September 1, 2021

A’ndre Gonawela and Ryan Rosenthal, the enterprising hosts at Burn Bag Podcast, invited me on the show recently for an in-depth chat about how to hasten defense innovation using a startup mindset. Their podcast exists to open up a “burn bag” of unconventional topics with various thought leaders to better understand particular policy, defense or technological issues. Their listeners include just the types of people we at BMNT love speaking to: university and graduate-level students, young professionals, and innovators, all eager to use their skills to do good. This was a great way to share the real need for risk-taking, barrier-breaking mindsets to help solve our country’s most pressing challenges.  

During our conversation, I shared a bit about how my personal history in academics, the military, and later leading the Army’s Rapid Equipping Force set me up for the mindset I have today to direct our work and set our vision at BMNT. I was also able to help clarify the bottlenecks in traditional acquisition slowdowns, share some war stories that highlighted the need for revising old mindsets, and relate my experience into six takeaways for startups.

I’m always impressed by the level of excitement and dedication found in the up-and-coming generation of innovators, and my hosts at Burn Bag only furthered that positive feeling.

Check out the full conversation here, or skip to the time stamps below. I hope you enjoy the conversation as much as I did.

8:23: How I became an entrepreneur 

11:52: A primer on the Army’s Rapid Equipping Force -- what it was and why it mattered

13:47:  The innovation bottleneck --  It’s not about sourcing and acquiring, it’s the requirement system

16:00: The impetus for founding BMNT

21:59: War story example: how deadly remote resupply missions led to the clean energy program: 

25:04: The challenge of innovation inside the DoD

28:26: Why civil-military fusion is key to maintaining the country’s competitive edge

34:42: 6 key takeaways for dual-use startups

40:18: How Hacking for Defense is helping change the future of defense innovation 

47:01: Advice for working at the intersection of national security and technology innovation

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