They created a website, TroopSwap.com, which features discounts and deals just for veterans, active-duty military and their dependents. The site is similar to the popular Groupon daily deal discount site, but this offers businesses an opportunity to market directly to military and gives military a chance at some deals, its founders said.
Now, the site’s founders are expanding their reach to Colorado Springs, trying to attract local businesses to be part of their military-only discount and deals site. Already eight local businesses have signed on.
Blake Hall and Matt Thompson met at Harvard business school after they had served in the U.S. Army and each completed several tours of duty downrange.
The e-commerce problem, as they saw it, was that stores and companies wanted to offer military personnel, veterans and their families discounts. But, when dealing with customers online, the stores had no way to verify a person’s military connection.
“The Internet is still the Wild West and you can say you are whoever you want to be,” said Thompson, TroopSwap co-founder and COO.
The TroopSwap business partners spent more than a year working with USAA, a Texas-based financial services group that caters to military personnel and their families, to devise a way to verify a person’s military status through USAA’s member list.
TroopSwap is listed on USAA’s website, along with other endorsed sites such as Military One Source and Just for Military and USAA has a working relationship with TroopSwap, said Matt Walters, USAA spokesman.
“While the details of the relationship are proprietary, we can tell you that we do provide verification whether a registrant of TroopSwap is a USAA member,” he said.
The company is also expanding its sales efforts in about two dozen cities, including Los Angeles, El Paso, Texas, and Atlanta. And the company plans to work with veteran organizations and associations such as the Veterans of Foreign Wars to verify military status, Thompson said. Across the country there are an estimated 20 million veterans and an equal number of dependents.
The Washington D.C.-based TroopSwap has taken off since its launch in 2001, when the startup company closed on $2.5 million in equity financing. Some major investors include McCombs partners, Blu Ventures and Marty Abbott, former Army officer and CTO of eBay.
“We knew businesses wanted to reach this community,” Thompson said.
The company now has 50,000 members and more than 1,000 businesses offering flash sales, discounts and daily deals.
There is no fee to a participating business for a featured flash sale. Instead, TroopSwap shares a percentage of each deal sold.
The company has 25 employees and hires military spouses. The company promises to donate 10 percent of profit to the Wounded Warrior Project, Thompson said.
Being former active duty, Thompson and Hall know what it is like for military families always on the move. The site is meant for them, Thompson said.
“There are a lot of things you give up when you join or marry into this lifestyle,” he said.