and into leadership and managing human capital.
Thompson believes that one of the most rewarding parts of being an entrepreneur is creating jobs, saying that the success of the company “comes down to the people you have on your team and their ability to execute.” He went on to explain further that entrepreneurs must adapt to the shifting dynamics as they take on employees and see the needs of their business changing. In doing so, entrepreneurs can evolve to stay relevant in a changing marketplace and be a force of added value to the community they are serving.
Before ending the discussion, Thompson offered one piece of advice for MBA’s seeking a summer internship, “learning about how to structure thinking is valuable. I’d use the internship to round out the skills you’re not sure of.”
Thompson’s talk was engaging and inspirational. He embodies many of the entrepreneurial qualities that we talk about at Mason—social entrepreneurship, risk-taking, and innovating to fulfill needs and provide value. His story puts these characteristics into practice. We look forward to keeping track of Troopswap’s growth and Matt’s future entrepreneurial endeavors!
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