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Meet the Entrepreneur-Heroes of the Boston Marathon Bombings

From the tragic scene in Boston, heroes emerged. Now we know there were plenty of entrepreneurs among them. Here are some of their stories.
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In the wake of the Boston Marathon bombings, there was plenty of heartbreak--but also some amazing acts of heroism. Police, medical personnel, and ordinary people leaped into action.

Among the stories of courage and quick thinking, I spotted a recurring theme: entrepreneurs.

Many of these heroes--people who kept the tragedy from being even worse, who informed the world, who even helped lead authorities to the alleged bombers--fit that description. I'm not at all surprised to see so many of the unsung heroes turn out to be entrepreneurs. What other group is so action-oriented, so unwilling to accept a terrible situation as-is, instead of finding ways to make things better?

So who were they? Here are four of the unsung entrepreneur-heroes of the Boston Marathon Bombing:

1. The carjacked entrepreneur.

After the FBI released their photographs to the media, authorities say brothers Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev killed a police officer and carjacked a Mercedes SUV, driven by a entrepreneur who had just moved to the U.S. from China.

The driver, known only as, "Danny," eventually escaped. Police say his cool head and smart idea also helped them find the Tsarnaev brothers.

The Boston Globe reported that Danny explained to authorities how they could follow the suspects online as they fled in his Mercedes, by tracking both the car and his iPhone (which he'd left in it). As a result, his efforts might have stopped the brothers from attacking New York City, too.

Danny is 26. He asked the media not to provide his full name in accounts of his story. He'd gone to school in the United States but returned home to China to await a work visa. He came back two months ago, moved in with a couple of friends, and dove into a start-up, the Globe reported. During the ordeal:

Danny thought about his burgeoning start-up and about a girl he secretly liked in New York. "I think, 'Oh my god, I have no chance to meet you again,' " he recalled.

...

When news of the capture broke last Friday, Danny's roommate called out to him from in front of the living room television. Danny was on the phone at the time, talking to the girl in New York.

(If you haven't seen the Globe's interview with Danny, it's worth a look.)

2. The robot makers.

Police used dozens of robots to track and corner the bombing suspects, and those robots were built by a British defense contractor called  QinetiQ. While QinetiQ is a huge company, its robotics division has its roots in a tiny start-up launched by Massachusetts Institute of Technology students back in the 1950s.

Using robots allowed police officers to keep a safe distance when they weren't sure whether the brothers had more bombs and explosives.

One of the robots, the Talon, "checked the trunk of the car abandoned by the Tsarnaev brothers during the late-night gun battle on the streets of Watertown, and piqued viewers' curiosity after being featured on newscasts across the country," reported Boston Magazine.

3. The nonprofit entrepreneurs.

Among the thousands of marathon runners were 17 members of Team Red White & Blue, a nonprofit veterans' organization with the mission "to enrich the lives of America's veterans by connecting them to their community through physical and social activity."

As The Washington Post and other media reported, Team RWB members and other military veterans acted quickly after the bombings, likely saving the lives of many who had been wounded.

[O]ne veteran, an Army colonel and runner, shifted into combat mode as he crossed the finish line. He turned back into the chaos, peeled off his Team Red, White & Blue T-shirt and tied it as a tourniquet on the limb of a bombing victim.

A combat veteran who served in Iraq and was awarded a Purple Heart, the colonel later refused to allow a team spokesmen to release his name after snippets of his actions were caught on video.

Later, in the hours and days after the bombings, Team RWB members gathered for "response runs" both in Boston near the marathon course, and around the country.

"This is our organization's response to the attacks," Team RWB founder Maj. Mike Erwin told the Post. "We're responding to the negative energy, the pain and the evil with hope and strength and optimism."

4. The startup founder who live-tweeted the shootout.

Andrew Kitzenberg, a 2011 Babson College graduate and start-up founder, was at his apartment in Watertown, he later wrote, with "no idea that I was about to become an eyewitness to the biggest news story in the country."

But, when authorities cornered the Tsarnaevs, Kitzenberg had a better view of them than the police. He live-tweeted part of the shootout, took pictures with his iPhone, and demonstrated the scene for CNN and other media over Skype. Much of what Americans knew in the early hours of the manhunt came from Kitzenberg and others like him.

Kitzenberg licensed his amazing array of photos for free on his website and asked media organizations that wanted to duplicate them to donate to the The One Fund, a charity to help the people most affected by the tragic events that occurred in Boston. So far, Kitzenberg told me, that's added up to $6,000 in commitments.

His Waltham, Mass. startup, OnHand, makes products like USB flash drive wristbands and iPhone cases. In the wake of the tragedy, they're selling BostonStrong flash drive wristbands and donating all profits to The One Fund, as well.

Are there other heroes of Boston who deserve to be mentioned, especially those with entrepreneurial ties?

IMAGE: anubisabyss/Flickr
Last updated: May 2, 2013

BILL MURPHY JR. | Columnist

Bill Murphy Jr. is a journalist, ghostwriter, and entrepreneur. He is the author of Breakthrough Entrepreneurship (with Jon Burgstone) and is a former reporter for The Washington Post.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.



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