“It was the best problem-solving experience of my life,” he says of his time in the service. “I think that you learn early on that if you’re not getting shot at and the house isn’t on fire, there is a way out.”
Sometimes, that meant metaphorically jumping off a cliff and building his wings on the way down, but pushing the limits, rallying teamwork, and becoming comfortable with risk made for a master class in business as well as on the battlefield. Above all else Chris learned that “the team matters. Nothing great can be achieved without a good, strong team.”
On the latest episode of The Innovators Radio Show and Podcast, Chris, who is also an adjunct professor at Georgetown University teaching Hacking for Defense, talked about bringing that battlefield experience into the boardroom in an effort to inject speed and agility into the bureaucracy behind the boots on the ground.
As Chris explained, the work is critical: “Our enemies know us pretty well. They exploit the seams in our culture, they exploit the seams in our politics, they exploit the seams in our economics and sometimes the bureaucracy of itself cannot respond fast enough.”
Govini’s answer is to empower the government to make quicker and smarter business decisions using data science. For example, Govini gives the Army’s Office of Business Transformation the tactical information it needs to make cost-efficient moves that free up resources to be invested in the people on the ground.
With data, The Army “could see themselves better and be able to respond to the various calls for efficiencies,” Chris explained.
Equally important is context, understanding the problem you’re trying to solve and the people you’re trying to solve it for, as well as what their story is, Chris said. “We’re not just delivering a bunch of data analysis, we’re delivering a story with that data analysis that makes sense, that makes options clear to the leaders who have to make real decisions because they affect lives.”
Doing this work successfully means carefully blending a team of people steeped in very different startup, tech and government cultures. While Chris has an edge in that regard, given his experience as a Marine, a startup founder and academic, one thing matters above all else: He’s careful to focus on the company’s mission and outcomes.
“Being busy is not a substitute for solving a problem,” he says.
To hear more about Chris’ journey as a mission-driven entrepreneur, click on his full interview here or skip to the time stamps below.
5:30: Why the military is a great training ground for an entrepreneur
18:44: How following the most interesting opportunities gets you to your best place.
23:03: What goes into building a world-class startup team
26:43: The key to blending cultures: “People don’t care what you’re wearing when you’re there to help them with something”
30:51: “Those days sucked” — lessons learned from startup failure
34:02: What happens when you take the time to understand someone’s story
41:01 — Why these two books are required reading for all employees at Govini
51:00 — Why the key to success is focusing on outcomes
The Innovators Radio Show and Podcast highlights the best and brightest mission-driven entrepreneurs — people dedicated to making the world a better place. The show airs Mondays at 11 am PT/2 pm ET on Stanford University radio station KZSU, 90.1 FM, and is streamed at kzsu.org, Past episodes are archived here.