Throughout most of Brandon Tripp’s adult life, he has engaged in warfare from multiple angles.
After serving in the U.S. Army as a Green Beret and becoming a disabled veteran, he worked in the Space and Missile Defense Battle Lab, and is now marketing director for TMC Design Corporation, which specializes in electronic warfare systems.
At 32, Tripp is using his military skills, technical knowledge and business acumen to collaborate with other businesses, research future technology and market a Department of Defense company whose work is entirely classified.
Originally from California, Tripp sat down with the Business Journal to discuss his professional goals, TMC Design’s partnership with Catalyst Campus and how the company is transitioning DoD technology to the private sector.
What brought you to Colorado Springs?
I entered the military without a degree and joined the Army in 2006. I went through the Special Forces Qualification Course and became a Green Beret; I was stationed at Fort Carson’s 10th Special Forces Group where I had two deployments. During my second deployment, I was injured on a mission, medevac’d to Germany, and returned to the U.S. for surgery. I had a crushed clavicle and torn rotator cuff and labrum, becoming a disabled veteran.
During my time in the service, I was able to use tuition assistance to get my bachelor’s degree in digital forensics [cybercrime]. I got out of the military in 2011 and then worked for the Space and Missile Defense Battle Lab in Colorado Springs, developing prototypes and electronics in the IT realm. I used my GI Bill to receive my MBA [in business, management, marketing] and then was brought on by TMC Design, eventually becoming its marketing director.
I’ve been with the company for two and a half years and it’s been great to see its incredible growth. We’re really getting integrated into the community.
What does TMC Design do?
TMC Design is a unique DoD contracting company because we build everything. We go from concept, to design, to prototype, to full-scale manufacturing and sustainment — the full spectrum of service. A lot of companies will give ideas or a prototype design but don’t typically build.
In Las Cruces, N.M., we have an engineering manufacturer where we have full-scale welding and [Computer Numerical Control] machines. In Colorado Springs, we have a software branch lab, an advanced development software company and a contracting company.
TMC Design has been around since 1997 and has 87 employees. I believe we’ll be almost doubling our business next year. We’re getting involved with Colorado Springs’ local culture and partnering with Catalyst Campus.
What is unique about the partnership?
DoD companies don’t typically talk to each other, especially in the R&D and design phase. But with Catalyst we’ve been able to discuss with other small businesses that are nonthreatening. We can see what they do and they can see what we do.
How does the company help keep talent, technology and money local?
TMC Design is recruiting from local colleges to keep talent here. We bring students in as a co-op and get them trained on our systems. They become familiar with how our company operates and then hopefully decide to work for us once they graduate.
Now TMC Design has students trained on everything and we are keeping talent local. On top of that, a lot of the funding we get is from the DoD. Not only are we keeping money in Colorado, we’re bringing in outside DoD funding to help fuel Colorado’s growth. Combine that with our Catalyst Campus partnership and other local companies, and there is a lot of momentum for growth.
What is the company’s ultimate goal with the Catalyst Campus partnership?
Catalyst is doing a great thing, revitalizing this area and trying to create a focal point of fusion, technology and small business in downtown Colorado Springs. By partnering with them, we’re bringing our small business here, which attracts other small businesses and allows for more collaboration.
I think the biggest element besides improving the local community is that, once Catalyst fills out, there is going to be a need for additional resources, such as more restaurants, places to shop and housing –— this is just the first step.
For TMC Design, it’s important that we promote Colorado Springs’ small business and the community.
What does your role entail?
I do a great deal of business analysis. I try to research as much as possible on where our skillset fits into where the market is going. Instead of chasing the market, we’re meeting it in the next three to 10 years.
I also network with the local community and research online, including government trends and spending. One of the interesting things we’ve seen over the last few years is that after getting out of Iraq and Afghanistan — which were primarily low-technology ground wars — as a nation we’re now ramping up for the potential of a large-scale technology war. With that comes cyber and electronic warfare, which is the basis of our company. It’s interesting to see how government funds have shifted toward those areas.
We now realize as a nation that we’re a bit behind in those technologies compared to China and Russia, who have been spending in those areas in the last 10 to 15 years.
What do you enjoy most about your job?
How it changes from day to day. In addition to market research, I have to market the company itself. Marketing a DoD company [whose work is] 100 percent classified is a challenge on a daily basis. I have to get our name out there without revealing too much.
How can Colorado Springs retain young professionals?
I would love to see the downtown area cleaned up a bit. I love the area but think it’d be fantastic if we took more of a 16th Street approach like Denver, where it’s pedestrian-only with restaurants, bars and shops. I think that would have a draw here.
As far as demographics, I think we need more businesses that offer technology-related positions. It would be helpful if we brought in some large-scale cyber companies, because I think a lot of people assume Denver or Boulder are the places to go for technology. The upward trajectory we’re seeing in Colorado Springs is a good start. I just think we need to get the word out that this is going to be a very tech-savvy city and that will draw in more young professionals. They want to work for leading-edge companies that will make a difference, especially in the small business stage.
What advice do you have for other young professionals?
Work hard and smart. If you’re coming in and grinding at a project that isn’t going anywhere or really doesn’t have a future, it’s a wasted effort.
Continually improve yourself with education. Reach out to as many other young professionals in the community as you can, network with other small businesses and do a mentorship program, because it’s an incredible opportunity to learn business practices and strategies.
What do you like to do in your spare time?
Mostly spend time with my wife and our infant. We have 15-month-old baby girl who we like to take everywhere, including on hikes and to restaurants, so that she can learn how to behave in those environments.