How to get started in the defense industry?


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I've always been particularly intrigued by the defense industry in general amongst many other industries as I have a pretty strong entrepreneurial spirit since I was a kid, starting my first website that made several hundred dollars in profit in 8th grade. Now I'm a junior in college studying comp. sci and mathematics however I also run an online electronics business on the side. However, I am always eager to work on new startups and I was thinking down the road about getting into the defense industry. Right now I have a lot on my plate but I am a person who thinks long term so I have a few questions for the audience here at onstartups:

The weapons/defense/military industry is pretty private, and its much more complex than starting any old online business nowadays where information is readily available, how can I go about learning more about this industry?

I have no friends/connections to anyone in the industry either but all I know is I like the chemistry behind explosives, rockets, and I like computer science/programming (I've only learned Python so far though, working on C++ next). How could I apply those things to something related to the defense industry? Since I'm not an expert on chemistry I was thinking maybe I could work somewhere I can provide help in satellites/security networks-infrastructure/or drones-missile guidance systems?

I know from past business/startup experience that in order to create a successful business you must address an issue or problem that industry is having, however, I don't know enough about the industry itself to even figure out what problems need solving..any pointers in the right direction are appreciated.

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asked Nov 14 '12 at 16:05
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Goose
16 points
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1 Answer


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I think it'll be very hard to break into defense as a startup, unless you come up with something insanely compelling, like self-guiding bullets, or similar that belongs in a sci-fi book. Government defense spending is really a closed group, with just a handful of main contractors, however they don't do all the work themselves, so they farm it out to sub-contractors, who again farm out some work to smaller companies. With all those layers of management it is easy to see why defense is so expensive.

The best route may be to make connections with some of the smaller contractors who are working on areas that interest you. In my case, I was working as a student for a scientific company, doing electronics design and software for the scientific instruments that they produced. They were sub-sub-contracted to build a system to monitor the main steam line of a nuclear submarine for the Royal Navy.

Ironically, the directors of the business had to go through security clearance, but it was me who did all the work on the project, and I was just a kid with no clearance, trying to earn beer money to put myself through college.

It was a fascinating project to work on, especially as the electronics had to be capable of surviving the harsh environment of the reactor room. It was quite surreal going to my physics professor at university and asking him about how to shield sensitive electronics from severe radiation, all the while trying to keep the actual application secret.

answered Nov 14 '12 at 19:22
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Steve Jones
3,239 points

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