Chapter 1

Who Is an Entrepreneur and What Do They Do, Really?

WE NEED TO NAIL DOWN OUR DEFINITION of entrepreneur right now or our plane will never leave the gate. There are as many definitions as there are books, blogs, and helpful aunts. But they seldom agree and they set false expectations, and that stops a lot of people from starting.

The number one myth is that you need to be a genius like Steve Jobs, or a visionary who goes around all day seeing things that others don’t see, or a lone rider control freak who either has to be CEO or nothing, or a daredevil who basks in risk. People also believe all entrepreneurs must have access to a financial stash that others don’t (such as venture capital—VC—investment money), have some specialized knowledge or education, and start with a complete, fail-safe plan that’s guaranteed to succeed.

That’s all wrong—by around 180 degrees.

Most people are startled by the findings that author and professor Amar V. Bhide uncovered in one of the most extensive studies on the subject. Bhide explains that the vast majority of start-ups that eventually make it to the Inc. 500 list of fastest-growing private companies began like this:

  • no new technology or breakthrough idea
  • $10,000 of friends and family financing
  • little or no formal planning
  • opportunistic adaptation instead of vision—that is, they reacted as much as they acted.
  • unproven human capital—they weren’t experts when they started1

In other words, most noteworthy businesses come from completely ...

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