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What Makes an Entrepreneur?

Posted on Thursday, Aug 31st 2006

I had made the following comment in a prior article:

“People become entrepreneurs for two reasons: either they have a chip on their shoulder, and have something to prove to themselves and to the world around them. Or, they want to afford a lifestyle that is substantially above their current means. India is banking on the motivation of the former category alone, to find its technology entrepreneurs.” (Venture Capital in India)

Creationstep picked up on my comments with a thoughtful piece. “I would agree that these are two of the reasons that people choose to be entrepreneurs but I would like to add a third – Vision.”

This is true. Vision, pure undiluted instinct for the future direction that the world ought to take, is a big driver for entrepreneurs as well.

In fact, recently, we were sitting around the table in our garden under the oak tree on a Sunday afternoon. We had some friends over for a long, lazy lunch with dungeoness crabs. A couple of these friends happen to be VCs. So we discussed this question: “What constitutes a good entrepreneur?”

Here is one reply:
1. Fanatical belief in the idea
2. Infinite resourcefulness => doesn’t really need a VC
3. Deep domain knowledge
4. Chip on the shoulder

My comments:
1. This requires that the entrepreneur is a bit naive. I prefer some objective, rational thinking and processing capacity. We all start somewhere, with a hypothesis. This morphs as we start engaging with the market. Ideas that can evolve, even dramatically change if necessary, are, for me, more important. Rather, the entrepreneur that I like is one who is open and intelligent about responding to market feedback. I detest fanaticism.
2. That’s right, because VCs like to come to the rescue of victory. They prefer that the entrepreneur takes all the risk. So yes, the best entrepreneur is someone who can come up with a very capital efficient way of getting things done, and can eliminate the need for venture money. eBAY is a great example.
3. Agreed.
4. Agreed.

One of my former bosses had equated leadership to Babe Ruth’s famous homerun where he had pointed to a certain point in the field, and hit the ball there. Translation:
1. Ability to see the future, and develop a Vision
2. Ability to Sell the Vision
3. Ability to Execute on the Vision
I agree with all three requirements as criteria for a great leader (and entrepreneur).

So. I would like to hear your stories. Where do you come from? What has motivated you to become an entrepreneur? Or to even consider becoming one … ego? vision? anger?

Further reading: Rage Of The Tortured Child

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For me Entrepreneurship and Spirituality go hand in hand. ( May be that is why I’m not doing well on both fronts 🙂 )
Faith( constantly reassessing faith), limitations, ego management, legands, etc., are some of common factors that make them tools made for each other.
Don’t get me started. 🙂

Balaji Sowmyanarayanan Friday, September 1, 2006 at 1:36 AM PT