‘Entrepreneur’ is a buzzword these days. Media covers successful entrepreneurs like Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos as new age gods. Many youngsters do not want to be job seekers these days. They want to be entrepreneurs. Interestingly not many understand the meaning of the word entrepreneur. Many do not understand the difference between being an entrepreneur and being a person doing business.
I used to relate the word entrepreneur with high tech startups and the modern era. I was surprised to learn that economists have been studying this word for 300 years. Entrepreneur is an old French word which English has borrowed.
Till some time ago, I understood an entrepreneur as being an individual who has an active role in founding a startup and has tangible ownership in that startup.
Then one day I read an interesting definition of an entrepreneur by John Doerr. John Doerr is one of the legendary investors in Silicon Valley and is also one of the earliest investors in Google and Amazon.
According to John Doerr: ‘Entrepreneur is someone who does more than anyone thinks possible with less than anyone thinks possible.’
This definition is one of the best definitions I have learned about the word ‘Entrepreneur’. It made it clear that entrepreneurs can be anywhere. We all relate entrepreneurship with startups. This definition makes it clear that entrepreneurs can be outside of startups too. They do not need to be running startups. A good example is Mukesh Ambani (the richest man in India in 2020). He is the most iconic entrepreneur in India yet he is running an old company that has been in existence for many decades.
I got the good fortune to work with and be a friend with one of India’s legendary new age entrepreneurs – Vijay Shekhar Sharma, founder of Paytm (India’s highest valued startup in 2020). I have read a lot about startups, psychology and education and was also able to observe Vijay very closely in his work. After researching for 5 years I have been able to shortlist a few qualities of a successful entrepreneur:
Maker: Great entrepreneurs are makers at heart. They want to make things. If you study the life history of Elon Musk, Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, etc you will find that all of these were tinkerers from childhood. They loved making things.
Seller: Great entrepreneurs are also great sellers. They are able to sell their ideas. They are able to convince others. They are great storytellers. They are able to imagine big things and tell about them in such a way that other people get convinced to help them in their vision by being early employees, customers or investors.
Empathy for users: A great thing that I learned from Vijay was empathy for the user. I was able to listen to Vijay a few times talking about empathizing with the end users of Paytm. Take any great entrepreneur whether Steve Jobs, Elon Musk or Mukesh Ambani, all of them know the pulse of their user. This is what differentiates great entrepreneurs from good entrepreneurs.
Risk taker: 300 years ago a great economist described entrepreneurs as risk takers. This is still true today. Entrepreneurs are willing to experiment and take calculated risks whenever required.
Growth Mindset: Entrepreneurs have a can do attitude. They have a growth mindset. Successful entrepreneurs are great learners and are willing to personally grow themselves according to changing circumstances.
COVID epidemic has shown that the 21st century belongs to entrepreneurs. In 2020 people across the globe have lost money and jobs but we hear every day about the wealth increase of iconic entrepreneurs. I personally believe that AI and other technology will take over the majority of existing jobs in the next decades. The only viable career option in the coming decades will be entrepreneurship.
Technology and changing digital lifestyle will disrupt all existing businesses. Only the entrepreneurs will survive this disruption. Thus the future belongs to the entrepreneurs.
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