We're thrilled to welcome Edward Ward to our TitletownTech team. Ed brings years of deep tech and rapid prototyping experience to the organization and our portfolio companies. Before joining us, he directed Kohler Co.’s product development process and program management efforts.
A retired Navy Commander, Ed served 20 years in numerous leadership and research and development roles where he worked with defense contractors and early-stage startups. Prior to relocating to Wisconsin in 2019, Ed was the Deputy Executive Officer for the Commanding General U.S. Special Operations Command headquartered at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, FL. Earlier in his military career, he flew F/A-18 fighters and served with U.S. Joint Special Operations Command and the Central Intelligence Agency.
Ed is a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis with a BS in Systems and Controls Engineering and earned an MS in Finance from the Indiana University-Kelley School of Business. He serves on the board for the Ethical Artificial Intelligence Consortium and volunteers with Team Rubicon—a veteran-led disaster relief organization.
We sat down with him to talk about his background and what he's most looking forward to in his new role.
What motivated you to join the military?
I’m not sure it was motivation. I think joining was baked into my DNA. We’ve had family serving in the military since the Revolutionary War. In fact, my grandfather, father, and I all flew in the same Navy squadron. But I knew I wanted to join the military the day my family and I moved overseas to southern Spain. I remember stepping off the plane, a four-year-old clutching my toy bear and seeing two Air Force F-4 Phantoms take off in full afterburner. They broke the sound barrier at the end of the runway, and I remember feeling the double thumps in my chest. I knew right then I wanted to be a fighter pilot. I narrowed it down six years later to Navy fighter pilot after my dad took me to see the original Top Gun. Fast forward, I graduated from the Naval Academy, went to flight school, and earned my naval aviator wings. Life came full circle in 2007 when I found myself strapped into my F/A-18 intercepting a runaway F-4 Phantom drone over the Gulf of Mexico. I couldn’t help but smile as I yelled “FOX TWO” over the radio and shot it down with a heat-seeking missile. “Great balls of fire…”
You've worked with several startups that had potential defense applications. Can you describe what that was like?
There’s no shortage of great ideas and founders out there, and we had no shortage of wicked problems. We wanted to introduce these startups and founders to the problems we faced, which were complex and vastly different from the problems a typical corporation would encounter, but there were significant hurdles these startups had to clear just to get their ideas in front of us. In the past, founders typically had to obtain a security clearance and get access to a base, among other things, just to meet with decision makers within defense and get them to share the problems they needed help solving. The entire process was intimidating and cumbersome and scared founders away. We eliminated many of these hurdles at U.S. Special Operations Command by standing up SOFWERX in Tampa’s Ybor City through a partnership with DEFENSEWERX, a nonprofit that enables agile innovation for government partners through innovation hubs across the country. Through SOFWERX, we made special operations more approachable and accessible. Startups no longer had to have a security clearance or fill out mountains of paperwork to talk about a problem and share ideas and solutions. We fostered an environment of collaboration with startups, large defense contractors, hackers, makers, and academia that ultimately drove quick wins for U.S. Special Operations Command and the startups who participated in the challenges we presented them.
What do you enjoy doing outside of work?
I love spending time with my three kids. They occupy most of my free time, but when I do have free time, I enjoy road biking and backcountry hiking. I’m also a voracious reader. I probably read about 75-80 books a year and my paid news subscriptions equate to a second mortgage. I just finished reading a five-volume set of Ernest Hemingway letters. Hemingway has always been a favorite writer of mine.
What makes you most excited about joining TitletownTech?
I am an expert generalist and lifelong learner, so venture capital is a perfect fit for me. I’m not an operations, marketing, supply chain, or finance expert, but you can plop me down pretty much anywhere and within a couple of hours, I can start making connections between domains and come up with new and innovative viewpoints and solutions and find the best people to execute. The learning and thinking never stops at TitletownTech, so I’m excited to dive into a wide range of domains and technologies and meet and support passionate founders and their teams tackling tough problems. I love that I get to talk about national security and defense startups with another venture capital firm and then jump right into meeting the founder of a hydroponic farming technology company. But I’m most excited to work with a talented and motivated team with a lot of expertise and diversity who genuinely care about the communities we live in, something that I think makes TitletownTech unique compared to other venture capital firms. We all want to see our communities thrive, and I recognize one of the biggest contributors to strong communities are strong businesses. I’m excited about proving our TitletownTech model and inspiring communities everywhere with our example. And while my wife and I are not originally from Wisconsin, I'd love to have my kids say they are. We look forward to attending our first Packers game and becoming fellow Cheeseheads!
Learn more about roles at TitletownTech and our portfolio companies.
We’re thrilled to have Ed at TitletownTech and hope you’ll join us in extending him a warm welcome! As we continue to grow and invest in exciting new opportunities, we encourage you to check out various available roles.