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Influences

A selection of the resources that inform and inspire us at MSP. 

These resources highlight the innovation, perseverance, history and insights of the leaders and entrepreneurs that have shaped our sector and beyond. We do not agree with every idea or analysis presented here, or regard the people profiled as flawless. We do study their experiences, analyses, insights, successes and mistakes, so that we can most effectively build upon their foundations.

@War: the Rise of the Military-Internet Complex

Exploration of the cyber domain's evolution, profiling significant events, institutions, and figures. The book probes the growing impact of cyber operations across U.S. corporate, government, and military realms. Discussion of the balance between security and privacy, alongside the overlapping interests of government and business. Harris covers the private sector's escalating role in cybersecurity, extending from defense to a broader business spectrum.

Acquired (Podcast) - S12:E05 - Lockheed Martin

Great discussion of the history of Lockheed Martin, focusing on Skunkworks, and the origins of Silicon Valley. Pairs well with Steve Blank's presentation - the Secret History of Silicon Valley.

Acquiring Minds Podcast

Will Smith hosts discussions with entrepreneurs who have acquired and built small businesses. Guests from varied backgrounds and industries, share insights on finding investment opportunities, enhancing business value post-acquisition and overcoming the challenges faced along the way.

Alfred Loomis - The Secret of Tuxedo Park (Documentary)

Loomis, a successful investment banker in the 1920s, turned to scientific innovation at his Tuxedo Park mansion. Ahead of WWII, he recruited scientists for critical military research and led the "Rad Lab" at MIT, developing technologies like microwave radar essential for the Allied victory. Pairs well with Founders episode #143.

America Fledges Wings: the History of the Daniel Guggenheim Fund for the Promotion of Aeronautics

A business leader, WWI pilot, visionary, and philanthropist, Harry Guggenheim foresaw America's potential for aviation leadership. In 1925, his Guggenheim Fund for the Promotion of Aeronautics invested strategically in education, technical research, infrastructure, and public awareness, including funding Goddard's rocketry research. Guggenheim's Fund helped propel America to the forefront, shaping the industry and its pivotal role in WWII and beyond.

Andrew Higgins: The American Noah (Documentary)

Documentary about Andrew Higgins, a small business owner in Louisiana who had been building boats for shallow water industrial applications. His Higgins Industries adapted their Eureka boat to create the landing craft that proved crucial to US ability to land and fight on open beaches. By September 1943, 90% of all Navy craft were designed or built by Higgins Boats - an incredible contribution from a small businessman dubbed "America's Noah".

Architects of Information Advantage: The MITRE Corporation Since 1958

Corporate history of the first 40 years of MITRE, the non-profit corporation performing systems engineering for the military and civilian agencies. Covers MITRE's formation in the 50's at MIT, some of the history of the FFRDCs that MITRE operates, and looks at several case significant case studies over the years. MITRE later spun off Mitretek, which is now Noblis.

Arms and Innovation: Entrepreneurship and Alliances in the 21st Century Defense Industry

James Hasik presents a study on how small businesses can make major contributions to innovation in defense. He examines six case studies where smalls led programs, relying on their speed, agility, and innovative approaches, without the bureaucratic drag many large contractors might carry. His study emphasizes the roles alliances and teaming agreements can play.

Art of Contrary Thinking

"The Art of Contrary Thinking" by Humphrey Neill is a contrarian's guide to investing and life. Neill's book champions the power of independent thinking, showcasing its potential to offer a competitive edge in investing and beyond.

Art of Learning

"The Art of Learning" by Josh Waitzkin is a captivating exploration of the process of learning. Waitzkin, a world-class chess player and martial artist, shares his insights on mastery and growth, encapsulating the interplay of discipline, resilience, and passion.

Booz Allen Hamilton: Helping Clients Envision the Future

Corporate History of Booz Allen Hamilton, covering its roots from a small consultancy, to entering the government market during WWII, to the early 2000s.

Business Breakdowns (Podcast)

Business Breakdowns is a great podcast delivering in-depth explorations of various businesses, delving into their histories and distinctive operating models. Each episode features guest investors or operators with unique perspectives. Highlights include episodes on HEICO, Boeing, Constellation, and McKinsey.

Business of Science (Si Ramo Memoir)

Simon Ramo's memoir follows his path from GE engineer to Hughes Aerospace leader and TRW co-founder, instrumental in America's ICBM development. The book focuses on his wider contributions to national technology, moving beyond specific business dealings. It highlights the collaboration among industry, government, military, and academia in influencing U.S. technical leadership and national security.

CACI: Creation of An Opportunity

A brief corporate history of CACI written on its 60th anniversary covering its founding in 1962 to present day operations. Highlights how a focus on people, technical capabilities, and strategic M&A fueled CACI's growth. Pairs well with "Ever Vigilant", Jack London's memoir on leading CACI.

Chinese Industrial Espionage: Technology Acquisition and Military Modernization

Insightful analysis of China's extensive, long-term strategy for acquiring foreign technology. Examines China's multifaceted tactics involving government, quasi-governmental entities, corporations, and educational institutions, all contributing to a national agenda of technology assimilation. While densely detailed with specific program examples, the book's central thesis remains clear: it underscores the scale and sophistication of China's efforts to acquire and capitalize on foreign technology.

Chip War: the Fight for the World's Most Critical Technology

Overview of the semiconductor industry's evolution from Silicon Valley's innovation hub to Asia's manufacturing stronghold, especially Taiwan's crucial role in global production. The book contrasts the US emphasis on design and intellectual property with Asia's state-backed, manufacturing-focused strategy. Emphasizes our growing dependence on limited Asian suppliers, highlighting key geopolitical and economic risks.

Clear Thinking: Turning Ordinary Moments into Extraordinary Results

Shane Parrish, founder of Farnam Street, delivers a great read on how to make sound decisions, within the framework of our internal and external constraints. Lots of good tips, frameworks, and challenging questions. A good reference to return to when making big decisions. Complements many of the other books here on decision making (Farnam Street, Buffett, Scout Mindset, etc.).

Creative Act

Rick Rubin, a renowned music producer, may seem out of place among entrepreneurs and industrialists, yet he excels in eliciting top performances across music genres. His insights on fostering creativity and nurturing talent are valuable for investors and entrepreneurs in recognizing and cultivating new ventures.

Day & Zimmerman - 120 Years

Very brief corporate history celebrating 120 years of Day & Zimmerman. Highlights the rise of one the larger engineering and technical staffing companies from humble origins to 50,000+ employees.

Deep Survival: Who Lives, Who Dies, and Why

Deep Survival studies the mindset and strategies of those who have endured extreme life or death situations. This analysis offers an insightful framework for business owners navigating challenges in both business and life.

Delta of Power: the Military Industrial Complex

Alex Roland's review of the military-industrial complex covers the Cold War to post-9/11. He explores the interplay among the military, industry, and Congress, focusing on defense spending, technology trends, and contractor dynamics. Roland commends the complex's Cold War role and technology advancements but critiques risks of bloat, cronyism, and overreach.

Democracy's Arsenal - Creating a 21st Century Defense Industry

Gansler's work includes a great survey of the defense industry, and actionable calls for its reform. He touches on many elements (industry structure, budgeting process, workforce, technology, R&D, etc.) and analyses them in the context of America's military history, democracy and broader economy. Highly recommend.

Destructive Creation: American Business and the Winning of WWII

Wilson investigates the intricate dynamics between the US government and businesses during WWII. He argues that American war production was neither a sole triumph of free market capitalism nor the creation of a detrimental military-corporate bond, but a complex scenario marked by a fraught and sometimes acrimonious collaboration between business and government. Pairs well with "Freedom's Forge."

Distant Force: A Memoir of the Teledyne Corporation and the Man Who Created It (Henry Singleton)

Rare profile of how Henry Singleton built Teledyne - a conglomerate with significant interests across aerospace, defense, and a wide range of other businesses. He was a master capital allocator and operator, producing fantastic returns for shareholders for decades, through internal growth, acquisitions, buybacks and purchasing stocks.

Dynamic America: A History of General Dynamics Corporation and Its Predecessor Companies

Published in 1960, this book offers a compelling narrative on General Dynamics and its foundational entities, including Electric Boat Company and Convair. More than just a corporate history, it provides valuable insights into how transformative technologies—such as aviation, electrical engineering, and telecommunications—have shaped both the U.S. military and the broader commercial landscape. Set within the context of critical political and cultural shifts, and augmented by exceptional graphic design, this is an inspiring book for defense entrepreneurs and investors.

Ever Vigilant (Jack London memoir)

Jack London's memoir, chronicling his journey from a naval aviator to leading CACI as CEO and Chairman for multiple decades. He focused on recognizing IT's emerging role in national security, leveraging mergers and acquisitions, and fostering leadership and a supportive board. London's significant personal investment and ownership mindset were key to his success. Great read for those considering entrepreneurship through acquisition.

Farnam Street (Newsletter, Podcast and Books)

Shane Parrish leads a great platform sharing mental models and insights across entrepreneurship, self-improvement, and more.

Founders (Podcast)

The single best podcast we know of. David Senra's monologues on business biographies are a masterclass in how founders overcome challenges and build institutions. Many great lessons for entrepreneurs, investors, or anyone pursuing a challenging goal. We've listened to over 300 episodes.

Of particular interest are his episodes on Elon Musk, Henry Ford, the Wright Brothers, Andy Grove, Edwin Land, Henry Kaiser, Claude Shannon, Henry Singleton, Sam Colt, Alfred Nobel, William Shockley, and Vannevar Bush, as well as his sub-series on the auto industry.

Freedom's Forge - Arthur Herman speech at Mason Lecture Series

Author Arthur Herman speaks on his book "Freedom's Forge: How American Businesses Produced Victory in World War II". Herman tells the story of the dramatic response of US industry during the war effort to arm the US and our allies, emphasizing the unique benefits of private industry and its rapid responses across innovation and mass production.

Freedom's Forge: How American Business Produced Victory in WWII

"Freedom's Forge" praises the role of American industry in WWII, spotlighting industry leaders like William Knudson and Henry Kaiser for rapidly mobilizing US industrial might. The book details the major contractors' efforts—such as Ford and Boeing—and acknowledges the vast network of subcontractors. It also notes the workforce diversification with the inclusion of women and minorities, amidst the backdrop of labor, business, and government disputes.

From Predators to Icons: Exposing the Myth of the Business Hero

Unique study of a number of successful entrepreneurs. Highlights how successful entrepreneurs and investors often capitalize on career-defining opportunities by creatively stacking the odds in their favor. Challenges the notion that entrepreneurs are inherently "risk-takers", instead focusing on their ability to "create luck" by building opportunities with asymmetric risk/reward.

Grit

"Grit" by Angela Duckworth delves into the power of perseverance and passion. Duckworth's research-based insights affirm the value of tenacity and long-term commitment, challenging the primacy of talent and shining a light on the virtue of grit.

Hard Thing About Hard Things

A brutally honest guide to navigating entrepreneurship's toughest challenges, written by venture capitalist Ben Horowitz. This book is rich with first-hand experiences, offering real-world insights for founders and business leaders that go beyond traditional business principles.

Hidden Champions of the Twenty-First Century: The Success Strategies of Unknown World Market Leaders

"Hidden Champions of the Twenty-First Century" by Hermann Simon is a celebration of unsung business heroes. Simon's book highlights the extraordinary success strategies of lesser-known global market leaders, primarily among family-owned European manufacturing firms. Many parallels to niche component suppliers across the defense industrial base.

Hot Spot of Invention: Charles Stark Draper, MIT, and the Development of Inertial Guidance and Navigation

Pioneering engineer Charles Stark Draper, known as the "father of inertial navigation," revolutionized navigation for aircraft and spacecraft through his work on inertial systems. Leading MIT's Instrumentation Lab (later Draper Labs), his team developed the crucial Mark 14 gunsight for WWII anti-aircraft defense and the Apollo Guidance Computer.

How US Factories Out-Produced The World to Win WW2

Inspiring documentary covering how US businesses rapidly pivoted to massively expand defense production during WWII. Highlights the uniquely American and successful teaming among the government and private industry. Pairs well with Freedom's Forge. Many of the industrial assets and companies mentioned are still in production today.

How to Live an Asymmetric Life - Graham Weaver Speech

Graham Weaver, founder of Alpine Investors, gives an inspiring presentation on "How to Live an Asymmetric Life." His key points -- (1) Do hard things, (2) Do your thing, (3) Do it for Decades, and (4) Write your story -- are both inspiring for potential founders in our sector, and aligned with why we at MSP partner with entrepreneurs to make long term investments in businesses that are important for national defense.

How to Make a Few Billion Dollars

Brad Jacobs, the architect behind Waste Management, United Rentals, and XPO Logistics, shares key elements of his unique approach to building businesses. He reveals his strategies for identifying a strong industry thesis, managing talent effectively, leveraging growth through M&A, and mastering communication and meetings.

Innovation With Purpose: Lockheed Martin's First 100 Years

"Innovation With Purpose: Lockheed Martin's First 100 Years" is an inspiring chronicle of a centennial legacy marked by relentless innovation and ambition. The book encapsulates the essence of Lockheed Martin, unveiling the ethos and drive that propelled its enduring success.

Iron Triangle

"The Iron Triangle" by Dan Briody is an insightful examination of the interplay between politics, defense, and business. Briody probes the intricate dynamics of influence and power, shedding light on an often obscured aspect of governance and public policy.

Just Say Yes: What I've learned About Life, Luck, and the Pursuit of Opportunity - Bernard "Bob" Schwartz, Chairman & CEO of Loral

Bob Schwartz, chairman and CEO who built Loral, started as an accountant before becoming a dealmaker with Reliance Industries. In 1971, he acquired a controlling stake in struggling Loral, despite lacking defense or engineering experience. Using business acumen, he led a 178x return for shareholders, culminating in a 1995 sale to Lockheed. This marked one of history's longest corporate growth streaks. Loral founded GlobalStar, and units sold to Lockheed were later transferred to form L-3.

Kaleidoscope of Innovation: The Story of Leidos

Corporate history of Leidos.

Kill Chain: Defending America in the Future of High-Tech Warfare

"The Kill Chain" by Christian Brose offers an incisive exploration of modern warfare. Brose's analysis of the evolving landscape of high-tech defense paints a sobering picture of future conflicts, highlighting the urgent need for innovation and adaptation.

King of Capital

"King of Capital" by David Carey provides a gripping account of the private equity world through the lens of Blackstone. Carey's narrative chronicles the firm's rise, revealing the strategies, risks, and ambitions that shaped its extraordinary trajectory.

King of Oil: The Secret Lives of Marc Rich

A peek into the life of the Marc Rich, the contentious billionaire who founded Glencore and invented the spot market for oil. Rich was adept at using informational advantages to uncover opportunities with asymetric risk/reward payouts.

Legend of Litton Industries

"The Legend of Litton Industries" by Jeffrey Rodengen unravels the intriguing story of an industry giant. This compelling narrative blends business strategy, innovation, and the dynamic forces of corporate evolution, shedding light on a unique American success story. Note that Henry Singleton spent part of his career at Litton, before launching Teledyne, and then later acquired a major stake back in Litton.

Made in the USA: The Rise and Retreat of American Manufacturing

Vaclav Smil offers a sobering analysis of American manufacturing's history through the first decade of the 21st century. Smil meticulously charts its rise and decline, highlighting some of the hidden costs of outsourcing production. Good context and applicable lessons for the defense industrial base and other strategic American industries.

Margin of Trust: The Berkshire Business Model

"Margin of Trust: The Berkshire Business Model" offers an enlightening dissection of the business model of Berkshire Hathaway. It provides a detailed examination of the principles and practices that have allowed the company to gain a significant edge in the market.

Meditations

"Meditations" by Marcus Aurelius stands as a classic tome, interweaving personal introspection and philosophical wisdom. Aurelius' reflections on life, death, and the cosmos offer a mirror to the human condition and a compass for ethical living.

Northrop to Northrop Grumman - Kent Kresa (Presentation)

Kent Kresa, former CEO and Chairman of Northrop Grumman, gives an excellent presentation of their M&A strategy and activity from the post-Cold War "Last Supper" through 2022. Great discussion of how he and his team built a thesis around key demand themes, and acquired and divested assets to build specific capabilities aligned with that thesis and create shareholder value.

Origins of Silicon Valley: Why and How it Happened (Presentation)

Historical overview of the unique mix of talent, technology, capital, and collaborative research that spurred Silicon Valley's development. Wesling profiles influential figures and companies, including Charles Litton, impacting both defense and commercial sectors. Pairs well with Steve Blank's "Secret History of Silicon Valley," which dives deeper into its ties to military technology and the defense industry and Chip War.

Origins of the Military - Industrial Complex (Daniel Else Presentation to Library of Congress)

Daniel Else, a specialist in national defense research for Congressional Research Service, gives a great presentation on the origins of the military-industrial complex. Many of the players, institutions and technologies he references went on to form the roots of today's leading agencies, laboratories, companies and systems.

Outsiders: Eight Unconventional CEOs and Their Radically Rational Blueprint for Success

"The Outsiders" by William Thorndike presents a refreshing perspective on corporate leadership. Through the stories of eight unconventional CEOs, Thorndike demystifies the alchemy of outstanding success, illuminating the power of radical rationality and independent thinking.

Prize: The Epic Quest for Oil, Money & Power (Miniseries)

A documentary mini-series adapted from Dan Yergin's "The Prize," tracing the oil industry's evolution from its beginnings to the early 1990s. It intertwines the industry's development with geopolitics, economics, the defense industry, and the broader American industrial narrative. Notably, the series concludes with a 1990s interview where an oilman expresses doubt about the future of American oil production—ironically just before hydraulic fracturing revitalized the industry.

RAND - Making a Difference

Recent 75th anniversary publication by RAND highlighting 75 projects they have worked on, across military, civilian, and policy issues. Highlights the breadth of programs and research addressed by the government services sector, in this case a nonprofit think tank.

Rise and Fall of the Conglomerate Kings

Critical profiles of several iconic conglomerates including Textron, Litton Industries, LTV, Gulf & Western, ITT and Martin Marietta, detailing their operations from the 1950s - 1970s. Strongly focused on how they leveraged their stock and the financial markets to aggressively acquire. Many of the operating units of today's large aerospace & defense primes were owned, operated, and sold by the conglomerates profiled here. Interesting counterpoints to some of the other corporate histories on this list that paint a different picture of their successes.

SAIC Solution: Built by Employee Owners

"The SAIC Solution: Built by Employee Owners" by Robert Beyster offers a compelling narrative of an unusual corporate model. Beyster's account of SAIC's journey highlights the transformative potential of employee ownership, delivering a masterclass on people-centric corporate governance.

Science in the Service of Mankind: The Battelle Story

Corporate history covering the unique origin story of the Battelle Memorial Institute. Battelle pioneered a unique model - a nonprofit applied science and research entity. Battelle grew to contribute to many engineering innovations, from helping found Xerox to operating multiple national labs for DOE.

Science of Success: How market-Based Management Built the World's largest Private Company

"The Science of Success: How Market-Based Management Built the World's Largest Private Company" by Charles Koch provides a fascinating exploration of the unique management philosophy that propelled Koch Industries. It demystifies the principles that underpin its phenomenal growth and enduring success.

Scout Mindset

"The Scout Mindset" by Julia Galef is a fascinating study of cognitive agility. Galef presents a compelling case for intellectual honesty, curiosity, and flexibility, arguing that these are key to accuracy, growth, and effective decision-making.

Skunk Works

"Skunk Works" by Ben Rich provides a riveting insider's account of America's legendary aerospace operation. Rich's narrative is a tribute to technological ingenuity and bold engineering, capturing the thrill of innovation at its most audacious.

Slight Edge: Turning Simple Disciplines into Massive Success and Happiness

The Slight Edge highlights the compounding value of taking personal responsibility for your situation and choosing to make the right small decisions repeatedly over time. These choices gradually build into noticeable successes and relationships over time. Pairs well with other reads like Atomic Habits, Discipline Equals Freedom, and the Joys of Compounding. To quote Bill Walsh: "Champions behave like champions before they are champions. They have a winning standard of performance before they are winners."

Soldiers of Reason: The RAND Corporation and the Rise of the American Empire

History of the RAND Corporation, created to support the military, and later civilian agencies, in R&D. RAND was originally part of Douglas Aircraft, then spun off to form an independent nonprofit corporation with support from the Ford Foundation. The think tank was particularly active in systems analysis and wargaming exercises.

Spies for Hire: The Secret World of Intelligence Outsourcing

While we do not agree with all the author's reasoning or conclusions, Shorrock's book presents important arguments for consideration about the balance of roles between government and industry. Interesting to contrast with many of the corporate histories also on the list.

Steve Blank (Presentation) - the Secret History of Silicon Valley

Excellent presentation by Steve Blank (entrepreneur and professor) about how the nation's investments in technology needed to win WWII planted the seeds that eventually became Silicon Valley. Blank's presentation covers technological innovation through WWII and the Cold War, the creation of the semiconductor industry, America's unique public-private defense ecosystem, the birth of venture capital, and much more. Many of the other companies profiled on this list trace their roots - across people, technology, business models, and capital - to the story Blank outlines here.

This Is How They Tell Me The World Ends: The Cyberweapons Arms Race

An investigative journalist's overview of some of the key trends, events and risks across the cyber domain. Particularly focused on the development of the market for exploits.

TransDigm series on the 50X Podcast - Nick Howley & Will Thorndike

Will Thorndike, the author of "The Outsiders," hosts a podcast series interviewing Nick Howley and Rob Small about their experiences with TransDigm. Nick shaped TransDigm by concentrating on aftermarket parts in aerospace and defense, employing a strategy that stressed price hikes, cost-cutting, and growing order volumes. This approach led TransDigm to compound shareholder value at an impressive rate of over 35% for years, benefitting both private equity sponsors and public shareholders.

Venture Meets Mission

Venture Meets Mission delves into the incentives, constraints, and success measures unique to government, society, and business. It surveys various models to foster better public-private collaborations and challenges individuals in shaping their careers to contribute to the country.

Vulnerable System: the History of Information Security in the Computer Age

Broad overview of the history of information security. Stewart examines the origins, key events, and continuing challenges in the field, highlighting a variety of technical, sociological, military, and economic perspectives and influences.

We Work for Freedom

Short address delivered by John Jay Hopkins on the 50th anniversary of the Electric Boat Company, developer of the Navy's first modern submarines. Hopkins was one of the key executives in the creation of General Dynamics.

Working Together: Why Great Partnerships Succeed

A seasoned exploration of successful partnerships, as penned by Disney’s former CEO, Michael Eisner. The book unpacks key takeaways from the alliances of industry titans and highlights the irreplaceable value of collaboration.

You and Your Research (Speech)

Pioneering computer scientist Richard Hamming's message on career focus transcends the lab. He poses 3 key questions: (1) What are the most critical issues facing your field? (2) How does your work contribute? (3) Why aren't you dedicating more to solving them? This introspective framework, relevant beyond research, inspires pursuing work that tackles fundamental challenges, whether in science or building businesses that truly matter.

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