From working on Capitol Hill to becoming a managing partner at his own firm to founding an energy company in the midst of the Iraq War, Georgetown University adjunct professor David Muchow has made his mark on a variety of industries.
Reflecting on these experiences, he found his next project, writing a book on how anyone can start and grow a successful business.
“When I looked at business books, many were one-dimensional and often about motivation. I’ve never met an entrepreneur who wasn’t one of the most motivated people on earth,” Muchow told The Hoya.
“What was missing was a business book on the basic but critical information” Muchow said.
Muchow’s book, “The 7 Secret Keys to Startup Success,” is a comprehensive business and legal guide to creating your own business — but written in a fun style that is uncommon for business books. It won the prestigious Kirkus Review Star award for “exceptional merit,” making it automatically eligible to compete for the top $50,000 prize.
Muchow graduated from the School of Foreign Service (SFS) in 1966 and attended Cornell Law before finishing his law degree at Georgetown University Law Center in 1971.
In his years since graduating from Georgetown, Muchow has worked on Capitol Hill, in the Office of Management and Budget, on the National Security Council and as a prosecutor and special assistant to the assistant attorney general in the criminal division of the Department of Justice (DOJ) during the Watergate scandal. He also founded SkyBuilt Power during the Iraq War; became the managing partner at a law firm; and now teaches “Law, Business and Entrepreneurship” in the Landegger Program in International Business Diplomacy at the SFS.
“These experiences have given me a broader, more practical, legal, business and policy perspective on how startups and growing companies need to avoid business-killing problems to survive and become successful,” Muchow said. “Business is totally integrated with law when you’re in the real world.”
Muchow said he recalls learning about the criminal process in terms of business even when working for the DOJ. Muchow saw how aggressive advertising and marketing can lead to jail time because of stretching the truth. In building SkyBuilt Power, Muchow experienced firsthand the challenges of inventing and deploying the world’s first rapidly deployable solar and wind power systems for the CIA and military.
“What works in the lab frequently fails in the field,” Muchow said. “Bees get into the air filters, and seagulls would dive into the water then smash seashells on the solar panels!”
Muchow describes himself as a serial CEO who has found a passion in helping others avoid “startup suicide,” the term that he calls the early demise of companies because they don’t have the knowledge or resources to handle the hidden challenges of business.
“Eighty percent of startups fail. That’s a trillion-dollar-per-year national problem and economic hole in the boat,” Muchow said. “Think if you had even 100 more Apples or Microsofts. Think what that could do for the economy, jobs and tax revenue. We need to focus on this and fix it. What I tried to do in the book is crack the code as to why startups fail.”
“The 7 Secret Keys to Startup Success” goes through the small, but critical, details that make it possible for businesses to survive. However, Muchow did more than just write a dull guide on law and business.
“Business books should be fun to read,” Muchow says. “So after each chapter on topics like management, and finance, there’s a CIA adventure story that illustrates the principles in the chapter. These feature a fictional Georgetown professor, Scooter McGee.”
“Professor McGee travels around in his 1962 Austin-Healey fixing broken startups and hangs out at The Tombs. But then he runs into hit man, Cold Fingers Gelato, Scarlett Modevideo, the mysterious fashion heiress and the CIA,” Muchow said.“Think Harrison Ford in ‘Raiders of the Lost Arc’ meets ‘Silicon Valley.’”
Muchow said his professor at Georgetown Law, Sam Dash, chief counsel for the Senate Watergate Committee during the Watergate scandal, inspired him to teach and write fun stories that make the lessons memorable.
Muchow uses this method of storytelling to keep his readers from feeling overwhelmed by the technical information that he delivers. Scooter McGee breaks down these hefty instructions in simplistic examples that entertain as they teach. These examples teach the nuances of dealing with buyers and sellers that wish to stay anonymous and the legality of trademarks, while Scooter turns the tables on the CIA.
Muchow said he hopes his book can help startups and growing businesses everywhere, but he has a particular hope that he can help students in their aspirations.
“In 2018, I talked with Dean Hellman at the School of Foreign Service about a course that would combine law, business and entrepreneurship so graduates of the SFS can hit the ground running right away,” Muchow said. “Whether they go into a nonprofit, a business or government, they will know some things about law, business, negotiation, ethics and more.”
Muchow loves teaching a course as a professor that has the same goals as his book: to inspire future leaders using storytelling and practical lessons. Muchow shares his experiences and insights with students to help them to broaden their knowledge for when they leave Georgetown.
Muchow has a deep appreciation for Georgetown — not just for his education, but for the students he teaches and the administration.
“I’d appreciate it if you could note that Rosie O’Neill, and Rod Ludema, also helped make my course possible; and Carole Sargent, Director, Office of Scholarly Publications, Georgetown, helped guide my book proposal,” Muchow wrote to The Hoya.
“I love Georgetown,” Muchow said. “The students are amazing, the faculty is tremendous, and I have the academic freedom to teach everything from government regulations to Proverbs.”
Muchow said his inspiration has not died down. Muchow plans to release his next book in the Scooter McGee universe as a pure fiction book inspired by the Georgetown tunnels.
“It’s going to be fun. Scooter is going to be involved in an Indiana Jones-type thriller where he has to save the world and explore the Georgetown tunnels, finding amazing things there and beneath The Tombs,” Muchow said.
While speaking to Muchow, it was clear that he has a passion for sharing his experiences with students today and enjoys crafting fun narratives to both teach and entertain. Muchow said he hopes to see the startups of Georgetown go far, even noting that Georgetown Ventures, a student-run startup accelerator, uses his book in their operations.
Muchow hopes that “The 7 Secret Keys to Startup Success” and Scooter McGee will inspire Georgetown students to get the key practical skills that they need to achieve their dreams so that they can do their part to make the world a better place.
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