Entrepreneurship is being hailed as the key to economic growth in the future. It has become an acceptable or even a somewhat glorious way of making a living. Still, our view on entrepreneurship is out-dated and one-sided. With that we’re leaving too many opportunities on the table. To attract even more people to become entrepreneurs, we should widen our perspective. We should talk more about it also as a practical way to achieve your goals rather than just as a goal in itself.
The World Bank and European Commission see entrepreneurship as the way spur economic growth. Everyone loves to hear about the superstar entrepreneurs like Elon Musk and Richard Branson and how they’ve changed the world through entrepreneurship. Especially in the world of the high growth startups, serial entrepreneurship has become the way to do it: grow fast, make an exit and start again. And it is important have the serial entrepreneurs, because you certainly come out of each experience with a lot of new learnings. The accumulated learnings of the serial entrepreneurs are an importan part of the impact entrepreneurship has on the growth. But we need to look beyond these popular views.
Two faces of entrepreneurship
For some of us entrepreneurship itself is important. The ideas and business may change over time, but being an entrepreneur and working for yourself is an important part of working. As Niklas Zennstrom said
If you want to be an entrepreneur, it’s not a job, it’s a lifestyle. It defines you.
Niklas Zennstrom, the Skype co-founder and VC
For others entrepreneurship is just one of the tools in the toolbox. You pick it up, if it helps you to achieve your goals. Still, you are just as happy to work for someone else if that enables you to achieve what you want. Just like Matt Rogers said:
I never wanted to be an entrepreneur. I wanted to build things that are easy to use.
Matt Rogers, Founder and VP of Engineering at Nest (acq. by Google)
Even serial entrepreneur and Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey has said that he never wanted to be an entrepreneur.
We need to embrace the a broader view of entrepreneurship
Over last year, I’ve worked with hundreds of early stage startup founders and others who have been considering entrepreneurship. For many it seems to be a really scary choice. There are already lots of un-necessary hurdles for people who consider entrepreneurship, including all kinds hurdles in legal issues and taxation. On top of that, the one-sided view makes people think that entrepreneurship is the final choice for the rest of your life. Switching back to some other form of working is too many times seen as a failure. This prevents many people from pursuing great business ideas by using entrepreneurship as a tool.
I think we have a much bigger opportunity in entrepreneurship than we’re thinking. Yes, regardless of our definition, it requires a lot. “The reality is years of hard work, throughout which you usually have no idea if you’re even moving in the right direction.” as Facebook co-founder Dustin Moskovitz has said. Still, it can be a really useful tool – not a goal in itself. It enables many more people to achieve their dreams, make a living, make an impact in the word or whatever it may mean for each of us.
Topi Järvinen, @topij