On this episode of Return to Base, we are pleased to present Alex Bertelli, the CEO, founder, and inventor of HavenLock.
Before kicking down doors, literally, on Shark Tank, Alex was flying the world’s most advanced helicopters as a member of the fabled 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment — The Night Stalkers. It was there that he first ideated what would become the HavenLock. Alex noted bad guys overseas were fortifying compounds by welding steel bars at the bottom, middle, and top of their doors. What a novel concept.
Back home in Tennessee, Alex’s neighborhood saw a rash of burglaries where the criminals literally kicked in the door rendering the deadbolt basically useless. An average sized man can kick a door open in just 4-5 kicks. Alex recalled his experience overseas, and HavenLock was born. HavenLock is a home security device that installs at the base of the door and prevents intruders from accessing your home by kicking in the front door. The idea is simple: Create an actuating wedge that drives the force of an unwanted entry into the ground. After years of development, the world was introduced to this innovative product when Alex literally did a flying kick through a door on national television. Though they didn’t secure a deal, HavenLock gained national notoriety.
To learn more about HavenLock you can visit their website: https://havenlock.com/
For information about the HavenLockdown version designed for schools, places of worship, or other public places, visit: https://havenlockdown.com/
Check them out on Instagram at: https://www.instagram.com/haven_lock/
Connect with Alex on LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/in/alexbertelli/
Return to Base Podcast Ep. #7: Alex Bertelli
Welcome back to the Return to Base Podcast. On this episode you’re in for a real treat; we have Alex Bertelli. He’s a former 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment, pilot. In addition to that, he’s also the CEO and founder of HAVENLock, the lock that is 10X Stronger Than Your Deadbolt and installs in less than 15 minutes. You may have heard of Alex, or seen his handiwork when he appeared on Shark Tank where he pitched the sharks on HAVENLock. And things didn’t go quite as planned didn’t walk away from the Shark Tank with a deal, but he gave us pretty much the most viral clip ever in history of Shark Tank, which we’ll talk about a little bit on the show.
So, but without further ado, let’s do this. Alex what’s going on, man?
Alex Bertelli 01:14
Hey, Cliff. Thanks for having me. I really appreciate it.
Well, thank you for joining us. For those of you who missed the introduction or kind of cruise through it. Alex is the CEO and founder of HAVENLock. And he’s an MBA….Has an MBA from the University of North Carolina, and was a former 160th Chinook pilot, correct?
Alex Bertelli 01:36
That’s right. Yeah, I flew the MH 47 G out of Fort Campbell. I was in the unit for about 08 and a half years.
Awesome. So, Alex and I met each other a few years back at a veteran networking event, I believe, and we kind of stayed in touch, and as I was getting out of the military, Alex was kind enough to offer me a place on his team at HAVENLock as part of my DoD skill bridge internship. So, I appreciate that; that kind of catapulted me into understanding what the civilian world, corporate world is all about. And it really actually got me some exposure to start up and we’ll get into all that.
But you know, I always like to start off with… You know, this is a veteran focus podcast. So, it’s great to hear why exactly, you decided to join the military, when you did, and how that went. So, without further ado, what led you to join the United States Army?
Alex Bertelli 02:35
Yeah, it was kind of a…. I guess, serendipity that led me there. My family was living in Rochester, New York at the time, my dad had just retired early from a VP job at a company called Crosman, they make air rifles and BB guns, and my mom was actually the breadwinner of the family’s he kind of flipped all of Dad’s earnings in the stock market and traded options. And, you know, a couple years prior to 2001 Dad had left to go focus on being a dad instead of being a road warrior. And as you all I’m sure can remember the stock market crash in 2001. And that had a pretty big effect on our family. My college fund was gone, my mom had to go to work in a department store, my dad had to get back into corporate America.
And so, I was faced with a difficult choice. Do I go to community college? Or do I just kind of hang it out there and see if I can find a way to fund my education. And so, I started applying for scholarships, University of New Hampshire, St. Bonaventure, and ultimately where I ended up going, University of Dayton, Ohio, I got an ROTC scholarship. And that was the start of my military career more or less. I went into Dayton with eyes wide open and did everything I could to excel in ROTC and ultimately, got awarded a flight slot when I graduated from UD and headed down to Fort Rucker
At what point did you think to yourself, “Man, I want to fly helicopters”…. Did you like looking at helicopters flying overhead when you were a kid and think, “Man, I want to be that.”
Alex Bertelli 04:19
I was never like that. I never, you know, went to air shows and saw helicopters or airplanes and you know I want to be a military pilot. I just like fun. I love traveling. And that was really it. It was plain and simple. It wasn’t some, you know, shiny plane in the sky that led me to be a pilot. I just went to ROTC and then you know, as it started to come around for job selection time I sit down. I don’t know if I want to be a ground guy. I don’t know if I want to get on tanks. But being a helicopter pilot is pretty cool. And I had watched Black Hawk Down in the theaters when it was released. And at that point, I instantly knew I wanted to go to that unit and be a pilot.
Wow. Now that’s pretty cool. So, you attended ROTC after September 11. Right?
Alex Bertelli 05:09
I started before September 11. I was a freshman in college. And I was actually a morning PT for ROTC. I just got back from PT. And the towers have [phonetic 05:21] started to come down after I got out of the shower. So, I remember the day, you know, remember that day just like everyone else does, we had jets that were scrambling from Wright Patterson Air Force Base to go, you know, intercept the plane that ultimately crashed, and in Pennsylvania and so on. Yeah. I mean, that was the start of it. And I knew at that point, that’s what I needed to do with my life.
It’s so interesting. Most of the people I’ve talked to, I’ve asked that same question, Where were you on 9/11. And it’s one of those things our generation at least, will never ever forget, much like Pearl Harbor for the greatest generation. Do you remember, like the first images you saw of the World Trade Center?
Alex Bertelli 06:08
You know, I remember standing in my room in my dorm looking up at the TV seeing the towers and fire. And then the only other image, there’s two other images, I remember one was looking up and seeing the Jets go towards Pennsylvania two 0f them. And then the last one was a girl outside of a classroom just like devastated bawling her eyes out. Her dad died when the tower came down. And so, I remember kind of those three images and nothing much really from the rest of the day. But it was just always stuck out in my mind.
So is there at that point, much like, most of us were in the military, I was in the military at the time, just kind of a realization like, oh, things are going to be different from now on. I think most of us knew…. I don’t think any of us knew that it was going to be a 20-year thing, but I think most of us knew a better get ready, better be packing my bags, or at least getting my affairs in order. So, you finish ROTC? About what year?
Alex Bertelli 07:19
I graduated in. 2005.
Okay, 2005 and went down to Fort Rucker, and that’s going to… I myself wanted to be a pilot at one point in my career, and I don’t know, I guess you could say I chickened out. I don’t know, I just didn’t go through with the application process. But, you know, it seems like it’s got to be the first time you go skydiving or something, where you’re in this aircraft, and you have to move your feet, your hands and all these things together. What was that like the first time you were given controls of your first…. What are those training helicopters called down there?
Alex Bertelli 08:04
They were TH-67S Bell jet Rangers but now they’re Lakotas UH-72S. It wasn’t all like, here’s the aircraft, you know, go do it. I don’t remember a lot from flight school. Just because it was so fast paced, wake up at 3am to get to the flight line by 4:45. And then you don’t get home until 6 or 7, you study for two hours you go to bed repeat, right. But I do remember the first time I have hovered, I remember the first time I soloed and flew in the aircraft by myself which was…. I was exhilarating and it was cool to be able to hover. Hovering is like the ultimate hand/eye coordination, mind focus, activity that you can do. Because of you, you catch a wind, or you lose control of that tail rotor, you can bury that thing in the earth pretty fast.
I fell in [phonetic 09:09] a simulator once and I was asked to hover, and I buried it into the earth.
Alex Bertelli 09:09
It’s like you make you make a Power Change input with the thrust of the collective and that will change what you have to do with the tail rotor. And then if you induce any pitch up or down, it’s just like this whole coordinated mess and controls that as you get into a more advanced aircraft, it actually hovers for you. [crosstalk 09:35] . In the G model that I flew it in the unit you could punch in all of your flight route everything down to the grid coordinate and press a button and it would pick up to hover, turn takeoff, fly the route and come to attempts that hover on the target.
Oh man! What fun is that though?
Alex Bertelli 09:54
Well, I mean, it’s just different. It’s a different type of flying because you’re doing mission management, you’re calculating fuel and weight burn based off of the winds and the outside air temp. And it’s pretty challenging, especially if you’re trying to get the maximum number of operators on a target. You don’t want to short the ground force commander, any muscle on the target, you also want to get to the target. And then let’s just call it hover and crash because you miss planned.
Yeah, that’s a good point. It seems like a lot of responsibility obviously. There’s something inherent and flying helicopters or even just being a leader in the military. But… All right, so finished flight school, and I assume maybe somebody come up to the class said, Hey, who wants to apply for this neat unit that you’ve probably all saw on Black Hawk Down?
Alex Bertelli 10:52
Yeah, I mean, that’s typically not how it, it happens at that level in your flight career. They do recruiting events, geared more towards post first assignment officers. So, requirements to get into the unit are…. I think, at the time, it was like seven years of army flight, you know, Army time and a flight billet [phonetic 11:14] 1000 hours of MBG [phonetic 11:16] time and at least a deployment with a command.
When I got to flight school, the first day I showed up to flight training, I had already found out, got the application, put it on my instructor pilots’ desk and have them sign it without ever touching a helicopter and said, “I want to go to this unit”, he looked at me and he laughed. He goes, “All right, I’ll sign your piece of paper, and I submitted it.” And before I finished flight school, I had got an assessment and pass the assessment and had orders up to the best aviation unit in the world. So, I was pretty lucky they take one to two guys a year at a flight school and they groom them and train them to be a special operations aviator for longevity within the unit.
So typical amount of time a guy stays in the unit is probably four years. And he’ll go back out. And if he’s lucky, he’ll get to come back and serve another tour. I was able to do two tours back-to-back, I could have stayed for probably another tour, which would have been upwards of 15 years in the unit. So, I was pretty lucky in that regard now. It wasn’t without its frustration, you know, I had to learn how to be an officer.
So, I was stuck in a headquarters company. And I did basic army stuff, learn how to do inventories, counseling things, I planned the regiments formal one year. But the great part about it was I got to fly anytime I wanted. The unit had 13 Vietnam era V tail little birds, and they gave me the set of keys to it and said, fly as much as you want. So, I was flying 2 and 3 times a week with senior worn officers, battalion commanders, staffed guys, and I would plan the whole flight, go fly wherever I wanted to. And that’s how I got the majority of my flight time early on in my career before I eventually, after two years went to fly the 47 G, which was our most advanced aircraft at the time.
Yeah, I had flown in those a bit. And they are a lot of fun flying over either Afghanistan or Iraq and into just over Fort [phonetic 13:31] Campbell in those things. This is always a blast. So, you had to plan your units formal, which I guess is why you decided to leave the army.
Alex Bertelli 13:42
I mean, you know, at the time, it was just an additional duty as a lieutenant, right?
Alex Bertelli 13:47
But and I was really kind of hungry to go down to the line company. And you know, I don’t want to say they didn’t have a plan for me. But I the squeaky wheel is definitely me trying to get to the unit faster. And so, I just had to basically go interview with a Blackhawk company commander, a little bird company commander and the Chinook company commander. And, you know, I had just started dating a girl and kind of fell in love and said, hey, the best opportunity for me to stay in the Fort Campbell area, she was in the music industry was to fly Chinooks.
We had two companies of Chinooks here in the line, and then we had a pretty big Chinook training kind of unit. So that was the best opportunity for me to stay not only at Fort Campbell but stay in the unit because we had more Chinook than we did any other platform. So, if you’re a little bird guy, you’ve got two places you can go. And guess what? There’s two platoon leaders in both of those companies and one company commander so there’s really no place for you to go. If you don’t rise to the top.
Yeah. And it seems being a pilot, and being an officer, a commissioned officer. So as opposed to a Warrant Officer from what I’ve heard, it’s a little bit different in the world. So, you know, you have the hit the blocks, and there’s certain checks you need to make for career progression. And they kind of steer that way.
Alex Bertelli 15:25
Yeah, I mean, it’s definitely a different animal as a commissioned officer, when you are required to have the same proficiency as your warrant officers, but they are the instructor pilots, they’re in charge of progressing you. So, you rub them the wrong way, as their rater than guess who’s not getting the flight time or the progression. So, it’s an ultimate balance, and managing people and personalities. And, you know, I was fortunate enough to get the opportunity to get upgraded to a mid-level kind of flight proficiency, which is fully mission qualified.
And that’s hard to do as a commission guy, because at the same point, you’re trying to do commander and platoon leader stuff, and, you know, inventories evaluations, mission planning, and just flying as a commission guy kind of takes a backseat to some of these other things, and quite frankly, when I got to the unit, the culture in the Chinook companies was, will let you fly as a commission guy, but overseas, you sit in the jump seat, and all you do is make radio calls and kind of help the flight lead and the pilots, you know, think outside the cockpit. And so, my first deployment to Iraq, I sat in the cockpit and never touched controls, I was a [crosstalk 16:43] all the time.
So, my company commander at the time, wanted to kind of change that culture. And so, to my battalion commander, and the… We started putting commissioned guys up front. And it really helped the unit out it, made better commanders because we knew the mission set better. And it also alleviated deployment strain in our worn officers, you know, commissioned guy and you can find the right seat and keep a worn officer at home or not on the road as much. It just made a lot of sense at the time and still in my opinion.
Yeah, I agree. And it’s hard to lead a unit where you’re not proficient as proficient Right? Or at least going [crosstalk]
Alex Bertelli 17:23
How to ask your people to do something that you’re not willing to do yourself or can’t do yourself?
Yeah. So eventually, you decided to hang it up, you decided it’s not going to be a career in the army. What led you to that decision, and were the some of the steps you took to prepare yourself for that?
Alex Bertelli 17:42
I think it’s a, again, back to being a commissioned officer. You don’t get to be on the line for your entire career. And I was getting to the point halfway through my career where I was lucky enough to get promoted below the zone, which if you’re an officer and NCO or you know, someone in the military, right? Timing is everything for the right progression, right slots, right jobs. And so, I was…. If I wouldn’t have got promoted below the zone, I would have likely been able to stay at Fort Campbell. But you know, the fact that get promoted a year early mean, meant [phonetic 18:15] I had to go to school early. And the only slot available after going to our intermediate levels of schooling was in Savannah. And my wife at the time, her business was just crushing it and didn’t want to leave Nashville.
And so that was the biggest factor. I tried to do everything I could stay at Fort Campbell. But, you know, the Army has other plans for you. And sometimes you don’t get to say what those plans are. So ultimately made the decision at the time to start looking for other opportunities. I was networking in town and started my MBA about 6 months before I got out of the military. So, it just kind of happened really fast, I think. I made the decision October, and I was out by February.
Did you study and work currently in your first job out of the military?
Alex Bertelli 19:13
Yeah. Like most of us, right? It would have been such a pleasure to be able to just be a full-time student.
Alex Bertelli 19:21
It was interesting. I kind of had another, I guess, serendipitous moment where I fell into my next job, and it was such a cool job. I knew a Navy SEAL buddy who I’m still pretty close friends with and he introduced me to the Chief of Staff of the Economic Cabinet. And Governor Haslam’s [phonetic 19:43] administration, they were looking for an aerospace expert. And, you know, part of my military story is that I had the opportunity to fly five different helicopters. And so, I knew every single manufacturer, I knew Airbus Boeing, McDonnell Douglas you name it.
All these different variants that I flew gave me the ability to walk into an air show and go into Textron’s [phonetic 20:08] booth and say, Hey, not only am I a Night Stalker [phonetic 20:10], but I’ve flown your aircraft before. So, they hired the Governor’s Economic cabinet. Commissioner Bill Haggerty, who’s now Senator hired me to be the aerospace sector for the state. And I was tasked with recruiting aviation businesses to the state of Tennessee to build their headquarters and their manufacturing facilities. And so, I did that for three years, I started that job, actually, while I was on terminal leave.
So, I didn’t have this transition anxiety, like most other people do. And they leave trying to figure out what they want. And it wasn’t the highest paying job. But it was really cool. I traveled all over the world, going to air shows and meeting companies and did some pretty amazing things with some great people in that department.
Yeah, that it does seem like a pretty cool job. It seems like at least you’re working to bring jobs to the state you live in, which is something I think that is at least commendable. So, your first job was with state Tennessee, meanwhile, there’s a different story in the background, which is you created a product, you’re somewhat of an inventor, right? And you want to talk a little bit about how Haven came about, and, and kind of where that led you to make the decision? Which…. You know, I don’t know if a lot of veterans need or have to make this decision or get faced with this decision. But you end up betting on yourself, essentially.
Alex Bertelli 21:40
Yeah, I mean, when I left the military, I knew I wanted to do something entrepreneurial, but I just didn’t have the idea fully solidified. And so, I was kind of out of the military trying to figure out what I wanted to do with my life beyond just working at the state because that was more of a short term, two to three-year thing for me and my next door neighbor had a break in. And it just kind of dawned on me, why do we not have a better locking system to prevent people from getting robbed, getting kind of their homes violated.
And it started with a Styrofoam prototype, a wood [phonetic 22:18] prototype and, you know, meeting up with engineers all over Tennessee to try to figure out how to make this product. And so, what you see in our floor base product is a lock that is 10 times stronger than any other lock on the market. It’s this thickness of a nickel, and can detect a break in. It’s pretty amazing, it works with everything you would expect Alexa and Google and Google’s assistant. But now we’ve transformed you know, our technology, which is really the ultimate goal into a commercial product, prevent active shooters from getting into classrooms.
I saw the shooting up in Michigan recently, you know, our product would have prevented, you know, some of that could have potentially prevented some of those deaths up there. But it’s pretty interesting to see kind of from a star from prototype all the way through the difficulty of making a fire rated commercially approved product. And so that’s where we’re at now we’ve got some pretty awesome partners delivering our technology all over North America now.
Yeah, so for those who don’t know, Alex is the CEO, and founder and inventor of HAVENLock, which is a lock that is installed at the base of your home door and has a ramp or wedge. How would you describe it? A wedge that…
Alex Bertelli 23:51
It’s a wedge that pops up.
Yeah, a wedge that when activated it prevents the door from being opened or kicked open? And it’s incredibly clever, it looks great, and it works…. So, obviously that path of inventing something, I obviously had to take a ton of resources. Meanwhile, you’re doing your MBA, you’re working for the state, eventually you leave the state right and you work for a different company for a bit. And then before you decided, this is something I have to pursue full time.
Alex Bertelli 24:34
Yeah, I was about three years into the state. And we’re still going through product development, it was really difficult to make this product. Again, it’s the thickness of a nickel, but it has to be 10 times as strong as anything else. So, we work with DuPont and three engineers and some great manufacturing companies and it took us a really long time to get the product figured out. I think we started the business in 2004 and we didn’t ship first articles until 2018. And at that point, we were still kind of bootstrapping it, we had raised some investor money, and I was still working corporate America, our transition to corporate America with Amazon and then eventually to Asurion [phonetic 15:17].
And so, I was trying to figure out the right time to jump in, and to really go out and raise additional investor funds and take it to the next level. And the thing that kind of dawned on me was when Parkland happened, so we can build our technology into a commercially viable product. And at that point, we didn’t have our top of door active shooter defense product, which we call Haven Lockdown, even built or invented. And so, I literally walked into the corporate office and quit and said, “I’ve given you a week’s notice, and on Monday, I was driving up to Chicago to stand alone at Shark Tank.” Yeah, just kind of happened. It was like this…. Again, another serendipitous moment where I was called to action to go do this.
Yeah. And knowing a little bit of the inside story, or at least some of the struggles inherent with your company with just getting a product that you have to kind of see, it’s really hard to kind of explain, right? It’s one of those products where like, oh, once you hold it in your hand, or once you see a video of it, you’re like, “Oh, now I get it”, right? What was that like trying to sell your vision to investors? Was it challenging for you? Or have you always had that in you to be able to walk up to somebody and say, “Hey, you know, I think you would be a good investor for my product, which is this.”
Alex Bertelli 26:42
Raising money is difficult, no matter what product or service you’re trying to raise cash for. I think I’ve probably pitched 500 investors over the life of the company. And I’ve got a very large number of investors who have invested in my business. So, it’s about personal connection, they have to like the mission, they have to obviously see the business case for it to make sense. So, I don’t know if I’m good at it. But I’ve been able to catalyze interest and help us, you know, come build and invent these additional products that we have and now we are working with a company called Johnson Controls, the world’s largest security company to deliver our commercial product.
So, it’s just like, the mentality we had in the unit never quit. [crosstalk 27:30] Don’t quit. We know quit in this business. We’ve had some really difficult times in the life of our company where we were signed up for a $300,000 contract and had no money in the bank. Personally guaranteeing it. So yeah, for any entrepreneur, it’s just a never quit mentality that always try to figure it out is so important.
Yeah. Well, glad you did. So, you mentioned Shark Tank, and you gave Shark Tank, probably one of its most highest rated episodes, I think. And, you know, I know the product works. And I’ve seen the demonstrations, hundreds of times different videos, and I know that 99.9% of the time that you kick a door that doesn’t have a HAVENLock, it’s going to come down in three or four kicks. And then on Shark Tank, something happened, where things didn’t go as planned, but it made for a really great TV. We want to talk a little bit about that situation, and about that incident.
Alex Bertelli 28:38
Yeah, of course. So, I mean, getting on Shark Tank isn’t easy. I think they have something like 60,000 companies of that buy [phonetic 28:45] and I didn’t have an inside track to it. I just drove up to Chicago, stood in line for two hours with 4000 people and got 30 seconds to pitch my product. And they said if we’re like your product and hear back from us in 30 days, and they just really liked my story. And they call me back seven days later and had started a four-month journey to get out to Culver City in Los Angeles to stand in front of the sharks. And it’s just a really cool experience.
I think you have to understand also when you go on the show…. I mean, it’s TV, and they are notorious for giving bad deal terms to entrepreneurs. And so you got to go in and understand what you’re really trying to get out of [crosstalk 29:35] Yes, it is a truly an investment that you got desperate to need to get on the show to take money, and if you’re savvy enough to get on the show, you’re probably savvy enough to be able to raise investor funds outside of it.
So, the inside story is we had already had all of our investor funds raised before we went on the show and we were doing it for exposure. How do you make your show viral? How are your episode viral? You have to do a demonstration; you have to be memorable. And you have to have something that gets the sharks to stand up on their feet. And so, we had some folks construct a set for us. And we move the set out to Culver City, it had to be mobile. And, you know, it’s not like a regular house, right? We wanted to give the audience the ability to see this explosive demonstration. And so, if the site is mobile on wheels, guess what happens when you kick it, it moves.
Every time I was kicking this thing, it was moving, and at the same point, the set designer, when he moved it out, he basically required us to build it on a metal frame. And so, houses aren’t made of metal frames, they’re made of wooden frames. And so, he secured the door through the metal frame, using four-inch bolts, it was literally a bank of salt default I was kicking through. [chuckles] Of course [unintelligible 31:00] where we rehearse everything, so I kick through the rig that we had built in Nashville and about four kicks, which is typical, and went over to the Haven and couldn’t get to Haven obviously, because it’s a great product, and it works.
But, you know, the double dropkick made the company famous that made obviously be famous for the optics of it. And, you know, what you saw was the result of, of seven and a half minutes, pared down from two hours of pitching, and 17 different camera angles to give you what you saw. So, in reality, it took me maybe 11 kicks to get through the door. But you know, it’s TV, so they magic up the intensity and kind of the drama of the scene, and I think the only thing I do remember from kicking through that door was seeing Mark Cuban stand up and clap, and say, “You made Shark Tank history”. So, I know, you tell me, is it worth it to get on the show to give up your business? Or is it a play to get as much exposure as possible? And I think we came out on top with succeeding in that fashion.
For sure. Obviously, you became kind of a household name Haven got its message out there. And I think people saw it for what it was, right? Something that is viable, something that doesn’t tarnish your home in any way because it kind of just it sits there and it’s barely noticeable, and it works. And you got some pretty damn good TV out of it and exposure. Right? So, you mentioned that… You know, there’s some folks there who may be needed an investment, need a shark…. If you had an opportunity with shark, would you have gotten with if the terms were right?
Alex Bertelli 32:46
I think we went on there, you know, trying to work with Mark Cuban because I just think he’s a pretty gritty entrepreneur. But what surprised me was Damon John [phonetic 32:55] …. Yeah, Damon John actually made us an offer. And they didn’t televise the offer wasn’t a great offer, but we had a lot of respect for Damon [ phonetic 32:55], just because of what he’s done in Belton. So, you know, if the terms were right, I would have taken the investment from Damon [phonetic 33:11] and he went and built a company. The other Sharks really wasn’t interested in. You know, they’re kind of a first stage play.
Do you get to talk to them afterwards? Or is it kind of?
Alex Bertelli 33:23
Now, it’s like, go away. They don’t want to talk to you. The stars do not want…?
Alex Bertelli 33:29
Yeah, you see them when you walk on the pitch, and then when you leave. That’s it.
Oh, interesting. Well, glad you went on there and gave us a good TV. So, I know, you’re on a tight schedule here. So, I want to pivot back to being a veteran, and your story, which is very compelling, obviously, because you went out, did something incredibly difficult in the military by being assessed and selected to fly with the nice suckers [phonetic 34:02]. Left a… What could have been a pretty lucrative career, at least in the military, especially being promoted below zone to major like you were? And then taking a chance on yourself, right?
Making the decision for personal reasons, obviously leave the military. You kind of had a path, you planned it out. Maybe you didn’t think of it like a plan. But it seemed like you arrive to where you needed to be based on the steps that you took him when you took them. But what advice would you have to other people who are considering getting out or even the veterans who are already out and looking to dump that first opportunity that they had?
Alex Bertelli 34:47
And I think education is the most important thing you can do, leaving the military. I think the world still believes that soldiers marched around on an army basis like they do in strikes, you know, traveling the rifle and do drill at age of 28, I had managed hundreds of people and millions of dollars of equipment and that didn’t really seem to matter to corporate America. What really changed the mindset of people in the business world where I was actually able to make a truly like a competitive rate salary. It’s when I was making the military, I think when I was a captain in the military with flight pay, and all my other special pays, I was making probably 130 a year. A
nd my first job at the state I made 85 [phonetic 35:35] for three years is really tough. But when I graduated with my MBA, it was like a change overnight, kind of job with Amazon, I was back up to making…. I think that year I made 160 or 170 grand. And so, entrepreneurship isn’t for everyone, but you know, certainly if you want to get out and have a career in the civilian sector, you need to get additional training, whether that is a skill, some type of technical skill, or go and do what you and I did, which is get an MBA. Like that I learned earth shattering stuff. Dayton was a really good education. And so, this [crosstalk 36:19]
One second… When you said Did I learn groundbreaking stuff that cut out a little bit? Can you say that again?
Alex Bertelli 36:27
You know, in the MBA program at UNC, that I learned groundbreaking stuff. I mean, somewhat, but my undergraduate degree at Dayton was in finance. So, I learned a ton there, and the NBA helped me dust those skills off, update them. I learned a lot about entrepreneurship. My second year, in the program, my mentor, Ted Zahler, who’s still at UNC, he allowed me to do independence for him for my company. And so, my second year at UNC was all focused-on Haven, which is awesome, and it allowed me to get the certificate of approval, and get my MBA, but also allowed me to flush out my ideas. So, I definitely believe in education for people who are leaving, you got to have something other than your military service to hang your hat on.
Yeah, I agree. It’s one of those…. It’s that extra bit, it’s demonstrating to employers or investors even that you’re willing to take that extra step because, frankly, you being in charge of 100 people and millions of dollars of equipment. They’re like, okay, they actually, you know, what I found is people don’t actually believe it. They think it’s a bit of hyperbole. Right? So no way you were in charge of 100 people and $200 million worth of stuff, right? So it looks like resume, hyperbole and inflation. And it’s hard to really put that into terms that people understand and will compel them so that you can offer.
Alex Bertelli 38:05
You have your resume, right, and it says you’re a company commander with, you know, 35 direct reports a $5 million budget. And for me at the time, I had 50 helicopters, which is a billion dollars of equipment. And you get to your first interview with Amazon, and they’re like, “Hey, are you comfortable managing five people? Have you ever managed a budget?” And it’s like, they don’t even read the resume. Right? Like, yeah, of course, I run my own P&L, if that’s what you’re asking more or less?
Mm hmm. Yeah. One more thing before we go, Alex, and I appreciate your time. I always like to hear everybody has that like funny story or embarrassing story from the army? Not from like, fallen down and almost breaking your shoulder on national television. But what’s one of those stories that you remember that you keep it PG-13 to R [phonetic 38:58]
Alex Bertelli 38:58
Yeah, I mean, when I was a lieutenant, I still get ribbed for this vibe. At the time, Colonel Mangum, who is our CEO and now he’s…. I think he retired as a three star. And every time I see him, he rids [phonetic 39:12] me for this. But as a lieutenant, I was in a Headquarters in Headquarters Company, which up at regiment, which if you know anything about military structure HHC is where most of the leadership, you know, in their battalion or regiment set, that’s actually who they’re assigned to. And so, you know, as a XO of a headquarters’ headquarters company.
I was on all the emails with all of the senior staff from the regiment, Colonels, Lieutenant Colonel’s, Senior War Officers. And so, at the time, my company commander who was a captain and I was a Lieutenant said, “Hey, we really want the senior staff to come out and support our PT test tomorrow be good, or our PT event. It’d be great for you guys to be in front of the soldiers and we really like your support.” And I email back and unknowingly hit reply. All and so I’m going to stay in bed tomorrow and not show up for PT. And as soon as I sent that my company commander was like, “What have you done?” And I started getting phone calls, I tried to rip the cord out of the wall, I called down to the IP section, I was like, “How do I get this email out of people’s inbox”.
And so, if you know anything about recalling an email…. Every time you recall an email, it sends a notice that you’re recalling it, which I didn’t know, I recall the email seven times. And so, everyone got 7 to 9 emails from me. And it was just like, I had people calling me like, stop recalling me off. And so it was, you know, every time you leave and go on to a new assignment, my plaque said, you know, Second Lieutenant Alex replied to all Bertelli. And so that was kind of my funny PG story. And every time I see General Mangum now, he’s like, “Hey, send any more emails out”…. So that was the funniest PG store I and kind of look back to it. I was like, “I was such an idiot.”
You just owned it.
Alex Bertelli 41:06
The next email should have said, “Yeah, I said it”…
Alex Bertelli 41:11
It made me infamous, more or less. And so, it was a lesson learned, like lieutenants make dumb mistakes. And it kind of humbled me a little bit, you know, at the same time…. Took the edge off, I had an edge. So….
Yeah, you know, the military isn’t as high cut, or high and tight and in straight walking as people think people do have a sense of humor. But thanks for that story, man. And thank you for being on the podcast. And for those out there. Where can they find the product? And where can they find you?
Alex Bertelli 41:49
Yeah, you can go to our website, havenlock.com. We also sell on Amazon, Lowe’s and Home Depot for our residential customers, and then our commercial product for churches, synagogues, and schools is located on havenlockdown.com. And we typically will walk a customer through a journey with that product personally with our staff here so you can reach us or see more about our products and both of those websites.
Awesome, man! Alex, I appreciate you coming on. Have a great day, man.
Alex Bertelli 42:22
Yeah, thanks everybody.
All right, folks, so another episode of Return to Base is in the books. That of course, was Alex Bertelli, a good friend of mine, a former member of the 160th [phonetic 42:39] Special Operations Aviation Regiment, affectionately known as the night suckers [phonetic 42:41], the CEO of Haven Lock, an entrepreneur. His story, I think, is really great for this audience, because it shows us that there’s more than one route to take as a veteran as you’re transitioning. You don’t have to go down the Corporate Route necessarily. You don’t have to go into government contracting. You can be an entrepreneur; you take a game on yourself. And Alex did, he took a chance on himself. And through determination and grit was able to build something really great from scratch. Obviously, it was a lot of fun to talk about his viral moment on Shark Tank, even more fun to talk about how that experience even though they didn’t get a deal. It was a blessing in disguise, really.
So, Alex proves that, of course. Nice Dockers [phonetic 43:28], don’t quit. Once again, you can find Havens home products at Havenlock.com, that’s H-A-V-E-N L-O-C-K.com. And if you have the need for their commercial applications, it’s havenlockdown.com H-A-V-E-N-L-O-C-K-D-O-W-N.com. I’ve actually seen these products in action. As I was transitioning from the military, I worked with HAVENLock as part of my skill bridge. And I’ve actually installed them in in homes. I’ve installed them in a school here in Tennessee actually. And I can tell you, they really do work and it’s quite a remarkable feat of engineering when you think about something very simple, but it works.
So once again, thanks to Alex for joining us. And if you have not subscribed to Return to Base, please do so. We’re available, of course on just about all of the podcast, hosting sites, Spotify, etc. And while you’re at it, visit us at veteranlife.com That’s V-E-T-E-R-A-N-L-I-F-E.com. Until next time, this has been Return to Base.
If you haven’t already, please subscribe to our podcast using whatever podcast service you listened to us on. We’d really appreciate it. Visit VeteranLife.com when you get a chance, read some of our blogs, make some comments, and share it with your friends. Until next time! Have a great day.
This is RTB signing off.