Jeff Lanctot is reenlisting in his quest to use technology to help military personnel and their families.
Lanctot has launched a new startup and app called BaseHubs, which is geared toward helping people connect to the businesses and services around military bases. The goal is to go beyond what’s offered by tech giants such as Facebook and Google, or leading apps like Yelp, and build a recommendation platform that is designed specifically to cater to active military and veterans.
Lanctot is known in the Seattle area as a onetime leading executive at digital advertising company aQuantive. He spent 10 years at the company and was senior vice president of global media when it was acquired by Microsoft for $6.3 billion in 2007.
BaseHubs is not his first attempt at using tech to build community for the military. He was co-founder and CEO of Valor Worldwide for 2 1/2 years, and launched OurMilitary.com in 2018 as a resource for military members and their families. The company eventually shut down after COVID-19 hit in 2020.
Lanctot is not a veteran, but he was inspired by bookend experiences in his civilian life to create BaseHubs. Growing up in a small town in Eastern Washington, Lanctot was influenced by the career of his dad, a local newspaper publisher.
“I think a lot about our local physical communities and how we connect and what’s been lost in a digital age,” Lanctot said.
And more recently he was influenced by his work on the board of directors of The MORELove Project, which provided transitional services to homeless people.
“There’s an inordinate number of veterans on the street, and I found that those were the stories that really affected me the most,” Lanctot said. “I really started thinking partially about veterans, but more so I want to build things that help people.”
BaseHubs is intent on starting with trust and relevance as the bedrock for the community platform it wants to build. Lanctot wants to get away from the negativity of “filter bubbles,” where a website search algorithm guesses what information a user wants to see based on such things as location or past search history.
The goal is to put a positive spin on filter bubbles, to connect people who have had similar experiences.
BaseHubs wants to lean on the recommendations of fellow military personnel, especially in the communities around bases where families are often dealing with the disruption after a PCS, or permanent change of station. Those recommendations could be as simple as a review of a local restaurant by a fellow service member or spouse, or a heads up on places that offer a military discount or are veteran owned.
So far, BaseHubs is working with Joint Base Lewis-McChord near Tacoma, Wash., and Joint Base Elmendorf–Richardson in Anchorage, Alaska. The plan is to have BaseHubs become a familiar tool for families all over the country, especially when people might be changing location every 18 months or so.
“The ideal scenario for us is that a military family knows that when they get to a new installation, they can open up BaseHubs,” Lanctot said. “They know what to look for and it gives them sort of a shorthand to the local community that doesn’t exist today.
“A family that has recently been moved to a new base, we want them to live like a local from day one,” he added.
BaseHubs is predominantly populated by an API from Foursquare right now, so that there is a baseline of business listings to get started. The plan is to monetize the product by providing special features — extra images, prominent placement, the ability to write reviews, etc. — for businesses that pay a $99-per-month subscription.
Lanctot is working on raising a pre-seed funding round of around $1 million. He has three full-time employees and three part-timers. The part-time employees are military spouses who are working as community coordinators between the bases and local areas, writing blog posts and more.
“They’re so enthusiastic because they’ve lived it,” Lanctot said.
Lanctot has also attracted some interest and help from high-profile people he’s met along the way. Former Seattle Seahawks star Doug Baldwin is on the board, as is digital advertising pioneer Maggie Boyer Finch. Military veterans Kirstie Ennis, Remi Adeleke, and Nate Boyer are all advisors.
“The idea of building something that is going to make the lives of military families just a little bit easier, remove a couple of headaches, that’s a really cool feeling,” Lanctot said. “It’s not something that I’ve experienced in my career in quite this way.”