Jake Harriman | CEO of Nuru, A social venture aimed at eliminating poverty, and ex U.S. Marine Corps Commander

Jake Harriman

Jake Harriman graduated with distinction from the U.S. Naval Academy and served seven and a half years as an Infantry and Special Operations Platoon Commander in the Marine Corps. Jake believes that the “War on Terror” won’t be won on the battlefield alone, but that disenfranchisement, lack of education, and extreme poverty must also be eradicated. Jake graduated with an MBA in June 2008, and, together with his team, launched Nuru International in Kenya in the same year.

My Definition Of Success | Success is figuring out your purpose here and then pursuing it relentlessly. My definition has definitely changed. Success used to mean being the best, most effective soldier – able to execute the most difficult missions.

I Am Driven By | My faith, vision, and the injustice of the desperation and suffering of those trapped in extreme cimage_9c184e4941-thumbcpoverty.

My Highlights | I graduated with distinction from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1998. At the Academy I was a Rhodes Scholar semi-finalist and captain of the #3 ranked Rugby team in the nation. Upon graduation I served 7 years in the Marine Corps.During my first tour in Iraq I served in one of the front line infantry units for the invasion. For my second tour I was selected for a special operations unit called Force Recon. I led my platoon on numerous combat operations including deep reconnaissance & surveillance missions and direct action raids resulting in the capture of 7 high-level terrorist leaders. I was awarded the Bronze Star for actions in combat.
I believe that my greatest achievement, prior to Nuru, was bringing all of my Marines home alive from both combat tours in Iraq – an accomplishment/blessing for which I am eternally grateful.
After leaving the Marine Corps, I was accepted to the Stanford Graduate School of Business. I used my experience there to build an innovative social venture to attempt to end extreme poverty. While at Stanford, I raised $450,000 to launch the organization during the worst economic downturn since the depression. In 5 years, I scaled Nuru to a $7m, 354-person company that is empowering over 30,000 people to lift themselves out of extreme poverty permanently in Kenya and Ethiopia. In January, I was named the BYU Ballard Center 2014 Social Innovator of the Year. In February 2014, I was given the Unsung Hero of Compassion award by the Dalai Lama.

The Difference Between good and Great | Passion, purpose, and willingness to sacrifice and take risk.

The Key To My Success | Has been servant leadership – specifically humility and a willingness to put the needs of Page10others before my own. I wasn’t always good at these two things (and I still have a lot of room to grow), but the more you can perfect these two traits, the more likely you are to succeed in whatever you want to do in life. Admit when you are wrong. Apologize. Learn from everyone you come into contact with. Be an active listener. Give and receive feedback well. Be authentic and real with your people. Never ask them to do something that you are not willing to do first yourself.


The Principles I Live By | Love others – in action, not words. Serve. Put the needs of others before your own. Always strive to understand truth. Never lose hope.

Key Critical Skill For Success | Listening, perseverance, receiving feedback.

How I Use My Mind | Be willing to believe that the impossible is possible. Just because something has never been done before doesn’t mean that it is impossible. The only people who have ever changed the word for the better are those who are wiling to dream big and believe that the impossible is possible.

Lessons I Have Learnt | You can learn from everyone you come into contact with. Love is stronger than hate. Nothing worth having or achieving is life is easy. Integrity cannot be bought, sold, or restored once you lose it.

Dealing With Doubt | When I doubt, I go back to my faith to center me. The first week I was in Kenya launching Nuru’s first project, I was struck by lightning, got malaria, was attacked by thieves, experienced an earthquake, and was attacked by black widow spiders.  I wanted to quit. I doubted myself and this path I had chosen to create an organization to end extreme poverty. I was scared. I prayed, and God gave me a peace and restored my calm and resolve. I knew that we would survive and eventually succeed.

Performing At My Peak | You can’t always perform at your peak. It is impossible. No one is perfect. People who don’t JakeHarrimanrealize this eventually fail.

Resources I Use | I visit often with the farmers I work with in their fields, I surf, I work out and do a lot of hiking, I try to read a lot about cutting edge innovative ideas, I read the Bible, I relax under the stars and ponder bigger questions of life as I try to fathom the depth of the universe, I try to always be attempting something that is risky or hasn’t been done before, I have a coffee or beer with people who really care about me, I watch movies in the theater, and I listen to music a lot.

My Dreams And Ambition | To bring about the end of extreme poverty in our lifetime by creating a world where every person has the ability to make meaningful choices to improve her life and the lives of her family in a lasting way.

The Meaning Of Life | To love and serve others with everything I have been given – and thereby love and serve God my creator.

The Best Advice I’ve Received | “Don’t ever say the words, ‘I can’t.’ You can do anything in this world that you put your mind to, but you must first believe.” – my father

Advice On Building Wealth | Ask yourself why you want to be rich. If the answer is not to make the lives of others better, then you are wasting your time in the most pathetically sad pursuit. You will spend many years working hard with focus, drive, accomplishments, and the accolades of men only to turn around once you have “arrived” to view a wasteland of a life filled with empty relationships, loneliness, doubt, and destruction.

How To Inspire Others | Cast strong vision. Always keep the dream in front of them and chart a pragmatic, well-thought-out path to achieve that dream. Serve as you lead – care for those on your team. They will love you for it and follow you anywhere.

People Who Inspire Me | The farmers I work with inspire me. The brothers I fought with in combat inspire me. My parents and siblings inspire me. Role models: Jesus Christ, Mother Theresa, Teddy Roosevelt, my brother.

The Legacy I Would Like To Leave | Hope

Useful Links:

Watch as Jake Harriman shares some stories and speaks on “The New Front Lines: Fighting for Choice and Hope in the War Against Extreme Poverty.”

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