The first decade of startup entrepreneurship as we understand it today has come to an end. But entrepreneurship and enterprises is not a new phenomenon. They have existed for centuries. It was therefore for me an occasion to go to the roots (in true BYS tradition) and understand what these terms have meant over centuries and what should we take them to mean in the next decade.
Here is how Meriam Webster dictionary defines an entrepreneur: one who organizes, manages, and assumes the risks of a business or enterprise.
But before we proceed any further it would be important to understand what has humanity perceived enterprise as.
Here again Meriam Webster has a perspective that is worth examining. According to it an enterprise is a
- Project or undertaking that is especially difficult, complicated, or risky
- Unit of economic organization or activity especially : a business organization
- Systematic purposeful activity
- Readiness to engage in daring or difficult action
An associated word initiative has a very interesting definition- showing great enterprise in dealing with the crisis.
Again using Meriam Webster’s perspective entrepreneur simply means “a person who starts a business and is willing to risk loss in order to make money”. Does the word carry an additional connotation of far-sightedness and innovation? Or are these two characteristics an entrepreneur acquires as he experiences the journey. Can you be prepared to risk loss without passion, dedication and tenacity to win in all situations? I don’t believe so.
Entrepreneur has meant different things in different centuries- “a kind of businessman” since at least the middle of the 18th century. During the 19th century, it was also used for a “go-between” or a person who undertakes any kind of activity (as opposed to just a business). However by the early 20th century entrepreneur appears to have taken on the connotation of go-getter when applied to an independent business owner, a quality that may also be found in the phrase entrepreneurial spirit, which began being used at about the same time. And I am quoting largely from the dictionary. However the definition did throw up key facets of an entrepreneur and you see them marked in bold, italicized and underlined. By this perspective we should see Columbus, Vasco da Gama’s of this world also as entrepreneur.
Bringing it all together, an entrepreneur is willing to risk loss in order to make money by innovating, organizing, managing, and assuming the risks of a business or enterprise, showing tenacity & initiative to chart new paths out of crisis. His passion, dedication to the cause and tenacity helps him in all such situations.
As for being far-sighted I believe that will come to anyone who constantly thinks of opportunities and risks that the enterprise will or may face, both expected and unexpected. And Meriam Webster has succinctly summed up the historical perspective of risk and reward.
I believe the last decade has given us enough examples of what has or has not worked in setting up startups- businesses with uncertain future.
It is now time for us to hold ourselves to the true meaning of enterprise and an entrepreneur even more dearly.
The sole purpose of an enterprise is to earn returns on the money invested. And it is entrepreneurs job to undertake risk in order to make money. And he will make money only if he puts blood, sweat and tears into building a successful, profitable and a growing enterprise.
And it is doubly difficult for a startup entrepreneur as he is starting something that no one has done before. But then Columbus would not have discovered America if he had done what everyone else had done till then. So be your own Columbus and chart a new path by being passionate, tenacious and dedicated to your cause.