BTU #21: Ian Folau – Tactical advice for starting a company (even while on Active Duty)

“I was able to throw together some website and it was bringing in enough leads that we were able to fill everybody’s houses and it just really took off for me. And it was my first venture, and ever since then I was hooked. The idea that I can make more money than my paycheck was exciting for me – the fact that I can provide something that someone will pay even a dollar for motivated me beyond what I could imagine.”
 – Ian Folau

Ian Folau is the Co-Founder & CEO of the New York based startup, GitLinks. However, this wasn’t Ian’s first startup. Ian started founding companies while still on active duty in the Army, where he started his first of multiple startups. Ian studied Systems Engineering at West Point after which he served in the Army in multiple capacities before returning to West Point as an instructor. After departing the Army, he attended Cornell Tech to obtain his MBA, and during which he co-founded his most recent company.

In this conversation, we cover a lot of topics, including:

  • Steps you can take right now to start your first company (even if you’re on Active Duty)
  • Resources you can use to start learning and growing as an entrepreneur
  • Entrepreneurial mistakes that Ian made and what he learned from them, and the importance of failing fast
  • Advice on how to tease out who might be a better Co-Founder
  • What Ian’s day-to-day life looked like when he first founded GitLinks
  • How leadership as an entrepreneur differs from military leadership
  • And much, much more…

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QUESTION OF THE DAY: How can I make these episodes more valuable to active duty military personnel considering transitioning to the civilian world? Please let me know in the comments.

Scroll below for links and show notes…

Selected Links from the Episode

Show Notes

  • 1:39 – Ian’s background
  • 2:40 – Ian’s decision to leave the Army
  • 6:26 – Deciding to not pursue the Reserves
  • 7:20 – The most surprising aspect of Ian’s transition to civilian life
  • ** 9:39 – Ian does a fantastic job of explaining his background in a way that is relevant to the listener. This comes up time and time again in interviews as a really crucial skill
  • 12:45 – Advice on how to better explain a veterans history to a civilian
  • 15:10 – Ian’s experience starting companies while in the Army and how he got started
  • 21:30 – Resources to consider to help in your own entrepreneurial journey
  • 28:11 – Entrepreneurial mistakes that Ian made and what he learned from them, and the importance of failing fast
  • 33:10 – Advice on how to tease out who might be a better Co-Founder
  • 38:52 – Cornell Tech, and how it supports entrepreneurs
  • 40:52 – Advice on applying to Cornell Tech, and other programs to consider
  • 43:10 – An overview on Ian’s current company, GitLinks
  • 46:15 – What Ian’s day-to-day life looked like when he first founded GitLinks
  • 48:56 – How leadership as an entrepreneur differs from military leadership
  • 51:19 – Actions you can take right now to start an entrepreneurial journey (even while on Active Duty)
  • 53:19 – Final words of wisdom