Note: this is just an exploratory piece on my experiences and perceptions of entrepreneurship and entrepreneurs; all feedback, stories and opinions are welcome.
A little background on me (context does matter in my opinion) is that I have been one of those kids that always dreamed about having their own company/business and started back in middle school with this 'web' thing. I recently finished a Master's in Entrepreneurship from Lund University. I would self-define myself in the serial entrepreneur category.
Can you teach entrepreneurship?
I am still not sold on the idea of teaching entrepreneurship but this recent article really felt in line with my own theory of the two types of entrepreneurs.
"Its [Kauffman Foundation] VP of Research, Bob Litan, says that Kauffman has learnt conclusively that entrepreneurship can be taught. The key is to provide education at “teachable moments” — when the entrepreneur is thinking about starting a venture or ready to scale it. What entrepreneurs need isn’t the type of abstract course they teach in business schools, but practical, relevant knowledge."
The article discusses the types of people founding companies and their educational background but to me, the key take away was 'teachable moments.' Let me come back to that after explaining my theory of the two types of entrepreneurs.
Two Types of Entrepreneurs
The first type of entrepreneur is the stuff you hear about all the time. The lemonade stand kid or serial entrepreneur. Someone who has been driven to starting their own company for one reason or another since a young age. I call them serial entrepreneurs because these are the guys trying and trying again. In this regard the article quoted above backs me up "Of the 24.5% who indicated that they were 'extremely interested' in becoming entrepreneurs during college, 47.1% went on to start more than two companies (as compared with 32.9% of the overall sample)." I make no judgment or distinction about family history, education or any other sort of measure except an early desire to start one's own company.
The second type of entrepreneur is the entrepreneur of circumstance. This is the less glamorous entrepreneur who only becomes an entrepreneur because it's the logical choice for them at that point. A typical circumstance would be working on a project that they believe has a lot of potential but their employer isn't interested in it, getting fired, employer going bankrupt, etc. This is a combination of forced entrepreneurship and opportunity based often on experience. These people join the entrepreneurial ranks because they have to; they have no other choice or simply can't say no to the opportunity they see in front of them.
Getting back to 'teachable moments,' this is the first time I noticed another theory about learning entrepreneurship and my own theory of two types of entrepreneurs fitting together. The serial entrepreneur is always a knowledge sponge ready to learn and start something. However, the circumstantial entrepreneur is only ripe for teaching at those critical moments where they are teetering on the edge of joining (or is it breaking?) the ranks. These are the people who really concern themselves with giving up security, doubt about their ability to start their own business and other problems which the serial entrepreneur often tends to downplay or ignore. Circumstantial entrepreneurs are perhaps more rational than serial entrepreneurs in their decision making (I think there is a lot of value to the irrationality of serial entrepreneurs, sometimes) which is why these 'teachable moments' are so crucial. If they can be taught to overcome those common barriers and doubts to starting your own business at those key times we would see a lot more new companies and ideas.
The key questions I am left with are:
- Is there another category of entrepreneurs my model doesn't encompass?
- How do you identify 'teachable moments'?
- Are Serial Entrepreneurs always in a 'teachable moment'?
- What needs to be taught in that 'teachable moment'?
- Who should be responsible for teaching (universities, organizations, government, other entrepreneurs)?