I often get asked to weigh in on the age-old question of whether entrepreneurs are born or made.
I believe that true entrepreneurs are born — not made.
Startups are inherently uncertain and a lot like roller coasters. One day, you could be on top of the world, full of confidence, and believe that your vision will change the world. But the next day, given the same conditions, you could be curled up in a ball — full of doubt both in yourself and in your vision. I believe there’s something intrinsic in the entrepreneur’s DNA that lets them live and even thrive under these conditions of extreme uncertainty.
I once heard an analogy that compared entrepreneurs to deep-sea fish. If you take fish at the surface down to the bottom of the ocean, they will die. They can’t survive the pressure and dark environment down there. Deep sea fish, on the other hand, have learned to survive under these harsh conditions. But interestingly, if you take the deep sea fish up to the surface, they, too, will die. That’s because they have not only learned how to survive at the bottom of the ocean, but they need their constant pressure environment to really thrive.
While I’d really love to see more entrepreneurs in this world, if my theory is right, then there is an upper limit to how many true entrepreneurs we can create. On the one I hand, I believe we are nowhere near this upper limit yet — Entrepreneurship to date has been constrained to a few global hot spots for reasons that are no longer applicable… But what has an even greater potential for impact is distinguishing entrepreneurs and entrepreneurial thinking. While I believe entrepreneurs are born a certain way, entrepreneurial thinking can be taught — which makes it limitless.
I spend my December planning one big initiative for the coming year. This year I am undertaking an ambitious project that combines everything I’ve learned in the last five years (on bootstrapping, running lean, business modeling, systems thinking, and jtbd) into one product I’m calling BOOTSTART.