November 11, 2015
Innovation occurs when groundbreaking technology and unyielding entrepreneurship combine. For many entrepreneurs, we gained our most valuable skills and perspective while serving in the armed forces. Hard work and rigid discipline defined that service, building a solid foundation for entrepreneurial spirits everywhere.
This Veteran’s Day I had the unique opportunity to chat with Ustream CEO Brad Hunstable. Brad is an Army Veteran and graduate of the United States Military Academy at West Point. His company Ustream is a video streaming service with more than 80 million viewers and broadcasters worldwide, and it was founded with the idea of connecting military service members to their family and friends.
Brad and I had a great discussion, and I took away several important lessons that demonstrate why military veterans make such great entrepreneurs.
From an early age, Brad possessed a drive to learn, serve others, and build – traits that would form the foundation of his character and military career. His service was characterized by a willingness to mentor junior soldiers, and push them toward their fullest potential. During this period in the Army, he grew to understand firsthand that extended separation from loved ones is emotionally draining and can lead to decreased focus.
“Being deployed away from your family and friends adds to an already stressful work environment,” he said. “When I joined the Army there really wasn’t a way to communicate back home or watch the most important events of your kid’s lives.”
And it’s true. By recognizing this problem – that it is hard to stay connected from the other side of the globe – he and his fellow cofounders discovered an opportunity. The infancy of Ustream occurred long before the inception of Twitch.tv. There was simply nothing in the market at the time to meet that need. Ustream was about to change that by sailing into uncharted waters.
Learn How to Solve Problems
Brad found himself in the position to solve a problem plaguing military families for centuries. While he may not have realized it at the time, his training and experience provided him with all the skills he needed to make his dream of connecting military families a reality. I was particularly interested to hear his views on how military service made him a better entrepreneur.
“What’s interesting is that most entrepreneurs start by seeing a market opportunity and then learn how to build a universal problem-solving filter/approach as they go. I truly believe that the military is the ideal process-focused training for today’s entrepreneurs,” he responded. “Knowing how to apply your core values to tactical situations in the “fog of business war” is much the same.”
Be Open to Change
The battlefield is ever changing, and we as entrepreneurs must be ready for the task and challenge. Many might be discouraged after repeated failure, yet Brad urges us to press forward.
“Never quit. The Army and West Point teach you that there is always a solution as long as you stay in the fight. Starting and succeeding in a company is similar. You need to enter your offensive knowing you’ll gain new data while you’re in it, and that if you’re doing it right, you’ll likely end up somewhere different than where you expected.”
I have consistently heard that the greatest quality of any entrepreneur (and leader) is persistence. We must not let failure and setbacks stop or discourage us in the pursuit of our goals and dreams. The mantra of the Marine Corps is particularly applicable: “Improvise, Adapt, and Overcome.” Persistence is how legacies are built and the only path by which innovation is born.
Broaden Your Perspective
The humble origins of Ustream have led to a legacy far larger than anyone imagined, far surpassing the plans of three military buddies starting a company.
“The goal with Ustream was to create a more connected and transparent world, and I really feel like we are on our way,” Brad explained. “At first, we started helping consumers stream live, and then realized the bigger chance to move the needle was helping brands and broader organizations power media and business video. Working with NASA to promote space exploration has been a really proud project for us.”
What’s next for the veteran-turned-entrepreneur? Brad Hunstable is headed to the final frontier. Perhaps soon we will be watching Ustream “broadcast a space mission to Mars entirely live.”
Uncharted waters, indeed.
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