A brief semantic interlude
Welcome back! I hope everyone has been well so far – here at MassChallenge we just wrapped up 2017’s startup showcase, an event with over 100 startups and some 1600 attendees. There was good food, great people and ingenious ideas; a potent combination that resulted in an electrical atmosphere of entrepreneurial energy. This heady cocktail of food and energy got me thinking – what exactly does entrepreneurship mean? Sure, we champion it at Babson College and it seems like everyone is an entrepreneur, but a healthy dose of skepticism never killed anyone. Bear with me as I dig a little deeper into this buzzword; join me on this brief semantic interlude.
So, what are we dealing with? There is entrepreneurship, but also the words entrepreneur and entrepreneurial too. Are they all the same? Obviously not, because they are spelled differently. From this comprehensive first principle analysis, it stands to reason that while they are related, there are subtle nuances that differentiate these three words. Do note that while we will take into consideration traditional and historic definitions of each word, we will be examining the semantics given the current context. Let’s begin!
In my opinion, entrepreneurship is the umbrella term for both entrepreneur and entrepreneurial – a term that refers to a body of knowledge typically associated with business but increasingly being applied to other fields. Within the broad term of entrepreneurship, lies entrepreneur and entrepreneurial. Is it always true that being entrepreneurial makes you an entrepreneur? Or being an entrepreneur means you are entrepreneurial, in the same way being CEO makes you a leader? It is easy to get caught up in the buzzword and fake-it-till-you-make-it craze but as Drake says, “stop that frontin’ “.
So for the sake of clarity and not because I take a perverse pleasure in being pedantic, let’s start with the word entrepreneur – since everyone is one nowadays. A common misconception is that entrepreneurs exhibit risk-seeking behaviors and like risk like they like venture money. Yet if we accept the fact that starting a new business is inherently risky because no one is clairvoyant, then we must accept that entrepreneurs actually have to be risk averse to succeed. Or in other words, risk aware – meaning they tolerate risk while working to minimize it as much as possible. That’s why they jump through all the business plan and pitch deck hoops when pitching their idea – so they test every (and I mean every) assumption they have about their business before launch. If poking holes and testing assumptions doesn’t reduce risk, I don’t know what will. So that’s the first part – entrepreneurs are risk aware, regardless if they like risk or not.
Given how risky starting something new is (clarification: something new, not just a new idea), it also means entrepreneurs have to be rationally irrational – in other words, a good kind of crazy. When everyone is telling you no, when you’re grinding through a day job and slaving away on your idea at night, it takes a special kind of person to persevere through it all. What can make someone do that? Before you shout passion and revel in how passionate you are about being passionate, realize that passion is just a feeling. Feelings come and go but drive and vision does not. Do you think my boy Zuckerberg was passionate about Facebook 365 days a year when he first founded it more than a decade ago? I doubt it, although in the off chance I’m wrong he should donate his brain to science (imagine 7 billion passionate people working to solve problems!). So what makes people rationally irrational is when they have a vision they have to bring to life. That’s how they get through the bad days – because even though it feels like fecal matter, their vision is grounded in rational beliefs and doesn’t change with their mood.
Phew, that was a little heavy huh? It’s almost as if I enjoy doing this…surprise surprise, I do.
Before I bore you to tears, how about we compromise? I tackle being entrepreneurial in a future blog post and you share this blog with your friends on social media? #organicgrowth Deal? Awesome! Isn’t it great to be fluid? Speaking of fluid, Lauren Mariano, a rising Junior at Babson College, had this to say about entrepreneurship:
Entrepreneurship is one of the most fluid concepts I have come to known since attending college. I firmly believe it is a lifestyle. Do whatever aligns with your values and what you are creating! Don’t get caught up in what everyone else is doing cause at the end of the day you are creating something unique. It’s your process.
It’s a process? Who would’ve thought! Man, it would be so cool if I wrote a post on process huh…Kidding, I already did. Check it out here. If you want to contribute blog ideas, quotes or just need someone to talk to because you have no friends, please drop me a message.
Have a great 4th of July everyone.