The lead story in The New York Times yesterday was about a Miami Beach company called AEY Inc. that landed U.S. government contracts worth as much as a third of a billion dollars to provide Afghanistan's army and police force with munitions. The CEO: Efraim E. Diveroli, who is 22 years old. This young entrepreneur is now in a good bit of trouble, having sold the military 40 year-old ammo from the Eastern Bloc (apparently the stuff does expire — who knew?) and rifle and machine gun cartridges made in China (a big no-no). There's apparently a shady arms dealer involved as well. AEY has been suspended from all future federal contracting and is under investigation by the DOD's inspector general.
We'll be hearing more about this, most certainly; in the course of further coverage, look to the media to highlight Diveroli's age. You may even read and hear some disparaging remarks about his Generation Y peers. But as the story evolves, I hope everyone will stay focused on what's important, and it isn't Diveroli's age. I have spoken to government contractors in their 20s who run highly successful, profitable and ethical businesses; age doesn't preclude them from being effective at their work. Greed, arrogance, and lack of ethics brought this CEO down, and as we've seen countless times over the past several years, youth doesn't own the exclusive franchise on those traits. The real story here is how our government could allow a fledgling and inexperienced company to become the main supplier of ammunition to Afghanistan — inferior ammunition that put lives in danger.
DONNA FENN is the author of Upstarts! How Gen-Y Entrepreneurs Are Rocking the World of Business and 8 Ways You Can Profit From Their Success, an exploration of the ways Gen Y is changing the entrepreneurial landscape.
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