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Entrepreneurship and National Security

on April 28, 2010 Source: Policy Dialogue on Entrepreneurship

The University of California – San Diego hosted Richard Boly on April 26 at the UCDC center for a presentation on “Why Entrepreneurship is a National Security Initiative.” Our report of the event follows:

Richard Boly, Director of the Office of eDiplomacy at the U.S. Department of State discussed, based on his personal experience promoting entrepreneurship in Italy and as a former entrepreneur in Ecuador, how exporting entrepreneurship stimulates growth in the world's emerging economies and consequently, shrinks the root causes of terrorism.

Boly’s argument was clear when he pointed out a commonality between terrorists and entrepreneurs: they are both trying to do the impossible. “Terrorism and entrepreneurship are two sides of the same coin,” he said. “The difference is context.” He showed data from a University of Oxford study which revealed that terrorists’ top choice of university studies is engineering (40% of the sample studied). Others studied business. It appears that the profile of members of terrorist organizations is similar to that of members of a business incubator.

The challenge lies in fostering more “virtuous entrepreneurship” (e.g. Silicon Valley, United Way) and lessening the incentives to engage in “non-virtuous entrepreneurship” (e.g. mafia, terrorism). According to Boly, the U.S. can and should export scalable entrepreneurship based on the assumptions that a) building an entrepreneurial ecosystem is possible, b) the U.S. leads in bottom-up, market-based creation of high growth companies, c) U.S. embassies are well suited as honest brokers to promote the growth of indigenous entrepreneurial ecosystems networked to U.S. counterparts, and d) promoting entrepreneurship abroad focuses on fulfillment of American ideals and is good for public diplomacy.

When asked by the audience whether the U.S. should overcome the challenge of building the institutions necessary to support successful entrepreneurship prior to focusing on promoting new business creation abroad, Boly explained that the vision is that expanding entrepreneurship will great a bottom-up momentum for institution building. Allowing people to see firsthand why institutions are important should prove to be more effective than the traditional Washington Consensus approach in which institution building is top-bottom. Experience with the Washington Consensus has shown that people at the bottom failed to see the benefit of the new institutions.

Boly’s ideas resonate with Jonathan Ortmans’ call for using U.S. expertise in entrepreneurship as tool for diplomacy. You can access Ortmans' article on the topic, here.

Category:  General 

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