While serving in the U.S. Army in Oklahoma, Cody McGraw of Portland would help connect his fellow platoon members with military deals and savings. When they asked him where to find a list of the deals, McGraw had the idea for an application that would keep an updated account of stores offering discounts for veterans.
“I said if this isn’t an app by the time I get out of the service, then I was going to try to figure out how to get it rolling,” McGraw said. When he got out of the service in 2014, he went to work creating the app known as SCOUT Military.
“This is a way to show our gratitude for them,” he said of those who have served.
Along with a list of discounts, the app provides easy access to resources such as the Veterans Hotline, VA information and Pets for Patriots, a program that lets veterans adopt a pet for free.
SCOUT is curating special surprise offers, such as free tickets to Blazers, Seahawks and Timbers games, as well as military discounts from businesses of all sizes.
“Since you’re able to list your store and also sell products, we want to try to get as many companies here in Douglas County to get on board with us,” McGraw said.
McGraw said SCOUT specifically wants to focus on Douglas County while launching this business, as the county is home to 13,501 Oregon veterans, according to the 2014 U.S. Census.
When SCOUT Military won the Roseburg Angel Investor Network launch-stage competition in December, Paul Utz of Roseburg and about 15 other local investors awarded the new business $150,000.
“It seemed to us, as investors, if we could get SCOUT Military engaged in our community then maybe we could do something for local veterans,” Utz said. “It’s the closest link we’ve found to investing locally, and when we looked at the candidates in this year’s RAIN competition, we felt that their product was a service that had a lot of relevance and local connection.”
Although McGraw is from Portland and his business partner Rob Coons is from Ohio, SCOUT Military has been gathering input from veterans and business owners in Douglas County.
McGraw recently spent a week in Roseburg working with Trevor Mauch, co-founder of the Young Entrepreneurs Society of Umpqua and a SCOUT Military board member. To get a feel for what the community wants from the app they conducted focus groups. He also spoke to the Roseburg Rotary on Thursday to tell members about how his app can help veterans and their families.
SCOUT is also coordinating with the Roseburg VA to put together a forum of female veterans to analyze the app and give feedback about what they would change or add to it.
To ensure the users of the app are veterans, SCOUT partnered with a military verification API from Eugene called Sheer ID, which sends a signal with the users’ information to the Department of Defense and verifies the person’s military service. McGraw said SCOUT does not keep any personal data on file, as it prioritizes veterans’ privacy.
The app is also able to show veterans news, discounts and resources that are specific to the area. Certain programs that are unique and relevant to Douglas County will be seen locally while different programs will show up in Portland.
The app uses geofencing, or technology that creates a virtual boundary to trigger a response when a cell phone enters or leaves a certain area, to send notifications to veterans about specific discounts or resources upon entering a store.
Veterans can also choose to personalize their app based on what they want to see.
John McDonald, a combat veteran, member of several veterans groups and past president of the Douglas County Veterans Forum, said the people at SCOUT have done their homework and he looks forward to their success.
Though SCOUT faces competition from national-level online military discounts, McDonald said, it has ideas that stand out, and it will set itself apart if it’s able to partner with local businesses and veterans groups to highlight local discounts and services.
“The idea most important to Douglas County veterans is showcasing local businesses offering discounts, and providing a site highlighting local services for veterans,” McDonald said.
The Douglas County Veterans Forum hopes to compile a list of available veterans services and local businesses offering military discounts.
“If the forum were able to partner with SCOUT to get some bandwidth on their app, then any local veteran with a smartphone could quickly identify businesses and services in Douglas County that honor veterans,” McDonald said, adding that he’s confident the forum’s board of directors will see it as a great opportunity once he presents the idea.
McGraw said he’d also like to feature McDonald’s bi-monthly veterans columns from The News-Review in the resources center of the app.
“It’s another touch point for people from Douglas County to read what he’s writing, and since our app is for veterans and the military it would be relevant for them,” McGraw said.
SCOUT is also planning to highlight military nonprofits like Roseburg’s Source One Serenity, an organization meant to empower veterans through fly-fishing and conservation programs. Each nonprofit will have a month-long slot with a social media plan directing the app users from SCOUT Military to the nonprofit webpage.
“For businesses in Roseburg, if they’re interested in connecting with the military community and selling to that market specifically, we want them to connect with us,” McGraw said.
Business owners who would like to contact SCOUT Military can call 503-741-2344 or send an email to email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, or fill out a contact form through the website at scoutmilitary.com.
The app is currently available on iOS and Google Play or through the website.