02 Jul 2017

Are you a real entrepreneur?

Do you have to be born an entrepreneur, or is it something that can be learnt – is it nature or nurture? Is a “real entrepreneur” the stereotype of a confident, natural risk taker, experimental almost from birth – probably dropped out from university, such as Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Michael Dell, Larry Ellison, Mark Zuckerberg and Travis Kalanick, to name just a few?

Let’s face it – there are a lot more tech startups these days, then there were, say 10 years ago.

Not surprising, given the many startup “factories” that have sprung up the world over, incubating and accelerating startups at various stages of their early evolution. These institutions seek to guide startup founders with great innovations through their early product development and go-to-market strategies, providing access to corporate partners and making startups more attractive to investors. It is all about nurture.

On the other hand, bootstrapped companies (startups that are self-financing) would just not have the time to be “accelerated”, and would tend to be driven by natural entrepreneurs. Australian co-founders Mike Cannon-Brookes and Scott Farquhar started Atlassian with a $10,000 credit card facility, but without the help of an accelerator.

There is an entire industry predicated on the premise that entrepreneurship can be taught, and even that teaching it is a prerequisite for success. Postgraduate courses in entrepreneurship are a huge undertaking at the thousands of business schools globally.

Innovation does not always need entrepreneurs (such as in a corporate environment), and entrepreneurs do not always need innovation. There are many entrepreneurs that start successful businesses that do not have a great deal of innovation, from retailers to engineering services. Of course, innovation and real entrepreneurship can be a potent combination.

However an entrepreneur does need all three attributes – confidence, experimental and an appetite for risk, to various degrees, in order to be successful. Those who are born with these will choose a different journey to those who acquire these along the way. Both can be successful.

In the words of US billionaire, investor and born entrepreneur Mark Cuban, “the world needs many, many more entrepreneurs than it is producing”. So we had better get on and do a lot more nurturing of real entrepreneurs!

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