Kurien Thomas
Robinson Secondary School
Fairfax, Virginia
12th Grade
Second Place Winner, Virginia

The Founder: Why George Washington is a Better Entrepreneur than Dr. Dre

In his book The Tipping Point, Malcolm Gladwell discusses three kinds of people that cause ideas to grow quickly: Mavens, Connectors, and Salesmen. Mavens are experts; they have all the information and seek to pass it on to others. Connectors spread ideas and serve as bridges between the experts and the rest of the world. Lastly, Salesmen succeed in getting information across by engaging and persuading others. These archetypes embody the image of a successful entrepreneur. Two individuals who have exemplified these archetypes and made significant impacts in society are Dr. Dre and George Washington. Not only was George Washington responsible for the founding of the United States, but he also built an agricultural empire that spurred innovation in the rural economy. Andre Young, otherwise known as Dr. Dre, made a long-lasting mark on the music industry through his works as a producer and his Beats by Dre brand. While both individuals transformed society through their accomplishments, George Washington prevails as the better entrepreneur due to his ability to harness each element of a Maven, Connector, and a Salesman in helping rural America thrive.

The Maven archetype is the foundational characteristic for great entrepreneurs. As mavens, entrepreneurs explore issues in their communities and find potential areas for improvement. Both Washington and Dr. Dre had an innate sense of innovation that allowed them to make revolutionary changes in society. Washington unleashed his maven personality by “reading everything he [could] on innovative farming techniques”[1] like the crop rotation and gristmill systems, and used them to increase his farm’s overall productivity and become a major manufacturer of flour and distilled whisky. By being up-to-date with his crop markets, Washington was able to respond to the falling prices of tobacco caused by British competition, and take an entrepreneurial risk in abandoning the common cash crop of tobacco and switching to grains in 1766.[2] Through his innovative practices, George Washington built Mount Vernon to become a model for advanced agricultural business. Like Washington, Dr. Dre was also a maven who pursued his passion for music by listening to other rappers and learning how to produce his own beats at a very young age. Dre’s own experiences, deejaying at the Eve After Dark club[3] and producing funky and bass-driven beats for groups like Aftermath Records, motivated him to use his music expertise and launch Beats Electronics, LLC—a company valued at over “$3.2 billion”[4]. However, Dr. Dre was not like Washington in that he did not apply himself to his industry. George Washington complemented his business skills with technical knowledge by researching and designing new fertilization and husbandry methods. On the other hand, Dre has had no experience with the mechanics behind audio technology and merely manages the ‘Beats’ brand through the popularity of his celebrity-name. In fact, a technology firm called Monster, was responsible for designing the Beats headphone speaker and educating Dre about its technology.[5] Unlike Dr. Dre, George Washington is a more complete entrepreneur because he complemented his business skills by immersing himself in the technical details.

While entrepreneurs are well-versed individuals in their industry, they are also brilliant Connectors who network with others to effectively market their ideas. George Washington and Dr. Dre both built valuable relationships to expand their sphere of influence. During the launch of Beats Electronics, Dr. Dre provided a number of the company’s headphones to top celebrities like Lebron James, Pharrell Williams, Gwen Stefani, and Will.i.am.[6] In addition, Dre’s works as a producer shaped the careers of artists like Eminem, 50-Cent, and Snoop Dogg, and transformed them into hip-hop icons.[7] The huge product placement of Beats headphones in mainstream media and Dre’s association with famous individuals are primary factors for his success and the popularity of the Beats brand. However, unlike Dr. Dre who relied on his celebrity connections to make Beats a success, George Washington built valuable relationships from the bottom rung of industry to the frontline of American legislature to push the United States towards agricultural and technological innovation. Throughout the late 1700s, Washington worked with his plantation manager, James Anderson, to execute a business strategy for his whiskey-distillery business,[8] and he fostered personal relationships with British innovators like Arthur Young to promote trade within American farms.[9] Through the social groundwork he built as a legislator and a plantation owner, Washington presents himself as the ultimate Connector since he networked to find the right people to solve a collective problem rather than to ensure profitability.

Gladwell’s final group of people, the Salesmen, is paramount to the development of the ultimate entrepreneur, not necessarily because of their ability to persuade, but because of their ability to promote their beliefs and make a difference in their community. Both Dr. Dre and Washington made significant social returns in the United States with their sense of vision for their industry. Dr. Dre took a risk in entering a low-profit margin market; however, his strong marketing skills enabled him to build a company that has sold between 15 million to 20 million headphones since 2008.[10] Dre’s skills as a strong salesman are evident in that he influenced a dense market segment into buying a product that encourages luxury and customization. However, it excludes individuals who cannot afford its price tag of up to $500.[11] Although Washington also capitalized on his persuasive abilities, he used them to make the agricultural economy flourish as a whole. As an advocate for the agricultural sector, Washington ensured he fulfilled his responsibility of disseminating his works at Mount Vernon to help farmers everywhere. On March 1, 1785, Washington became an honorary member of the Philadelphia Society for the Promotion of Agriculture and shared the performance of his own farming practices at Mount Vernon to assist other farms in increasing their yield and productivity. His efforts as an effective salesman are clear in that he embraced innovation and aimed to honor those who did the same. In 1796, Washington proposed the creation of a “national agricultural organization to publicize farming practices and offer rewards for innovative ideas”[12]. Washington made significant contributions to American society as an entrepreneur by using his salesmen characteristic to transform his passion into influence. Through all of his endeavors to empower the American farmer and boost America's economy, Washington’s strong sense of advocacy and the execution of his ideas make it clear that he is the better salesman, and ultimately the better entrepreneur. 

Entrepreneurship enables an individual to achieve the elements of a Maven, Connector, and a Salesperson. Together, they empower an individual to become a leader and effect change in the community. Washington and Dre are two entrepreneurs that initiated groundbreaking ventures through their ability to explore their industry and initiate action within its community. While both individuals made significant entrepreneurial contributions, Washington used his Maven, Connector, and Salesmen personalities to change the overall course of the American economy. Washington invested himself in looking for opportunities to cultivate natural resources and agricultural production for his own economic interest and for the nation and for the surrounding community. Understanding Washington’s entrepreneurial contributions elucidate his endeavors as President of the United States, where he fought for liberty advocated for a constitutional structure in which fosters innovation and encourages individuals to develop their many talents. George Washington will go down in history as one of the greatest entrepreneurs because of his ability to pursue learning, networking, and advocating about his passion for the American economy.

 

[1] "George Washington the Farmer." George Washington's Mount Vernon. Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association, n.d. Web. 14 Jan. 2017.

[2] "George Washington the Farmer." George Washington's Mount Vernon. Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association, n.d. Web. 14 Jan. 2017.

[3] Dodds, Colin. "Dr Dre: Early Life and Education." Investopedia. Investopedia, LLC, 28 Mar. 2016. Web. 14 Jan. 2017.

[4] Savov, Vlad. "The Epic Visual History of Beats by Dre." The Verge. Vox Media, Inc., 9 May 2014. Web. 14 Jan. 2017.

[5] Lowensohn, Josh. "Monster Sues Beats and Co-founders Dr. Dre and Jimmy Iovine for Fraud." The Verge. Vox Media, Inc., 06 Jan. 2015. Web. 14 Jan. 2017.

[6] Helm, Burt. "How Dr. Dre's Headphones Company Became a Billion-Dollar Business." Inc. Inc. Magazine, 25 May 2014. Web. 15 Jan. 2017.

[7] Richards, Chris. "Dr. Dre Might Be the 'first Billionaire in Hip-hop,' but What Exactly Does That Mean for Hip-hop?" The Washington Post. WP Company, 9 May 2014. Web. 31 Jan. 2017.

[8] "James Anderson." George Washington's Mount Vernon. Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association, n.d. Web. 26 Jan. 2017.

[9] Lengel, Edward G. "George Washington's 5 Lessons of Entrepreneurship." Time. Time, Inc., 1 Feb. 2016. Web. 26 Jan. 2017.

[10] Tonner, Andrew. "Was Apple's Beats Buyout Worth More Than Money?" The Motley Fool. The Motley Fool, 24 Sept. 2015. Web. 31 Jan. 2017.

[11] Batavla, Usama. "The Real Story Behind The Success Of Beats By Dr.Dre." Tech News Today: Technology With An Edge. Tech News Today, 31 Mar. 2015. Web. 31 Jan. 2017.

[12] Flammini, Diego. "George Washington’s Contributions to Farming and Agriculture." Farms.com. Farms.com, Ltd., 23 Feb. 2015. Web. 31 Jan. 2017.