This post is part of the “Coming Home” series, profiling members of the military who have successfully transitioned from active duty to civilian lives. “Coming Home” is sponsored by USAA. Read more posts in the series »
Former Airman First Class John Keh, a partner at the start-up food delivery service Caviar, learned everything he needed to know about logistics and operations while serving as a geospatial analyst for the U.S. Air Force.
“I worked with a lot of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and other types of reconnaissance aircraft analysing the battlefield, looking at the terrain, and measuring routes of ingress and egress,” Keh told Business Insider. “That directly tied into my work now at Caviar, of looking at maps and routes, trying to make everything as efficient as possible.”
While in college, Keh never imagined that this would be his path his life. Having graduated from the University of California at Berkeley with a degree in political economies of industrialized societies in 2008, Keh planned on working in China doing finance.
“When I got out from school, the economy was terrible. I worked at a mutual fund company, I didn’t enjoy it, and I wanted to make a change,” Keh said.
His family’s long military history presented another option. Male members of his family have served in the military as far back as anyone can remember and possibly much longer.
“My last name is apparently the same character as the first military strategist during the Three Kingdoms War in ancient China,” Keh noted.
In modern memory Keh’s grandfather served in the Chinese Nationalist Army during World War Two before joining the military in Taiwan. Keh’s father followed suit serving in Taiwan before immigrating to the U.S.
So, with some pressure from his father, Keh enlisted with the Air Force in April 2009. It was there that he realised his true passion lay not in finance but in logistics and operations.
“Geospatial analysis was so interesting and I learned so much,” Keh said. “I realised my calling was in logistics, which I love now. I learned everything I use now during my time in the Air Force.”
After serving for four years in the Air Force in such disparate locations as South Korea and Germany, Keh left the military in May 2013. His original plan of working in military contracting quickly fell by the wayside when his friend, and founder of Caviar, offered to bring him in for an interview working in logistics.
Caviar charges $9.99 per delivery for service from hip restaurants that often don’t appear on competitors like GrubHub. The online ordering startup launched last year in San Francisco and is now active in New York City, Seattle, Chicago, and Washington, D.C.
Working at Caviar, Keh realised that coordinating delivery routes and strategies across cities involved similar skills to monitoring troop movements and supply lines.
“Caviar is a food delivery service, so I’m analysing routes for how to deliver as efficiently as possible,” Keh said. “I’m helping draw up geographic boundaries for where deliveries should go to keep the food fresh.”
Keh spoke to Business Insider while running between photoshoots for the company in Los Angeles, where he was helping to develop operations for the city and map out delivery zones. He is also expanding delivery areas throughout upper Manhattan and Brooklyn this summer.
By the end of this year, Caviar is hoping to expand to most major metropolitan areas throughout the country. Caviar is even “eyeing international markets by next year,” he said.
“For me,” Keh said, “Caviar is a good fit. It is a perfect balance of using the logistic skills I learned in the Air Force while also providing a product that everyone wants.”
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