After 15 months in Iraq hunting “high-value targets” for the U.S. military, Blake Hall applied to Harvard Business School on his battalion commander’s urging. Ever humble, Hall doubted his chances.
Now with a diploma in hand, he’s using the degree to serve the military in a different way: He and co-founder Matt Thompson have created an e-commerce Web site dubbed TroopSwap specifically for military families.
The Web site plans to launch later this month as a daily deal purveyor, much like District-based LivingSocial or Chicago’s Groupon, only the discounts are tailored to military families.
Hall has raised $585,000 from a group of 18 angel investors. Though he operates the company from Washington, it will debut in Hampton Roads where TroopSwap employs eight military spouses who act as community liaisons and work with local merchants.
The idea for TroopSwap was born from Hall’s lifetime in a military family. A third-generation solider, Hall grew up intimately aware of the social and financial challenges that come with constant moves and sending loved ones to war.
The Web site’s original design would have functioned more like Craigslist, but the co-founders found it difficult to launch without a reservoir of merchandise. That could be the next incarnation after TroopSwap attracts users through deals, he said.
“This is really the first step in what we hope is a larger campaign to improve military life in a variety of ways,” he said.
Paula Jagemann sold eCommerce Industries for $95 million in 2006 after spending nearly a decade raising venture funding and building the company into a profitable business. She told her husband it was her last entrepreneurial venture.
Jagemann plans to launch SomeoneWith.com today in her hometown of Frederick, tapping her dot-com roots and e-commerce experience to create a one-stop Web site for patients with breast and other forms of cancer to buy niche medical supplies.
This is Jagemann’s second foray into the online retail business. She launched OnlineOfficeSupplies.com in the late 1990s to digitize thick catalogues of pencils, desk chairs and college-rule paper.
“What appears to be standard e-commerce practice has been completely missed by health care,” Jagemann contends. “I get to do the exact same thing 12 years later because health care is so far behind.”
The idea came while serving on the board of Frederick Memorial Hospital, where Jagemann said officials were planning to use scarce square footage for a medical supplies shop. Instead, she suggested they install a digital kiosk.
Jagemann resigned from the board to build SomeoneWith.com. She also has a patent pending for a medical registry technology that allows family and friends to purchase items on someone’s behalf while protecting the patient’s privacy.
As the company grows it will add merchandise that’s specific to other forms of cancer, but Jagemann aims to ensure the items are vetted as both safe and useful for patients.
“I don’t want to be the Amazon of home medical supplies,” she said. “I want to be the most relevant catalogue to you at that point of care.”
Can you imagine a day when every student totes an electronic tablet or smartphone to class? Bethesda-based Kajeet, a company that sells cell phones for kids, is betting on it.
Kajeet has hired Michael Flood, a telecom industry veteran, as vice president for education markets. He will oversee the company’s expansion into K-12 classrooms with its devices and software that monitor how students use the technology.
“Mobile technology is an explosive area and schools all across the country are looking at how they can use smartphones, tablets, netbooks and full-size laptops to extend the learning environment . . . beyond the walls of the classroom,” Flood said.