What Is an Entrepreneur?

by Drew Beechler - Director of Marketing

Working in venture capital and with startups, I have the pleasure of working with and alongside an incredible group of founders and entrepreneurs every day. As a Venture Studio, not only are we a source of financial support for many entrepreneurs, but we are also a sounding board, advisor, co-worker, and friend to entrepreneurs in our portfolio companies and many other companies.

I think many people (myself included) often throw around the term “entrepreneur” haphazardly without giving much thought to the true definition. We often will use words around startups, founding companies, and being an entrepreneur interchangeably. I don’t think, though, that a person can call themselves an entrepreneur — it is a title and honor that is bestowed upon someone from another individual or community.

The other day I was reading a post on Seth Godin’s blog entitled The Four Elements of Entrepreneurship where he dove into the nurture vs. nature debate in entrepreneurship — are successful entrepreneurs made or born?

He writes:

The mistake that’s easy to make is based in language. We say, “she’s an entrepreneur,” when we should be saying, “she’s acting like an entrepreneur.”

Since entrepreneurship is a verb, an action, a posture… then of course, it’s a choice. You might not want to act like one, but if you can model behavior, you can act like one.

And what do people do when they’re acting like entrepreneurs?

1. They make decisions.

2. They invest in activities and assets that aren’t a sure thing.

3. They persuade others to support a mission with a non-guaranteed outcome.

4. This one is the most amorphous, the most difficult to pin down and thus the juiciest: They embrace (instead of run from) the work of doing things that might not work.

As far as I can tell, that’s it. Everything else you can hire.

Seth argues that “entrepreneurship is a verb” — it isn’t a title you can place on yourself. When I think about our work at High Alpha and our portfolio companies, all four of those traits of acting like an entrepreneur ring true .

I would add a fifth trait, though, to Seth’s list of how a successful entrepreneur acts: They are indefatigable. We say often at High Alpha that successful entrepreneurs are indefatigable — someone who is persisting tirelessly or are incapable of being fatigued.

It’s important to note that these traits aren’t just found in a founder or CEO. No matter the size of your company or your title, you can act like an entrepreneur. Be decisive, take calculated risks, recruit remarkable people to join you on your mission, embrace change, and be indefatigable.