MB019: Disrupting How the Military Innovates with Benjamin Kohlmann

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In this episode, we talk about being the Professor, finding your intellectual sparring partner, and launching a conference with Benjamin Kohlmann.

MB019 - Benjamin Kohlmann from Defense Entrepreneurs Forum

The Pre-Brief: Our guest today is Benjamin Kohlman. Ben is an active duty member of the United States Navy and the founder of the Defense Entrepreneurs Forum. DEF is an independent group of emerging defense leaders that strive to solve national security problems from the bottom-up by exposing Defense professionals to the techniques and experiences of civilian innovators and social entrepreneurs.


  • Ben’s Connection to the Military Community:  Ben is a speechwriter for an Admiral and started out in the Navy as an F-18 Super Hornet pilot. He got into speech writing due to the reputation he developed through blogging and starting the group Disruptive thinkers.
  • Business idea: The Defense Entrepreneurs Forum has its roots in the open conversations on Twitter and a desire to bring people together like TED Talks to solve problems within the Defense community. No Defense contractors, nothing being sold and no panels of senior leaders saying nothing of interest.
  • First Steps: Ben built a team of 10 individuals, two from each service, and teamed up with Chicago Booth school of Business. From there, they started booking speakers, locking in locations and sending out invitations.
  • Highlight: Even through sequestration, people were so excited that they were paying their own way to come to the first DEF conference.
  • Quote: Edwin H. Land (founder of Polaroid) “An essential aspect of creativity is not being afraid to fail”
  • Answers for the BIG 5
    • One thing to learn:  Take the Time to Learn
    • One action to take now: Go ahead and take action on your idea, get it out of head and find out if you should still pursue it or move on to something else.
    • Favorite book: Antifragile by Nassim Taleb
    • Favorite Resource:A Best friend, an intellectual sparring partner to exchange ideas with.
    • One thing to enjoy outside of work: Treasure your family and spend time with them.

How to reach Ben.


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  1. MB026: What I Learned at the Defense Entrepreneurs Forum - MILBIZ - October 28, 2014

    […] Last weekend I had a great experience at the Defense Entrepreneurs Forum. I found out about the forum from Josh Steinman http://milbiz.com/16, and Ben Kohlman http://milbiz.com/19 […]

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