Real Entrepreneurs Wanted
There is a great post on Growthology that raises more questions than I can answer in one post (thanks to David Willbrand at Thompson Hine for pointing it out), but let’s start with this provocative quote:
Admittedly if you are so nervous about becoming an entrepreneur that you want to take a few years out of your life to learn in a business school about being an entrepreneur then maybe you’re more interested in the idea of being an entrepreneur than in actually being an entrepreneur.”
I have had that thought a number of times in the last decade, and especially since working on early stage investments. There are a fair number of people in any large metro area who are mostly infatuated with being an entrepreneur, but who seem to make little real progress towards building a new business. Mixed in among them – fewer in number, less visible, less vocal – are the real entrepreneurs.
Entrepreneurial events/programs/investors attract both types, but a pattern forms quickly. The pretenders attend and attend, but never seem to get beyond the plan stage. They expect the idea to be so compelling that others will jump on board and drive capital and energy into the business. They propose to do little of the heavy lifting on their own. They frequently lack the domain expertise required to properly self-vet their idea. They may stumble into family/friends money, grants, win a business plan competition, but their trajectory flattens quickly when execution of the plan is required. There they languish, consuming time and resources in the community that could be applied to the real article.
Real entrepreneurs seek outside capital and assistance grudgingly. Some of the best are combative, informed negotiators over terms. They know their market, buyer, and competitors better than their prospective investors. They knock down doors on their own. Sure, they need help and guidance, but they have a commitment to get to product, revenue, and an exit that makes attending entrepreneurial events and entering business plan competitions a luxury.
Most successful entrepreneurs I know are introverted and actually don’t like to sell. They force themselves against instinct to do these tasks to calm the compulsion. It’s admirable, is often done without venture capital, and is the principal job engine of the economy since WWII. Finding them in the crowd, or away from the crowd, is the real challenge.