Entrepreneur Erik Prince is controversial in many Liberal circles and revered by most Conservatives. One thing’s for certain, he’s incredibly accomplished as an entrepreneur, having built the biggest private military contracting firm in US history and now leading Frontier Services Group – a logistics company primarily operating in Africa. In a past interview, he humorously dubbed the service he provides in Africa as being ‘grocery delivery’ – a true statement, but highly understating the mission his company accomplishes (imagine having to deliver food, water, and energy in the DRC – one of the world’s most dangerous and corrupt countries).
I’ve listened to countless Erik Prince interviews, presentations and read his book Civilian Warriors. I’ve also read Jeremy Scahill’s scathing critique of Prince in the book Blackwater: The Rise of the World’s Most Powerful Mercenary Army (I don’t share his view on Blackwater, but Jeremy is a talented writer nonetheless).
Prince sold Blackwater several years back after the Obama administration put tremendous political pressure on his organization by trying to make him a sacrificial American lamb of the Iraq War. Congress attempted to throw Prince under the bus for the ‘Nisour Square Massacre’ (read up here).
Prince, for a brief period, was reported to be an unofficial advisor to the Trump administration, and his sister, Betsy DeVos is the Secretary of Education. He comes from a family of entrepreneurs, namely his late father, Edgar Prince who founded Prince Corporation – a car part manufacturing company that outplayed the large American autos by building quality products more efficiently. The corporation employed thousands at its peak and demonstrated to a young Erik the importance of incorporating efficiencies in production and the overall organization, and how to avoid becoming a bureaucracy like so many successful companies inevitably do.
Erik Prince is one of the more outspoken proponents of the free market and the benefits it can bring to any industry – particularly those which are dominated by government. No surprise, he has bright ideas about modernizing the U.S. military and making it more efficient. His recent presentation at Oxford is a gem for entrepreneurs. Prince articulates, with real world examples, how entrepreneurs are great problem solvers for any bloated industry, as well as provides background how the so-called mercenary industry came to be. Hint: it has been around for hundreds of years and always thrived when governments couldn’t afford to operate a military. Financial hardship is the mother of new industries…
In addition to skillfully articulating the critical role of the entrepreneur in the West, and the pitfalls of societies which stifle entrepreneurship, Prince is a hell of a public speaker. There are many lessons from his Oxford presentation on how to effectively pitch an idea. It’s long, but every entrepreneur will garner at least one lasting takeaway from Erik Prince’s speech.
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