News and analysis
January 05, 2016

Jake Wood: Deploying Veterans for a New Mission

Team Rubicon

Jake Wood, 32
Co-founder and Chief Executive Officer, Team Rubicon
El Segundo, Calif.

Jake Wood was fresh out of the U.S. Marines and weighing business school when a deadly earthquake struck Haiti in January 2010. He rallied some fellow military veterans and medical personnel, flew to the Dominican Republic, and rented trucks. The group made its way into Port-au-Prince, where for 20 days they provided emergency relief and treated people who had what Mr. Wood describes as "horrific wounds."

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It was the birth of Team Rubicon, a nonprofit that deploys U.S. veterans to disaster zones at home and abroad. As the charity sent its first responders to places like Pakistan and Burma, it was clear their military training steeled them for the difficult work. What’s more, the experience sparked a deep sense of community and purpose for the volunteers themselves.

"We really started seeing the impact on the vets involved," Mr. Wood says. "We started thinking about how we could professionalize the programming, and grow the programs so we could engage more veterans more often."

Mr. Wood never earned that M.B.A. He describes himself as an "accidental nonprofit executive." Team Rubicon now has a $10 million budget and will soon have more than 50 full-time employees. It is also expanding to include veterans from other countries that fought with U.S. forces in Afghanistan and Iraq, starting with the United Kingdom.

Send an email to Megan O’Neil.