Blog post by ELP Student Naomi Grossman (Business | Class of 2020)
Startups are the product of revolutionary minds coming together to fix a problem. With a 10% success rate, these companies are figuring things out as they go, changing their strategy and business plan through every obstacle. This is what we think of when we hear the word “entrepreneurship.” But entrepreneurship is no longer limited to the startup.
In today’s business world, sticking to what you know is dangerous. Technological innovations, mostly driven by these startup companies, are making traditional processes and solutions irrelevant very quickly. Students are taught that in order to be employable, they need to learn relevant skill sets (e.g., coding). Corporations are learning that to stay relevant they need to focus on adopting technology and changing the “this is how it has always been done” approach. As a result of this pressure, students and corporations are developing the mindset of an entrepreneur, even creating a new class of entrepreneurs.
At universities, students have access to a multitude of resources, programs, and a diverse group of students and educators to pursue any idea that comes to mind. At corporations, entrepreneurship usually means independence; employees have the ability to take initiative and propose ideas, but they usually must demonstrate thorough plans before getting approval. On the other hand, entrepreneurship at a startup is for the risk-seeking. The startup mentality is to go ahead and run with the many ideas you have until something works.
As you can see, the more entrepreneurship enters different facets of the business world, the more ambiguous it becomes. To be an entrepreneur means different things to different people. Not everyone is a founder; some people prefer to join a late-stage startup once it has already figured some things out. Some people prefer to take risk in financing startups rather than operating them, like at a venture capital firm. Others prefer to take initiative within a structured environment like a corporation or large university. But many people are also risk-averse and may be excited about how the world is changing but want to ride the wave instead of creating it.
So what type of entrepreneur are you? Here are some questions I’ve asked myself while reflecting on my entrepreneurial journey:
- How much time do you devote to school vs. to clubs/organizations, outside personal projects, spending time with friends? What do you like to do for fun? What is your ideal day?
- How structured are you day-to-day? Do you maintain a routine?
- Do you feel comfortable or antsy in a structured, stable environment?
- How would you describe yourself as a student, friend, teammate?
- What role do you typically take on in group projects? Do you prefer group projects or working independently?
- Are you naturally inquisitive? Forward-thinking?
Self Starter – The self-starter is the true founder. When not doing work, the self-starter is brainstorming new projects to pursue or skills to learn. This individual is constantly busy but very present in the current task or engagement. If you’ve ever met someone who seems to know a little about almost every topic there is, you’ve probably met a self-starter. Very few people have this DNA, but when they do, they enjoy working with the ideator and delivering on a variety of different ideas.
Adaptor – The adaptor is an entrepreneur who keeps tabs on how technological innovations are running their course. Usually up to date on the newest trends, the adaptor is always ready to make sacrifices for the group and ensure the group is approaching their work in the most efficient way.
Collaborator – The collaborator is an individual who goes with the flow and is open to diving all-in on what the group decides. An efficient worker, the collaborator is interested in getting things done and usually does not like making many adjustments to the plan along the way. However, alongside the adaptor, the collaborator works very comfortably knowing that the team will pursue the most sensible action plan to get the work completed properly and effectively.
Ideator – The ideator has a knack for coming up with creative ways to approach a problem, getting every idea out there without worrying about others’ opinions throughout the brainstorming process. This person is typically the first to speak up in a group and is open to everyone’s suggestions but will rarely agree to a solution without iterating on it first. However, because this person is constantly thinking of new ways to approach a problem, they occasionally have a hard time committing to and delivering a solution. A self-starter fills this gap as the ideator’s ideal co-founder.
This is by no means a complete list of categories. You can find any one of these individuals and many more at a startup, research lab, recording studio, classroom, or corporation. The takeaway here is that the entrepreneurial mindset is everywhere you look. Whether you’re planning a project, designing a sports play, or introspecting, you are thinking like an entrepreneur. For me, trying out the many entrepreneurial organizations at the University of Michigan was being entrepreneurial, as I was figuring out how entrepreneurship would play a role in my future. And what I’ve come to discover is that my goal as an entrepreneur is not to be the founder of the next big technology startup. My goal is to serve as an ambassador for continual improvement, adaptation, and the entrepreneurial mindset. That has taken the form of:
- Co-directing a pitch competition from scratch sophomore year: raising money, recruiting a team, reaching out to partners and participants
- Traveling to Israel to learn about the unique entrepreneurial ecosystem there and then consulting for Israeli startups when I came back to school
- Studying strategy, finance, accounting, and management in business school
- Interacting with the passionate founders of hundreds of startups through my internship in venture capital
But it also means learning how to recreate my favorite songs on garageband, spontaneously calling my friends just to ask them a brain teaser, and combining my favorite sports games to create a new one altogether. Just like there are different types of entrepreneurs, there are different types of entrepreneurial mindsets. And I believe that in a world where we are only limited by our imagination, it doesn’t make sense to restrict the definition of an entrepreneur to “a person who organizes and operates a business.” We are all entrepreneurs, you just have to find your startup.