U.S. Secretary of the Navy Carlos Del Toro speaks on the intersection of start-ups, climate action and defense during his interaction with students and entrepreneurs.
U.S. Secretary of Navy Carlos Del Toro (right) aboard INS Vikrant during his visit to the Southern Naval Command in Kochi, in November 2022. (Photograph courtesy @SECNAV/Twitter)
United States Secretary of the Navy Carlos Del Toro set up a program management and engineering firm SBG Technology Solutions in 2004 with his wife out of their home in Virginia. Seventeen years later, SBG Technology Solutions is a company of 120 employees, making about $40 million in revenue.
During his visit to India in November 2022, Del Toro brought his experience as not just a defense expert and an official of the U.S. government, but also as a seasoned entrepreneur. During an interactive session with students and entrepreneurs at the American Center New Delhi, he explained that one of the keys to starting any business is a “desirable requirement” in the commercial market for the product, so that it can be sold and scaled. “For many companies, especially start-ups, it is important to have a broad market and to have different strategies to sell your products,” he said while responding to a question on a fire safety product developed by an alumnus of the U.S. Embassy’s Nexus Start-up Hub.
Del Toro also said that it is equally important to sell a product in the government or defense market, apart from commercial. “Of course, doing work with the government and the defense marketplace comes with, sometimes, a different set of regulations that you have to comprehend, embrace and understand…But I think the success of your company increases significantly with having as broad a market as possible that you can sell to. So, creating that product with both markets in mind makes a lot of sense,” he said.
In addition, Del Toro said that the United States is also considering opening a branch of the Office of Naval Research in India, where entrepreneurs will be given the platform to expand their market access in both countries. “I do hope that in future years we might be able to come to an agreement to be able to establish a global office here that entrepreneurs can bring ideas to. We could then try to help you expand your marketplace, both here and in the United States as well,” he said.
Tackling climate change
While answering a question posed by a Nexus alumnus, Del Toro said that the United States and its Navy are taking significant steps to tackle waste and climate change at different levels. “We take this responsibility very seriously in the Department of the Navy. The time I served in the Navy, we threw garbage and plastics overboard. We don’t do that anymore unless it’s completely biodegradable,” he explained.
Other than that, he said, the Department of the Navy and the Marine Corps have invested in solar and wind energy efficiencies at the Marine Corp base in Albany, Georgia. The Department of Defense has also made major investments in electric cars, he added.
Deeper defense ties
Secretary Del Toro also answered several questions on the safe exchange of intelligence, on cyber security and defense cooperation, posed by students of international studies. Highlighting the importance of war exercises and international cooperation, the Secretary of the Navy said it is extremely important to learn to operate with each other on a regular basis. “The more that we learn to operate with each other, the more we’ll be able to trust and understand how each of our Navies and Marine Corps, and other services, work together. This way, if we ever have to deter an adversary collectively, we’ll know exactly how to operate together,” he said. “In the United States, there’s a phrase that we use that says, we like to train the way that we fight. And it’s important to do that on a regular basis.”