Entrepreneur or Wantrepreneur?

A guy came up to me yesterday, he said he was employed but didn’t like his job and he wanted to go out on his own but had no idea what he wants do. He asked for advice. I simply said to him, bro you are not an entrepreneur. Seeing the blood rush from his face, I quickly qualified my statement by condescendingly saying; but that’s ok, not everyone should be. Just because you hate your job is no reason to want to start a business. It’s a reason to go work elsewhere.

Serial entrepreneurs have a thousand ideas a second, we like starting things. We are not necessarily great at running or growing them. Non serial entrepreneurs tend to be entrepreneurs who start a business based on filling a need they have personally experienced or something they are passionate about. Serial entrepreneurs on the other hand are about idea generation and execution. Either way to be an entrepreneur you need to be crystal clear about an idea! You must have one! More importantly must be willing to execute it without any visible evidence that it will succeed.

Interestingly, start ups that are likely to succeed are started by entrepreneurs who start their businesses whilst having a full time job. As I mentioned in yesterday’s blog, 95% of South African entrepreneurs are self funding. Your salary helps to fund the business and give it the necessary runway to take off. It is also easier to jump from your job to a business that is already revenue generating. More importantly the fear factor dissipates when you see your idea becoming a reality. The down side is that it may take much longer for the idea to reach its full potential when you are half pregnant.

There are many good things to be said to remaining a corporate slayer. You can drive innovation internally in the organization and become an intrapreneur; particularly in fields where there is a high barrier to entry. A case in point was the guy who invented Please Call Me. As great as that idea was, it would have been impossible for him to create a stand alone business from it. Down side of corporate innovation is that corporations don’t recognize these intrapreneurs. Corporates take credit for these innovations and thus creating a culture of distrust and leading people to be silent about their good ideas and ultimately leave. iT companies are good at disrupting themselves and creating a culture of innovation and incubation.

When I was at Microsoft these two guys built a gaming console using computer hardware in their spare time. They then showed it to their boss. Most bosses in other corporates would have said guys we are a business the makes business software why in the hell would we be interested in making 1) hardware 2) Gamjng hardware 3) Sony has a play station that sells to a niche market.
Instead their boss told these guys to present their idea to the CSA at next monthly company brown bag. The CSA was Bill Gates. Bill gates had stepped down from being CEO of Microsoft and was the Chief Software Architect. I too have stepped “down” in my business, I am now the CEO – “Chef” Executive Officer. I digress…
The guys presented the console to Bill and he loved it. He gave them a team and a budget. The Xbox was born. Bill instinctively knew that whilst Microsoft was not a hardware business, all hardware ran software. To my knowledge Microsoft still makes a loss on the Xbox console. But guess where their recover all their money and then some?! Yes, you guessed it on the games, the software. And if you ever bought a game for an XBox for R900 now you know why. The best part is that you buy games more regularly than hardware.

This strategy has been so successful that I predict Sony will like Kodak, Nokia and Blackberry; will not be around in the next 2 years. Sony the company has not posted profit for the last 6 years! PlayStation has been the product that has kept them afloat; they floundered in the manufacturing of TVs, cam corders, batteries, computers, etc.
Intrapreneurs are therefore as important for the corporates future success as entrepreneurs are important to the creation of future corporates.

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