Patrick McKenna: Connecting People Through Opportunity

Army Veteran and entrepreneur Patrick McKenna has co-founded, operated as a senior executive and invested in several highly successful technology companies. After serving in the military, McKenna earned an MBA in International Finance from Georgetown University. The Georgetown Honors graduate actively seeks investment opportunities outside of Silicon Valley, having funded more than 30 startups across Pittsburgh, […]

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Army Veteran and entrepreneur Patrick McKenna has co-founded, operated as a senior executive and invested in several highly successful technology companies. After serving in the military, McKenna earned an MBA in International Finance from Georgetown University. The Georgetown Honors graduate actively seeks investment opportunities outside of Silicon Valley, having funded more than 30 startups across Pittsburgh, Milwaukee, Portland and Atlanta and co-founded Baltimore-based Facet Wealth. 

McKenna founded One America Works to connect talent, innovation and growth across the country. This company is a non-profit organization focused on addressing the geographic economic divide across America. By doing so, they connect innovative technology companies to new sources of talent located in middle American cities with the goal of bringing more people in more places into the modern economy by adding more cities to the Silicon Valley Growth Playbook.

What was your experience in the military?

In addition to Signal Corps OBC based in Fort Gordon, Georgia, I was certified as Encryption Officer, received Top Secret Security Clearance (TS/SCI) and completed Airborne School at Fort Benning, before taking on my first assignment in the Republic of Korea. In Korea, as a lieutenant, I held a battalion SIGO slot in a Military Intelligence Group. I went from Korea to Panama, where I served on SOUTHCOM CINC General Barry McCaffrey’s travel staff SIGO. In Panama, I led a team to support refugee families in a U.S. Military Cuban Refugee Camp.

Tell us about your transition from military to civilian life?

I transitioned from the military to civilian life via graduate school at Georgetown University earning an MBA in International Finance. After graduating from Georgetown with honors, I went to Wall Street, joining J.P. Morgan Mergers & Acquisitions group after a successful summer internship there. Though I didn’t have vast experience in finance, I believe it was the lessons I’d learned in the four years of my military service that taught me leadership, work ethic and resilience were what helped me land this first job at J.P Morgan- which launched my career as a financial investor and entrepreneur.

What is your business and what do you do?

An entrepreneur, I’ve founded four tech startups, successfully exiting three for over $1B total and continue to serve as Executive Chairman at Facet Wealth, a fintech company based in Baltimore which has raised $37M lead by Warburg Pincus.  

As an investor, I’ve invested in more than 40 tech startups primarily based outside of Silicon Valley through his fund, HighRidge Ventures.

As a philanthropist, I founded One America Works – a non-profit organization with a mission to bring American together through work and investment creating connections between high-growth companies in Silicon Valley looking to expand to cities in emerging regions across the U.S. that provide high-quality talent and investment opportunities. One America Works addresses the geographic economic divide across America by introducing innovative technology companies to new sources of talent located in middle American cities, to bring more people in more places into the modern economy. Through a successful 2019 pilot program in Pittsburgh, One America Works is responsible for creating over 250 jobs and filling nearly 80 positions over the course of six months. The 501c3 non-profit is leveraging a grant from RK Mellon Foundation to expand into new emerging tech cities this year. 

What are 3 things you learned in the military that you have applied to your business?

A service in the military really prepares you well for a career in business because being successful in the military is all about working together as a team, and how you collaborate in teams is critical in business. Many of the things I’ve learned in my military service define who I am today. Here are three things I’ve learned from my time in the military that I’ve applied to my business:

  • People work best on a mission greater than themselves. My non-profit, One America Works, has a clear mission to address the geographic economic divide across America by connecting innovative technology companies to new sources of talent located in middle American cities. My employees and I believe very deeply in that mission and it has helped drive our success.
    • Diverse experience and backgrounds are required to solve complex problems. One America Works was founded on the idea that diverse experiences and people from different backgrounds are crucial in business because different perspectives spark new ideas and innovation. High quality talent in the Midwest and the Heartland have not had the same access to high-growth tech companies as those in concentrated cities and that’s a big missed opportunity for bringing those companies to bring in first class talent from different backgrounds and experiences.
    • Information dissemination (transparency) is key to coordinating a group toward a common goal. Concise and clear communication and transparency is imperative to running a successful company.

How have you used your success to send the ladder back up down? (pay it forward)

I believe talent is broadly distributed but opportunity, unfortunately, is not.  I constantly look for opportunities to support and mentor talented people with different backgrounds, living in different places to help them achieve their highest potential. To that end, I’ve had a lot of success hiring veterans and spouses of active duty military personnel as I believe military veterans have the exact skills that are needed and critical for the future of work. Over the past 10 years, I’ve employed over 10,000 veterans and military spouses through my companies.  With One America Works, a non-profit, I’m also working to address the geographic economic divide across America by creating opportunities for those in the Heartland to have access to work.

Where can readers find you on social media?

Twitter: @patrick_mckennaLinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/prmckenna

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