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Commander's Call To Entrepreneurship Propels Navy Veteran's Passion for Digital Transformation

Geoff Weber, Navy Veteran & Founder of Heirloom Cloud

Tell us about you and your military background:

I’m Geoff Weber from Lenox, Masssachsetts. I left the business world on September 12, 2001 to serve in the US intelligence community, receiving a commission in the US Navy in 2002. I attained the rank of Commander in my twenty years before retirement on April 1, 2022. I served on ships, SEAL teams, and overseas stations. My most arduous tour was serving as a diplomat in Moscow, Russia, advising leadership in Washington, DC of future attacks on Ukraine.

Geoff Weber (right) at intelligence training with co-founder John Rahaghi (left) in 2002.

Tell us about your business:

My business is Heirloom Cloud Corporation. I originally founded the company in 2020 while still on active duty in Washington, DC, but the company is now headquartered in Charleston, SC. Heirloom transfers photos, videos, and any media to a secure cloud login. Our mission is to steward all the world’s stories on a private social network. Consumer is our largest market, but Heirloom also serves industry and government agencies with their digital transformation requirements. I had the epiphany for Heirloom while using artificial intelligence (AI) to consolidate, curate, and connect big data for the Director of National Intelligence.

Describe how you got the business started: 

It’s taken four years of research, development, testing, and evaluation (RDT&E) to launch a live Minimally Viable Product (MVP). Costs to date are over $500k, with $300k coming from angel investors and a $400k grant from Amazon Web Services (AWS). We tested a government built AI algorithm for its first commercial application, which will delight customers within the confines of their private network. We all continue to need mentorship to scale Heirloom. Heirloom received its first organic customer within minutes of launching a brief test ad on Facebook.

Tell us why you wanted to become an entrepreneur:

My dad left an executive position in the steel industry in 1981 and became a work-from-home entrepreneur before it was cool. I’ve therefore always been attracted to connecting supply and demand or solving big problems. I enjoyed my 20 years in the federal government but learned that large organizations are very slow to innovate. The thought of accepting a GS/SES or large corporation job after retirement was life deflating. I have many friends, family, and fellow veterans who are now entrepreneurs.

Describe how your military background prepared you for entrepreneurship:

Wow, did I ever need the military to disprove my false assumptions of the world! I also earned many certifications from the government, but naval intelligence taught me the importance of building ships… friendships, relationships, and partnerships. My training was incredibly varied and ranged from jumping out of aircraft to how to dress for success on Capitol Hill. I believe Human Intelligence (HUMINT) training, and working for some of the best special operations leaders best prepared me to be an entrepreneur.

Tell us about some of your obstacles and challenges, and how you overcame them: 

It’s not just entrepreneurs who have limited money, time, and knowledge. Indeed Heirloom lacks certain resources, but so do many others around the world who do not let that hold them back. I continue to struggle with a limited mindset, but can always recall another’s hero story to inspire me. We’ve actually been quite blessed with an exceptional product-market fit and an excellent business strategy, so I find it my duty to protect that which we’ve been given. I have faith that all else will line up, but need to be patient. I know from the intelligence field that predicting the future on a timetable is extremely difficult. I’m thankful that friends and family wish to support me but understand that many don’t know how. As an entrepreneur with TBI/PTSD, I find most civilians lack the scrappiness and warfare mentality that an early-stage startup like Heirloom requires. We’ve therefore recruited some great leaders through the DoD SkillBridge program.

Describe how you’re doing today and what the future looks like:

Heirloom has recently soft-launched but already has over 300 paying subscribers. Our team consists of two founders, two partners, several interns, and a few full-time employees. We’re currently raising a $2M seed of investment to hard launch our service by the end of 2023. The goal is to reach 100k subscribers through in-platform sharing of photos, videos, and metamemories, which are AI-connected stories about old memories. Ultimately, Heirloom will license global affiliates like insurance companies, wedding videographers, and funeral homes to bring more subscribers to the platform, for life.

Share some advice with your fellow veteran entrepreneurs:

I regret not preparing sooner to retire from the military. My head was down, mission focused, almost to my final days. However, not only was I able to participate in the SkillBridge program in my final months of active duty, but OSD reported (after several months of denial) that I was the first service member to successfully SkillBridge himself to his own company. Obviously, network, write out a business plan, and join an accelerator program. Many great business books, but I highly recommend “The Greatest Salesman in the World”, by Og Mandino. He also said, “You’re the same person you were ten years ago except for the books you read and the people you meet.”

Where can we go to learn more: