Entrepreneurs were a rare breed even as recently as ten years ago. They were typecast as flamboyant, charming, problem-solvers helping the world-at-large, embodied by the likes of Sir Richard Branson and Elon Musk. Now, between brazen publicity stunts and actual world-changing innovation, entrepreneurs make up a growing contingent propping up the global economy.
It’s easy to think of entrepreneurs as being adventurous renegades, renouncing the drudgery of the nine-to-five and desks in favour of hammocks and meetings in the park.
A survey by AXA Business Insurance reveals otherwise. The business owners surveyed represented limited companies, sole traders and partnerships. Those involved in partnerships were more likely to be wary, prudent and composed when compared to their entrepreneur peers. Sole traders demonstrated more carefree, intense and spontaneous qualities, suggesting the one-man-band nature of their roles allows for more flexibility in decision-making. Those representing limited companies showed a proportionate balance across wary, prudent and deliberate risk types.
“Any business, regardless of sector or the level of experience running it, would be unsustainable without its leaders having clear goals and ambitions, and a practical roadmap, grounded in reality, to achieving these,” Darrell Sansom, AXA Business Insurance MD says.
So what dictates the type of entrepreneur you are?
Pioneers spot new business opportunities long before others. They are creative, risk-seeking and love the idea of shaking up large industries. Their drive and ambition for disrupting the status quo often gives them a aura of charisma.
These entrepreneurs are inventors at heart. They usually start their journey by building a product they love that solves a problem they personally face. What pushes investors into entrepreneurialism is either them finding a way to monetise their product, or a partnership with a more commercially minded co-founder. Most inventors are engineers, scientists or researchers who immerse themselves in technical subjects. Their motivation to start up is to keep building a problem-solving product, rather than the make a quick buck. Most technical co-founders fall into this category, and tend to shy away from the role of CEO.
Copycats may not be inventors or even the first movers into a new market, but they are expert marketeers. Copycats spot a business opportunity and promising start-ups in other markets and copy the business model to a tee. A common example are European start-ups who take successful US cases home before they expand, such as Seatwave (Stubhub), LoveFilm (Netflix), Gumtree (Craigslist), Citydeal (Groupon). Copycats are usually risk-averse, but are meticulous in market research and understanding what makes a business really take off. If they start-up with a pioneer, the company can go very far, potentially shadowing the original start-up that came to market first.
Notable examples: Joe Cohen (Seatwave), Michael Pennington and Simon Crookall (Gumtree)
The Middle Man
Middle men can do well anywhere, anytime; whether we were in the old days of bartering, or in today’s thriving app economy. When you buy speakers from Amazon, or book a short-term rental via Airbnb, or ride-share on Uber at a fraction of a taxi rental, it’s easy to forget that technically, these app-driven businesses are all middle men. None of these brands manufacturers. AirBnB does not own any of the properties on its platform; Uber doesn’t own cars, and until recently, didn’t even hire drivers as employees. With the power of their platforms, and the lure of their marketplace, these brands are connecting consumers to service providers and product manufacturers.
Notable examples:Travis Kalanick (Uber), Brian Chesky (Airbnb)
Game-changers are a lot like pioneers, driven by the desire to make their vision a reality. The main difference between the two is that pioneers chase business opportunities as a priority, while game-changers are motivated by social causes and an ambition to improve the world. Most social entrepreneurs fall under this category.
Notable examples:( ), n (Ashoka: Innovators of the Public), Blake Mycoski ( )
The Parallel Entrepreneur
This type of entrepreneur flip-flops from one idea to the next. It’s not that they don’t have the drive or dedication; parallel entrepreneurs fail to commit to one start-up idea until it takes off. They are usually both ambitious and restless, either bringing multiple ideas to market too early, or giving up too soon. They usually work with the hope that one of their projects will become the next Facebook or Amazon. Their lack of focus and patience is their biggest obstacle.
Notable examples: John Abrams (Friendster)
The Serial Entrepreneur
Serial entrepreneurs are at the top of the entrepreneurial totem pole. They have successfully launched, grown, and exited their start-up at least once before doing it all over again. They usually are a brand in their own right, with a loyal fan following of customers and aspiring entrepreneurs. VCs love them and keep throwing money into their ideas, and they usually tend to be media darlings.
Notable examples: Jack Dorsey (Twitter, Square), Marc Andreessen (Netscape, Opsware, Ning), Peter Thiel (PayPal, Founder’s Fund, Clarium, Palantir)
Wantrepreneurs are easy to spot. They’re usually the ones who are always working on a business idea, yet never quite with a timeline. The more obnoxious of the lot may try to convince just about everyone that they had the idea for Uber when they first got in a cab, or thought up of Facebook when Mark Zuckerberg was in diapers. The more genuine of the lot are just aspiring entrepreneurs who may need the push to start up.
Notable examples: Any one who says “Zuckerberg totally ripped off my idea.”
So what’s your entrepreneurial patronus? Find out with this handy flowchart from Neomam studios.