A long time ago, in a galaxy far far away, entrepreneurship was alive and well. In fact, a lot of the iconic characters from George Lucas’ space opera are intelligent and enterprising business people who are just trying to make a living while dodging laser blasts and empire Star Destroyers. So, if you’ve caught Star Wars fever and are looking for every possible way to feed your curiosity, then this IS the blatant tie-in article you’ve been looking for.
We’ll count down the most enterprising entrepreneurs that show up on the silver screen in every chapter of Star Wars. We’ll begin at the lowliest entrepreneur and count our way down to the business leaders of the galaxy.
If we’re starting at the bottom, then look no further than the winged junk-dealer that appears in The Phantom Menace. Watto is a small-time entrepreneur who hasn’t been able to break out of his local geographical market. He suffers from a common problem for first-time entrepreneurs, wherein he has too many irons in the fire. While his core business is junk-dealing, he also dabbles in pod racing (extremely high risk investment) and human trafficking (sure to get him in trouble with the law). Watto would be better off if he cleaned up his act and focused on his junk-dealing business.
Your typical lifestyle entrepreneur. Greedo has no goods and no employees. He works as a consultant whose service is bounty hunting. Because of this, Greedo will always be grinding for his revenues and will never be able to take a holiday. At least, he would have had those problems if he only would have shot first.
Also known as “Uncle Owen”, Owen is Luke Skywalker’s uncle in the first Star Wars movie, a new hope. He also happens to be a moisture farmer living on a desert planet. Owen saw a need in the market for water, and was industrious enough to build a solution that allowed him to service that addressable market. Unfortunately, Owen and his wife got caught up in their nephews shenanigans and ended up suffering a grizzly fate at the hands of the Empire.
Nass was the ruler of the Gungan race in The Phantom Menace. He had managed to climb his way up the corporate ladder and establish himself as the “big boss man” of the aquatic people. While he may have had terrible choice in employees (Jar Jar Binks), he did know how to negotiate a great deal. By lending his army to help defend Naboo, Nass was able to make an alliance with the humans and expand his territory.
Boba was, similar to Greedo, a lifestyle entrepreneur. But where Greedo was myopic in his focus on capturing Han Solo, Boba was a more cunning strategist. He clearly had a great business development background, as evidenced by his ability to partner with the largest corporation in the galaxy, The Galactic Empire. By leveraging this partnership, he was able to capture Han and deliver him to Jabba the Hutt.
Jabba the Hutt
Speaking of Jabba, one cannot discuss entrepreneurs in the Star Wars galaxy without mentioning this large slug-like business person. Jabba had diverse holdings. Not only did he make an appearance at the pod races in The Phantom Menace, but he also owns a nightclub, a Sarlacc disposal business, and a gladiatorial arena equipped with his very own rancor. Unfortunately, Jabba did not pay close enough attention to his competitors and was eventually brought down by another entrepreneur, who we’ll discuss later, and his Jedi friend.
The elder Fett appears so late in this list because of his ability to break out of the service consultant grind and scale his operation. Unlike Boba and Greedo, Jango saw that his business potential was limited to his direct circle of influence. Not happy with this, Jango decided to “scale” himself by allowing the Republic to use him as the genetic source for their clone army. This ensured that Jango would be able to retire and walk away from the day to day grind of being a bounty hunter.
Easily the smoothest negotiator on this list, Lando started out as a gambler and a card player who entered the mining industry and was eventually able to work his way up to becoming the Baron Administrator of Cloud City. When he found himself caught between two opposing forces, Lando was able to negotiate a partnership with the Empire that allowed his company to remain unharmed. Unfortunately, he had to betray his friends in order to seal the deal. Happily, once Cloud City was safe, Lando worked behind the scenes to undo the damage he’d caused by selling Han to Bobba Fett and setting a trap for Luke Skywalker.
How could any list of entrepreneurs in the Star Wars galaxy be complete without including Han Solo. When we first meet Han in A New Hope, he’s a smuggler who has a solid business partnership with one of the most physically imposing creatures in the galaxy, Chewbacca. Utilizing his skills and his speedy ship, the Millennium Falcon, Han is able to wheel and deal his way up the ranks of Jabba’s corporation. The reason that Han is ranked higher than more monetarily successful entrepreneurs is that he is not solely driven by profit. Similar to Mark Zuckerberg, Warren Buffet, and Bill Gates, Han eventually hangs up his entrepreneurial endeavors to instead become a philanthropist. In this case, he joins the rebellion and provides his ship and services for free in order to help battle the Empire.
While his results and reasons might be distasteful, one cannot watch the emperor’s rise from lowly politician to master of the galaxy and not be impressed with his entrepreneurial abilities. From negotiations, to boardroom politics, to logistics (hello, Death Star), to branding (again… hello, Death Star), to having a macro view of his position and his goals, the Emperor shows off the full set of entrepreneurial skills. If only he hadn’t been so bent on galactic domination, he probably could have taken the Empire public and had one of the most successful interplanetary IPO’s in history.
This story originally appeared on my Entrepreneur Magazine column.