Tommy Sowers

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Tommy Sowers
Southeast Regional Director, MD5 National Security Technology Accelerator
Personal details
Born (1976-02-23) February 23, 1976 (age 42)
Rolla, Missouri, USA
Political partyDemocratic
Alma materDuke University, London School of Economics and Political Science
ProfessionBusinessman, investor, politician

Tommy Sowers (born February 23, 1976) is an American entrepreneur, academic and politician. He is a decorated Military officer with an 11-year career in the Army, achieving the rank of Major. During his military career he served as an Assistant Professor at the prestigious United States Military Academy at West Point. He went on to teach at Missouri University of Science and Technology, and Duke University.

As a politician he is most known for his 2009-10 Congressional campaign, during which he received national attention for his call to end the conventional war in Afghanistan, his fundraising and innovative use of social media to connect with voters. After the campaign he focused his attentions on working in the nonprofit sector with Iraq and Afghanistan War veterans to improve their lives and the lives of their families.

He is the co-founder of GoldenKey Networks Inc. which includes GoldenKey, a venture backed real estate startup focused on unbundling the real estate industry. In 2018 Landis acquired GoldenKey.[1]

Sowers currently serves as the Southeast Regional Director of MD5 National Security Technology Accelerator, a US Department of Defense program that works with major research universities and the venture community to provide solutions for the immediate problems of warfighters.

Early life and education[edit]

Born and raised in Rolla, Missouri,[2] Sowers graduated from Rolla High School in 1994 and lettered in both golf and soccer. During his senior year he cross enrolled in computer science at the University of Missouri at Rolla (later MS&T) and conducted research for the Bureau of Mines. He attended Duke University on an ROTC scholarship,[3] where he led both the ROTC detachment and the Interfraternity Council. He was a Rhodes finalist from Missouri and graduated Cum Laude with an A.B. in Public Policy in 1998.[4] Sowers went on to complete a PhD program at the London School of Economics in 2011. His dissertation was entitled "Nanomanagement--Superior Control and Subordinate Autonomy in Conflict" and it explored how technology adopted by hierarchical organizations dramatically affects how superiors monitor and direct the actions of subordinates.[5]


U.S. Army[edit]

In 1998, Sowers was commissioned in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. First assigned to the 1st Infantry Division, Sowers led a combat engineering platoon in the NATO campaign during the Kosovo War. While stationed in Germany, he represented his division in the Best Ranger Competition as well as an Eco challenge.[6] Between 2004 and 2006, while at 10th Special Forces Group, Sowers served two deployments in the Iraq war as a Green Beret, leading and advising U.S. and Iraqi units on counterinsurgency operations. During his 11-year military career, Sowers was awarded the Combat Infantryman Badge, Senior Parachutist Badge, Military Freefall Badge, Ranger Tab, Special Forces Tab, Belgian Commando School Brevet, two Bronze Stars, Joint Service Commendation Medal, NATO Service Ribbon, and numerous Distinguished Honor Graduate awards. He left the Army with the rank of Major.[7]

U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs[edit]

On May 9, 2012, President Barack Obama nominated Sowers to be Assistant Secretary for Public and Intergovernmental Affairs at the United States Department of Veterans Affairs.[8] Sowers testified before the United States Senate Committee on Veterans' Affairs on July 18, 2012 and was introduced to the committee by Senator Claire McCaskill.[9] Sowers was confirmed by the full Senate on August 2, 2012,[10] at the time the youngest Senate confirmed Assistant Secretary in the nation, and was sworn into office on August 20, 2012.[11][12]

While at the VA, Sowers represented and advised the Secretary of Veterans Affairs on matters relating to media relations, public affairs, and intergovernmental affairs.[13] He has testified before the Senate Committee on Veterans' Affairs regarding the VA's efforts to increase the number of veterans accessing their VA benefits. Sowers served as a primary spokesman for the VA, making appearances in numerous national print and televised media.[14][15][16][17] He served in the post until April 2014.

Collegiate teaching[edit]

From 2006 to 2009, Sowers served as an Assistant Professor at the United States Military Academy at West Point, teaching courses in American Government, Advanced American Government and Media & Politics. While at West Point, Sowers led a cadet summer trip to India, focused on service learning in the Himalayas and interaction with the Tibetan Government in Exile, including an audience with the Dalai Lama. In fall 2009, Sowers taught in the History and Political Science Department at the Missouri University of Science and Technology in Rolla, Missouri.[18]

In April 2014, Sowers accepted a position as visiting faculty in the Sanford School of Public Policy at Duke University.[19]

In 2018 he was reappointed as visiting faculty in Duke's Department of Political Science to teach the first iteration of Hacking for Defense in the Spring of 2019.[20]

Business and entrepreneurial Experience[edit]

In 2011, Sowers became a management consultant with McKinsey and Company. During his time at McKinsey he was trained in their mini-MBA program and served private equity clients in assessing mergers and acquisitions, predominately in Latin America.

In 2015, Sowers, along with fellow founders Shayne Sowers and Narayan Krishnan, created the firm now known as GoldenKey an online marketplace focused on unbundling the real estate industry. GoldenKey offered home owners the opportunity to unbundle services—listing, home showing, transaction coordination, etc. or choose a flat rate bundle to sell their homes.

In March 2016, Fortune Magazine listed GoldenKey as a top Raleigh-Durham start-up to watch.[21] During the summer 2016, Sowers led GoldenKey through its participation in the NFX Guild accelerator program.[22][23] In 2016, GoldenKey was named by CNN as one of the five startups "changing the real estate game".[24]

In 2017, Forbes named Goldenkey as one of the top 25 veteran founded start-ups.[25]

In September 2018, Landis, a data science specialty service used to help institutional real estate developers buy and sell residential real estate, acquired GoldenKey. The acquisition of GoldenKey allows Landis to better serve their home buyers, enhancing productivity by providing vital data in regards to what home buyers are actually looking for, and how much they are willing to spend. It deepens the relationship between sellers, brokers, title insurance companies and other participants in the real estate field.[26] Over the life of GoldenKey, Sowers led the raising of over $3.7M of venture capital with an institutional round led by Lowe's Ventures.[27]


In 2018 Sowers rejoined federal service as Southeast Regional Director of MD5 National Security Technology Accelerator, a US Department of Defense program researching ways to improve the problem-solving capacity of war-fighters. In regards to the Southeast expansion of MD5, Sowers stated, “MD5 looks to connect the venture and academic communities to warfighters to solve national security problems. The Triangle’s density of top public and private universities and the Southeast’s top entrepreneurial ecosystem all within a few hours of the greatest concentration of elite Army, Marine, Air Force and Special Operations Forces, makes Durham the perfect location for our expansion. On August 31, we’ll start proving out what right looks like by connecting these outstanding, elite communities to do good for our nation.”[28]

Sowers and the MD5 team intend on connecting elite tech and military communities in The Research Triangle to create a collaborative environment for the betterment of the nation. MD5 focuses on supporting military and veterans transitioning from active duty to careers in tech companies. They feature three portfolios of programs and services: education, collaboration, and acceleration. The education portfolio incorporates programs bringing innovation methods and the tools of entrepreneurship to the DOD workforce. Sowers himself is scheduled to teach an upcoming MD5 course at Duke titled “Hacking for Defense” where students focus on solving National Security problems through coding.[29]

Political endeavors[edit]

In September 2009, Sowers announced his candidacy for Congress against incumbent Representative Jo Ann Emerson.[30] Libertarian Rick Vandeven and Independent Larry Bill also ran.

On Veterans Day 2009, former Clinton White House official Paul Begala featured Sowers in an op-ed, calling the candidate "everything you'd want in an up-and-coming young leader: brave and battle-tested, deeply rooted in his community and passionate about bringing change and progress to his long-neglected corner of Missouri."[31]

In January 2010, Sowers traveled around all twenty-eight counties in the district in a project dubbed "Boots on the Ground." Sowers worked a job in every county, garnering a great deal of local press.[32] Boots on the Ground's success led to a mention from former Governor of Vermont Howard Dean on MSNBC, predicting Sowers "is going to knock off, I think, Jo Ann Emerson." In July, Sowers embarked on Boots on the Ground II, again working a job in every county.[33]

Sowers was added to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee's top races, the "Red to Blue" program.[34]

Sowers raised over $1.5 million in the 2010 cycle. Sowers out raised all of his opponents, including Emerson, two out of the four quarters.[35] Sowers was endorsed by General Wesley Clark and his organization VoteVets, which aims to put more veterans in Congress.[36] He was also endorsed by two Medal of Honor recipients: Retired Colonel Jack H. Jacobs and former U.S. Senator Bob Kerrey.[37]

In a profile in mid-April, Politico's Jonathan Martin called Sowers "one of the party's most promising recruits."[38] In August, Sowers released his first ad, Combat Bible, which highlighted his military credentials. The ad was met with praise from Politico's Ben Smith, who called the ad "How to run against a GOP incumbent in red America this year."[39][40]

On Election Day, Emerson defeated Sowers with 65% of the vote.[41] After his congressional campaign, Sowers worked as the Senior Advisor to the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, the nation's first and largest non-profit focused on improving the lives of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans and their families. As Senior Advisor, Sowers represented his generation of veterans, speaking and attending various conferences from Renaissance Weekends, TED Global, Aspen Institute's security forum and the Clinton Global Initiative.

Political positions[edit]

During his campaign, Sowers received national attention for his call to end the conventional war in Afghanistan, criticizing the objective of training the Afghanistan National Army and Police.[42] In September 2010, Sowers appeared on Joe Scarborough's Morning Joe and The Ed Show to call for an end to the war in Afghanistan.[43][44] In October, he was profiled on the front page of the Washington Post.[45] The article sympathized with the idea of “popular indifference” as the defining feature of the Nation’s engagement with the war, acknowledging Sowers uphill battle to get voters to recognize the war as a pressing issue and not just an unpleasant distant news item.[46]

Volunteer service[edit]

After his 2010 Congressional campaign Sowers started working in the nonprofit sector with Iraq and Afghanistan War Veterans of America to improve veterans lives and the lives of their families. In 2015 he was elected to the Americans for the Arts Board of Directors for a three-year term. The organization focuses on the advancement of arts and arts education in America.[47]

He is a co-creator of the Lincoln Awards[48] a concert for Veterans & The Military Family that recognizes outstanding achievement and excellence in providing opportunities and support to our nation’s veterans and military families. It was nationally broadcast on PBS and hosted by the Kennedy Center.[49]

From 2017-2018 he served on the board of the Entrepreneurs’ Organization[50] in the Raleigh Durham chapter, where he is still a current member. EO is the World’s Only Peer-to-peer Network Exclusively for Entrepreneurs, The Entrepreneurs' Organization enables entrepreneurs to learn and grow from each other leading to greater business success and an enriched personal life.

Personal life[edit]

Sowers lives in Chapel Hill, North Carolina with his wife, three daughters and two dogs. He is an adventure racer and ultramarathoner. He has served on the national board of Americans for the Arts and the Entrepreneur’s Organization. He has also completed Sommelier,[51] Arborist[52] and Freestanding Handstand training.[53]


  1. ^ "Bloomberg: Executive Profile". 4 February 2017. Retrieved 4 February 2017. External link in |website= (help)
  2. ^ "The Truth About Tommy Sowers". 2010-07-05. Retrieved 2017-02-04.
  3. ^ "Tommy Sowers I ARTS Blog". Retrieved 8 November 2016.
  4. ^ "Dr. Tommy Sowers | The Huffington Post". Retrieved 2017-02-13.
  5. ^ Sowers, Thomas (2011-10-11). "Nanomanagement—Superior Control and Subordinate Autonomy in Conflict: Mid-level officers of the U.S. and British armies in Iraq (2003-2008)" (PDF).
  6. ^ "Washington, D.C. Event at Georgetown University". National Endowment for the Humanities. Retrieved 2017-02-04.
  7. ^ "Westpoint Alumni Bios" (PDF). Retrieved 8 November 2016.
  8. ^ "President Obama Announces More Key Administration Posts". 2012-05-09.
  9. ^ "McCaskill Recommends Missouri Native for Key Veterans Affairs Post". 2012-07-19.
  10. ^ "Senate Floor Wrap Up for Thursday, August 2, 2012". 2012-08-02.
  11. ^ "Tommy Sowers hearing before the Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs". Youtube. Youtube. Retrieved 17 October 2018.
  12. ^ "Missouri native Sowers confirmed for Veterans Affairs position". Joplin Globe. Joplin Globe. Retrieved 17 October 2018.
  13. ^ "Office of Public and Intergovernmental Affairs". U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Archived from the original on November 9, 2013. Retrieved 2014-01-21.
  14. ^ "Veterans Affairs lauds technology, blames predecessors for 2-year claim wait". 2013-03-27.
  15. ^ "Visiting VA official Tommy Sowers says demand for veterans' services will only rise". The Oregonian. 2013-08-02.
  16. ^ "Many Maine veterans missing out on benefits". Bangor Daily News. 2012-12-19.
  17. ^ "Veterans compete in Valor Games Midwest at Soldier Field". 2013-08-12.
  18. ^ "Tommy Sowers". Americans for the Arts. Retrieved 2017-02-04.
  19. ^ "Tommy Sowers | Sanford School of Public Policy". Retrieved 2017-02-04.
  20. ^ "Hacking for Defense". H4Di. H4Di. Retrieved 17 October 2018.
  21. ^ "Fortune Magazine". Retrieved 6 November 2016.
  22. ^ "NF(x) Guild". Retrieved 6 November 2016.
  23. ^ "Crunchbase". Retrieved 6 November 2016.
  24. ^ "CNN Money". Retrieved 6 November 2016.
  25. ^ "The Top 25 Veteran-Founded Startups In America". Forbes. Forbes. Retrieved 17 October 2018.
  26. ^ "Landis Acquires Real Estate Start Up GoldenKey". Tech Crunch. Tech Crunch. Retrieved 17 October 2018.
  27. ^ "Solopro Unbundles Real Estate". Tech Crunch. Tech Crunch. Retrieved 17 October 2018.
  28. ^ "DOD's National Security Technology Accelerator, MD5, Expands to the Southeast at American Underground". Cision. Cision. Retrieved 17 October 2018.
  29. ^ "DOD national security tech accelerator MD5 opening Southeast regional office at AU". TechWire. TechWire. Retrieved 17 October 2018.
  30. ^ "Army Veteran Challenging Missouri GOP Rep. Emerson". 2009-09-09.
  31. ^ Begala, Paul (2009-11-11). "A Warrior on a Mission in Rush Limbaugh's Home District".
  32. ^ "Tommy Sowers: Lessons Learned Traveling Missour-ah, Getting "Shoulder Deep" in a Cow". Riverfront Times. 2010-02-17.
  33. ^ "Tommy Sowers Puts His Boots on the Ground Again". Southeast Missourian. 2010-06-28.
  34. ^ "Tommy Sowers: a credible challenger to Jo Ann Emerson". 2010-06-16.
  35. ^ Keller, Rudi (2010-07-18). "Emerson, Sowers reach $1 million in campaign funding". Southeast Missourian.
  36. ^ "Vets Endorse Fellow Veteran Sowers in Missouri 8th District Race". 2009-12-10.
  37. ^ "Daily Journal Online". Retrieved 8 November 2016. External link in |website= (help)
  38. ^ Martin, Jonathan (2010-04-20). "Sowers on offense in defensive year".
  39. ^ Smith, Ben (2010-07-07). "How to run against a GOP incumbent in red America this year".
  40. ^ "Combat Bible". Sowers for Congress. 2010-07-06.
  41. ^ "Emerson beats Sowers for ninth U.S. House term". Southeast Missourian. 2010-11-03.
  42. ^ Sowers, Tommy (2010-07-22). "Who Will Pay for the Afghan Military?". The Huffington Post. Retrieved 2010-09-16.
  43. ^ "Tommy calls for an end to the war in Afghanistan on Morning Joe". Retrieved 2010-09-13.
  44. ^ "Tommy Sowers on The Ed Show". Retrieved 2010-09-14.
  45. ^ Jaffe, Greg (2010-10-12). "Combat veteran Sowers calls for end to wars in bid for House seat in Missouri". Washington Post.
  46. ^ "Combat veteran Sowers calls for end to wars in bid for House seat in Missouri". Washington Post. Washington Post. Retrieved 17 October 2018.
  47. ^ "TOMMY SOWERS JOINS AMERICANS FOR THE ARTS BOARD OF DIRECTORS". Americans for the Arts. Americans for the Arts. Retrieved 17 October 2018.
  48. ^ "The Lincoln Awards". The Lincoln Awards. The Lincoln Awards. Retrieved 17 October 2018.
  49. ^ "Lincoln Awards". PBS. PBS. Retrieved 17 October 2018.
  50. ^ "Entrepreneurs' Organization". Entrepreneurs' Organization. Entrepreneurs' Organization. Retrieved 17 October 2018.
  51. ^ "Sommelier". Instagram. Instagram. Retrieved 17 October 2018.
  52. ^ "Arborist". Instagram. Instagram. Retrieved 17 October 2018.
  53. ^ "Handstands". Instagram. Instagram. Retrieved 17 October 2018.

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