Young Entrepreneurs Share VFW Connection

Six VFW-member owned companies were recently included in a Forbes magazine article

Six VFW-member owned companies were recently included in a Forbes magazine article profiling its Top 25 Veteran-Founded Startups in America. Forbes recognized the firms as new companies (less than five years old) owned by young veterans (Post 9/11 service) and ranked each based on factors such as revenue growth, employee headcounts and external capital raised.

Here’s information about each company, as well as some background on the VFW member listed as the principal owner or a founding member of the company. 


Company: VersaMe

Chris Boggiano, Nolan Danley, Marissa Mirbach, Jon Boggiano, Niki Chimberg, Dave Sopp and Shea Parikh gather in February outside the VersaMe offices in Huntersville, N.C. PHOTO by Shea Patrick.

Location: Menlo Park, Calif., and Huntersville, N.C.
Business: early childhood education
Forbes rank: 15
Founders: Chris and Jon Boggiano
Military service: Army
Deployments: Kosovo (2002-03), Iraq (2004-05); both served with 3rd Bde., 1st Inf. Div.
VFW membership: Post 9334, Vilseck, Germany 
Why are you VFW members? “Jon and I grew up in a large Italian family where military service was revered. Our great uncles fought in Europe during World War II. Our father was an enlisted Marine and his brother an Army officer. Several cousins served in the Army or Marine Corps.
“As a child, the family members who preceded us in military service were gods who walked the earth. They were always active in the VFW, so we were excited to have the opportunity to do so as soon as we got home from Iraq.”


Company: Sandboxx

Sandboxx employees (from left) Patrick Weeks, Chadwyck Cobb, Don Miller, Swamy, Shane McCarthy and Sam Meek at 1776 Crystal City in Arlington, Va.

Location: Arlington, Va.
Business: mobile app for military members and their families
Forbes rank: 18
Founders: retired Marine Corps Maj. Gen. Ray L. Smith and Sam Meek 
Military service: Marine Corps
Deployments: Smith, Vietnam, two tours, (1967-68) A Co., 1st Bn., 1st Marines; (1970-72) U.S. advisor to Vietnamese marines; Grenada (October 1983), 2nd Bn., 8th Marines; Lebanon (February-April 1984) 2nd Bn., 8th Marines; Korea (1994-96) U.S. Marine Forces Korea
Meek, Iraq, two tours (2004-05) Combat Logistics Regiment 25 and 3rd Reconnaissance Bn.
VFW membership: Smith, Post 1503, Dale City, Va.; Meek, Post 6933, Noroton Heights, Conn. 
Why are you VFW members?
Smith: “I bought my first home in Dale City in 1971. I think I joined the Post for one year then. I was invited back as a guest speaker in 1997. They gave me the life membership at that time. I have never felt the need to change Posts.”
Meek: “After I got out of the Marines in the summer of 2007, I visited the Post in Darien, Conn., near my father’s home. I loved the environment.
“One of the things I miss most about the Marine Corps is the camaraderie. When I visit my Post I can sit down and have a conversation with a veteran I just met or one who comes from a different generation. I travel a lot in my job, and I instantly connect with active-duty military and veterans. I plan to serve veterans for the rest of my life.”


Company: Hirepurpose

Zachary Iscol

Location: New York
Business: veterans employment website
Forbes rank: 11
Founder: Zachary Iscol
Military service: Marine Corps
Deployments: Iraq, two tours (2003-05), 3rd Bn., 1st Marines, 1st Marine Div. 
VFW membership: Department of North Carolina
Why are you a VFW member? “When I was going to school at Cornell, the Marine ROTC director took a group of us to a VFW Post in upstate New York. I remember meeting Korean War and WWII veterans there and being impressed. I realized then that I wanted to join the organization.”


Company: BMNT

Brynt Parmeter

Location: Palo Alto, Calif.
Business: business security consultation
Forbes rank: 16 (tie)
Founder (one of five veterans): Guy “Brynt” Parmeter
Military service: Army
Deployments: Korea, two tours, (1992, 2012-13), 1st Bn., 506th Inf., 2nd Inf. Div.; Iraq, three tours, (2004-05), 1st Bn., 26th Inf., 1st Inf. Div.; (2006-07), 2nd BCT, 1st Inf. Div.; (2008-09), 6th Sqdn., 9th Cav, 1st Div.
VFW membership: Post 3106, Leesville, La.
Why are you a VFW member? “Shortly after my first overseas deployment, my step-grandfather, Al Fedel, who was a WWII veteran and lifelong VFW member in Ouray, Colo., impressed upon me the importance of the VFW in helping veterans maintain the bonds that you can only find in the service.  He also described the great work VFW members did to help veterans and their local communities.
“Now that I’m out of the military, I completely understand the need to maintain a kinship with other veterans and to connect the values of military service to those who may never come into contact with a service member otherwise.
“The Post in Louisiana is where I was affiliated when stationed at Fort Polk, La.” 


Company: Goodworld

Army Maj. John R. Gossart in Baghdad, Iraq, during his third tour in 2007.

Business: app for charitable donations
Forbes rank: 23
Founder (one of two veterans): John R. Gossart
Military service: Army
Deployments: Kuwait (1994), 3rd Bde. Combat Team; Kosovo (1999), 1st Inf. Div.; Iraq, three tours (2005, 2006, 2007-09), 1st Bn., 68th Armor
VFW membership: Post 6587, Spring Lake Park, Minn.
Why are you a VFW member? “I joined VFW primarily because my father was a member (Vietnam and Cambodia, 1967-68).
“I returned from Kosovo and was working in Washington, D.C., as a legislative fellow in the Senate office of Mark Dayton (Minnesota’s current governor, who represented the state as a Democrat senator from 2001-07), and he had a great relationship with VFW Post 6587. I affiliated with that Post at their request.”


Company: GoldenKey Networks

Tommy Sowers in Iraq during his first tour in 2004-05.
Goldenkey Networks

Locations: Durham, N.C.; San Francisco; St. Louis
Business: real estate
Forbes rank: 16 (tie)
Founder: Tommy Sowers
Military service: Army 
Deployments: Kosovo (1999-2000); Iraq, two tours (2004-06); 10th Special Forces Group
VFW membership: Department of New York
Why are you a VFW member? “A VFW membership is the equivalent of a combat patch. It recognizes a veteran’s service in an overseas war zone.
“During my time in Washington (2012-14 as the VA assistant secretary for public and intergovernmental affairs), I also saw up-close how important the work was that VFW was doing in the nation’s capital. I came to appreciate VFW’s consistent and persistent effort on behalf of veterans.”

This article is featured in the May 2017 issue of VFW magazine and was written by Tim Dyhouse, senior editor, VFW magazine.