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Happy Thanksgiving! 5 Entrepreneurs To Be Thankful For!

publication date: Nov 27, 2014
author/source: Brian Nelson, CFA

By Brian Nelson, CFA

“Global Entrepreneurship Week” was November 17-23 this year, and the U.S. Congress continues to work diligently to establish the third Tuesday in November a national holiday celebrating the contributions of entrepreneurs to the U.S. as well as "honor those entrepreneurs who ignite innovation and inspire the next generation." Today, this Thanksgiving, we wanted to celebrate the contributions of 5 entrepreneurs to be thankful for this holiday season. Feel free to add your favorite entrepreneur to this list as well and any obscure fact you want to share about him or her. The list is not meant to be comprehensive, but entertaining and educational. Please don’t forget to answer the bonus question below.

Be sure to enjoy this special day with friends and family!

1) Henry Ford.

Henry Ford is credited for developing the assembly line and mass production. If you can’t imagine riding a horse in below-zero weather in the case of an emergency, turn on the heat in your car this winter and be thankful!

Did You Know? Henry Ford did not develop the automobile. He developed the first automobile that many middle class Americans could afford to buy. He was also very good to his workers, offering high wages in his time.

My Favorite Quote: “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.”

2) Thomas Alva Edison and George Westinghouse/Nikola Tesla.

These gentlemen pioneered electric power distribution (DC and AC, respectively). If you’re happy to have electricity and all that it powers, be thankful. Though I give credit to all three for this invention, Westinghouse may be the purest entrepreneur of the three. 

Did You Know? AC technology is the standard for transmission. Edison actually lost the battle against Westinghouse/Tesla, despite a pretty gruesome smear campaign. Yet, we often hear more about Edison, fair or not. Look up the ‘War of Currents’ for an interesting read.

My Favorite Quote: “I have not failed 10,000 times. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” -- Edison

My Favorite Quote: "If someday they say of me that in my work I have contributed something to the welfare and happiness of my fellow man, I shall be satisfied." -- Westinghouse

3) Steve Jobs.

I like Steve Jobs for what he did in the face of adversity. When he was let go from Apple in 1985, he created a new computer company NeXT. Apple, which had struggled mightily since Jobs left the firm, ended up buying NeXT in 1996, restoring the great leader. Jobs is an inspiration on so many levels.

Did You Know? Shortly after he was fired from Apple in the mid-1980s, he funded a new spin-off of Lucasfilm called Pixar.

My Favorite Quote: “Here's to the crazy ones, the misfits, the rebels, the troublemakers, the round pegs in the square holes... the ones who see things differently -- they're not fond of rules... You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them, but the only thing you can't do is ignore them because they change things... they push the human race forward, and while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius, because the ones who are crazy enough to think that they can change the world, are the ones who do.”

4) Alexander Graham Bell and Thomas Watson.

These gentlemen pioneered the telephone. Think about all of the convenience we have today with our smart phones, from texts to mobile commerce and beyond. It all started with them. The size of the telecommunications industry today is absolutely massive.

Did You Know? Most historians agree that if you could have one piece of modern technology in the Civil War, it wouldn’t be a machine gun or bullet proof vest. But it’d be a walkie-talkie. One walkie-talkie could have changed the history of the US. That’s how important the telephone was.

My Favorite Quote: "Before anything else, preparation is the key to success."

5) George Eastman.

Of Eastman Kodak fame, he created the Brownie, the first camera that anyone could afford. He popularized low-cost photography. Without Mr. Eastman, we would not have Facebook today. 

Did You Know? Kodak filed for bankruptcy in January 2012. Facebook’s market capitalization is now ~$216 billion at the time of this writing.

My Favorite Quote: “What we do during our working hours determines what we have; what we do in our leisure hours determines what we are.”

Bonus Question:

At least one well-known capitalist is NOT thankful for this invention. Name the capitalist and the invention. Take a guess!

a) The Panama Canal

b) The Wright Brothers airplane

c) The Birth of Radio

d) The First Talking Movie

Honorable Mention:

Uncle Sam - The U.S. Government.

It was the Department of Agriculture (DOA) that funded research for penicillin to be mass produced in industrial quantities. Sir Alexander Hamilton discovered penicillin and Andrew Moyer helped mass-produce it. Penicillin saved thousands of lives during World War II. Because of Moyer’s work at the DOA, 2.3 million doses of penicillin were available in time for the Allied invasion of Normandy.

Did You Know? Penicillin is a group of antibiotics derived from fungi.

Final note: It’s probably important to give credit for Jonas Salk and the University of Pittsburg for the polio vaccine. Inventors and entrepreneurs are often one and the same, it appears.

Happy Turkey Day!

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