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Entrepreneurs create website serving military community

Founded in January by an ASU professor, a military veteran and two ASU undergraduate students, was designed to create a network of current and former military service members, military families and civilians in war-torn locations by allowing them to share photos, videos, audio clips and text entries about their experiences.

In May, the Alpha Stripe founders received an entrepreneurial prize package worth $50,000  through the AppSumo Lean Startup Challenge, an online community voting-based competition. Shortly after, the group was granted a spot in ASU's Edson Student Entrepreneur Program, which provided their company with $12,000 in seed money, mentoring and one year of office space at ASU's SkySong facility.

Founded by mechanical engineering professor Eli Chmouni, Marine Corps veteran Pete Chinnici, electrical engineering senior Nick Oliver and computer science senior Dawne Flanagan, the website is undergoing beta testing and receiving feedback from more than 250 users.

Chmouni, CEO of Alpha Stripe, came to the U.S. from Lebanon with his family as a refugee six years ago.

Chmouni said his interest in creating stemmed from listening to his parents tell stories about conditions in Lebanon during the Lebanese Civil War.

"If my kids or grandkids want to hear those stories, they're not going to hear it from the people who experienced them firsthand," Chmouni said. "Think about (Alpha Stripe) as a time capsule for the human race to record their memories and stories for the future generations about anyone who's been in conflict or experienced a war-zone situation."

He said he hoped the platform would offer more of a up-close depiction of those who have experienced war.

Chmouni said the website allows users to connect with other users based on criteria such as the units they served with or a conflict they've been in.

"It's a lot easier to create a community once you have people that share common ground," Chmouni said. "(Users with common ground) are at the same emotional and mental state, which allows them to connect much easier."

He said the company's goal is to reach 30 million users by 2017.

Chinnici, chief marketing officer of Alpha Stripe, was deployed twice to Iraq between 2004 and 2008.

In light of his own experiences with post-traumatic stress disorder and assimilating with civilian life, Chinnici said the website offers veterans a way to comfortably share their war-time stories and helps bridge the communication gap between veterans and civilians.

"As soon as I walk into a room and know there's another veteran there, I can open up and share (war) stories," Chinnici said.

He said he was surprised by the diverse multimedia posted on the website, ranging from World War II and Pearl Harbor content to photos and stories about Iraq and Afghanistan.

Chinnici said it's important to offer a more detailed perspective into the intricacies of life in war-torn countries.

"We're not getting a lot of the stories about (war) conflicts from the ground troops," Chinnici said. "We're getting the stories from 15-minute (news) segments, which don't fully convey ... all the emotions and people involved in conflicts."


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