The Entrepreneurs Who Built America

fordMaybe all we need is some sharp pain to trigger our minds into serious entrepreneurship that will catapult our economic growth rate in the next decade. The other day a very close buddy of mine recommended that I watch a documentary called The Men Who Built America. I do not regret having spent a considerable amount of time from work to sit and watch this documentary. What the documentary teaches you on entrepreneurship is a lot; but let’s talk about what it does not teach you.

The men who built America were outright capitalists with a deep desire to win and nothing could stand on their way. The date is April 9th 1865 and the US had just come out of the civil war which lasted for about 5 years. The country was bare with no infrastructure in most parts of the US, no electricity, no vehicles for common man, not even paraffin oil was available for use to light lamps in households. Now that sounds like some very remote village in the Congo Rainforest; but that was the US some 150 years ago. The US had not tasted nor dreamt of civilization as we can define it today.

But a few men of valor took it up to themselves to lay down the foundation of what we see as modern day United States of America; the global economic super power. In no particular order, the men included a Cornelius Vanderbilt, John D. Rockefeller, Andrew Carnegie, J.P. Morgan, Thomas Edison and Henry Ford among others.

Vanderbilt focused on railways and he did a good job in connecting most of the US through railway lines. John D. Rockefeller started processing oil and created the oldest and the world’s largest oil company Standard Oil. His oil and later paraffin and gasoline would use Vanderbilt’s railway lines as distribution channels to access different parts of the US. Rockefeller would then become the hero who lit homes across the US! But his superiority would only last until Thomas Edison invented the light bulb that used electricity and the wheels of history turned.

Carnegie built the largest steel company that provided building frames for skyscrapers that were now mushrooming in urban areas as people sought employment in cities after the civil war. Maybe Carnegie would be remembered most for building the first bridge made from steel metal frames across the Mississippi River long before there was electricity for welding purposes. To confirm to people that it actually was strong enough; he had to bring an elephant to pass across the bridge first then people followed on.

J.P Morgan as his family is well known today; he was the master of the financial markets. He knew how to invest wisely and create wealth and his role in building America was financing projects both in the public and private sectors. One of the earliest investments was in General Electric which he actually tricked Thomas Edison out of and changed the name to the current one. Henry Ford invented the assembly line and with that dawned the era of mass production of not only the Ford vehicles, but other consumer goods too such as candy and cakes.

These men did a great deal in laying the foundation upon which the US stands today; and by extension most of what we enjoy today in other parts of the world came from their innovations.

The men who built America were not just business men trading goods and services from one market to the other; they were creatives innovating new ways to solve challenging situations in their times and stopping at nothing until they had the break-through they so much desired. These men were not buying and selling pieces of land to earn a living; they were instead creating solutions for the mass market and scaling their solutions to the whole of US and the rest of the world. These men were not surviving on government tenders; they were focused on actual gaps in the market that they could fill and devised ways to do so sustainably.

These men did not copy paste each other’s business ideas; they learnt the tenets of specialization and division of labor in order to shorten the learning curve, master their chosen trade and execute it like no other person in their industry. In the event that someone decided to trespass into their sectors, they crashed them mercilessly either through the stock market or hostile takeovers. Literary, no stones were left un-turned when it came to growing their businesses and creating a competitive edge.

These are the men who built America. They were a true definition of ENTREPRENEURS and they understood the rudiments of ENTREPRENEURSHIP.

“You’ve got to know when to hold ’em; Know when to fold ’em; Know when to walk away; And know when to run..” – Kenny Rodgers

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