Sharq Tanq

Entrepreneurship education used to be solely about starting for-profit businesses. That changed in the early 2000s. Instead of focusing on a single desired outcome, the discipline shifted its emphasis to human development. The spirit of this movement was captured by Guy Kawasaki, a member of the Apple team which developed the Mac computer. In his book Rules for Revolutionaries, Kawasaki wrote, “Entrepreneurship is the mindset of individuals who want to alter the future.”

In response, universities started offering courses in corporate entrepreneurship, social entrepreneurship and public entrepreneurship. Whether operating in a complex organization such as a Fortune 500 company, a mission driven not-for-profit entity or in the public sector, students were taught the value of opportunity recognition and problem solving based on the Timmons model of entrepreneurship: balancing opportunity with team and resources.

Being a political animal, I looked for occasions to demonstrate the efficacy of entrepreneurial thinking and behavior in the realm of governance and public policy. One such opportunity was the U.S. invasion of Iraq, 20 years ago today (Monday, March 20). I developed a lesson plan in which I asked students to think about the war effort as an entrepreneurial venture. I had not thought about this classroom moment for years until watching a rerun of Shark Tank on CNBC. And realized, if I were going to do something similar today I would fashion it after that show. Consider the following.

ANNOUNCER: Entering the Shark Tank are George W. Bush and Dick Cheney. Their company is called “Middle East Democracy” and  they believe they have come up with a unique way to introduce an old product to a new market.

BUSH: Hi, my name is George W. Bush. You can call me W. This is my partner Dick Cheney. We are bringing democracy to the Middle East. We are looking for a $1.5 trillion investment in exchange for the honor of being part of this noble enterprise.

MARK CUBAN: Mighty impressive. How did you come up with this idea?

BUSH: I got it from my Daddy. He dreamed about it since he was CIA director. For a short time in August 1990, he even tried to do it himself, but just couldn’t take it far enough.

KEVIN O’LEARY: As you know, Mr. Wonderful is interested in one thing, making money. How can I get my investment back and make a profit?

CHENEY: Easy. Just buy a few thousand shares of Haliburton, Raytheon and General Dynamics. That’s where most of the investment is going anyway. You’ll be counting your ROI faster than you can say “yellowcake low-grade uranium.”

BARBARA CORCORAN: Tell me about your sales so far?

BUSH: Well…

BARBARA: Do you at least have some orders?

BUSH: Well…

CHENEY: Let me handle this, son. Everybody loves democracy, especially American democracy. Those folks will welcome our troops, er, I mean sales reps, as soon as they land, oops, arrive.

ROBERT HERJAVEC: The Middle East is a very large market. Have you thought about a pilot program in just one country? I’d like to see some evidence of proof of concept before investing.

BUSH: Yes, sir! We thought we’d start in Iraq. Low hanging fruit, not to mention political opponents.

LORI GREINER: Tell me about your team. Are they prepared to take on such as big challenge?

CHENEY: Great team. Condi Rice. Colin Powell. Don Rumsfeld. And General Tommy Franks. The troops, damn it, account reps, could use some more training and samples, but sometimes you have to go to market with the sales force you have, not the one you need.

LORI:  How are you acquiring your  customers?

CHENEY:  We use guerilla marketing.  We simply drop in (some literally by parachute) and take over the market.

KEVIN: I’m still not sold. Anything else.

BUSH: They wanted to kill my Daddy.

CHENEY: Not sure that’s what he was looking for, boy. How about this? Truth is these guys are developing weapons of mass destruction. Nukes. Chemicals. While we’re bringing them democracy we can confiscate their weapons, and maybe a few billion barrels of oil.


KEVIN: I’m just not sure it’s sustainable.

BUSH: It doesn’t have to be sustainable. We’ll have 100 percent of the market in less than a year. You’ll see. Before you can say “Saddam Hussein,” there will be “Mission Accomplished” signs everywhere.

KEVIN: Okay. You’ve got yourself a deal!

“Middle East Democracy” UPDATE:  The business shut down after eight years and a total investment of $2.4 trillion.  Neither Iraq nor any other Middle East country is currently importing democracy from the United States.  On the bright side, the region has not exported a terrorist attack to the U.S. since 2001.  When asked if they planned any future activity in America, an Al Qaida spokesperson responded, “How do you expect us to compete in your country when the market is dominated by domestic suppliers?”

For what it’s worth.

2 thoughts on “Sharq Tanq

  1. VERY clever!! You’re obviously ready for entrepreneurial thinking in governance and we certainly need your help.

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