I was just reading the January-February edition of Foreign Affairs magazine which was focused on entrepreneurs and the national climate that encourages them.
In general the articles were reliable and somewhat accurate within the domain of popular ideas.
But my experience suggests it was off the mark because the entire subject is off the mark.
Who am I to talk? I am the founder of the Briarpatch Network, the hippie network of small businesses. I worked as a consultant with more than 1,000 start-up hippie businesses in the San Francisco Bay Area over a decade. That probably makes me the leading authority on this subject now and for a century into the future.
I don't recognize the term 'entrepreneur'. Its bull. Everyone who starts a business is in the same category: a person who starts a business. From this group there is a subset of people whose businesses survive. These are 'small business people'. Among these there is another subset, those who want their business to grow and it does. Those are the people mistakenly called 'entrepreneurs'.
One element that is often omitted in describing people who found innovative businesses. They invariably start in poor neighborhoods (in poor suburbs, these are started in garages). Because neighbors don't call the cops and 'strange goings on' are strange. The tofu business started in just such a neighborhood, so did several electronic companies and many manufacturing plants from wind generators to pot pipes.
The two elements that are always overlooked on the subject of start-up businesses: up-beat and outlaw.
Everyone who starts a business is up-beat and they are usually in an up-beat environment. You have to be up-beat to face the daunting task of facing the odds against succeeding. I never see that stated clearly and blatantly. I suspect that when the national mood is down-beat, not many businesses get started. The hippies started more new businesses than any group on earth, or anytime in history. They were astoundingly up-beat and intended to create a new world. A new world with new food, clothes, technology, new governance, religions and everything else.
The hippies were also outlaws. Not just because of drug usage but in their outlook on the surrounding society. Nearly every start-up business I dealt with began without a license, without paying taxes or any of the legal fees including withholding taxes or workers compensation. After they got going and knew they would survive they became legal.
It is the outlaw quality that is usually overlooked. People who risk their lives in starting a business are not conformists who could get a salaried job. They are defiant. A quality that makes for an innovator.
That's my experience.
Several of my start-ups became global corporations. Their stories are varied. Body Shop is just one example. Three women started a cosmetics business called Body Shop based on their hippie ideas of safe and healthy ingredients. They had good design skills. A British woman copied every detail of their business and grew it to a global scale. She then went back and paid the three founders a reasonable lump sum settlement.Another global business example is the modern bicycle... I'll save that story for another time.
Next time you hear the word 'entrepreneur' question the term and note that the user has ignored the requisite up-beat qualities needed to start a successful business and the outlaw origins of most innovative businesses.