Entrepreneurs – Born or Made?

By: Stefano Picone October 15, 2012


Besides being an entrepreneur, I am also a student of entrepreneurship.  I spend a fair amount of time studying entrepreneurs, past and present, and in a wide variety of sectors.  A question I often think of is whether entrepreneurs are born are made?  Is success a product of nature or nurture, or perhaps both?

Before I continue, I would like to provide a distinction in terms of what entrepreneurship is.  The word is derived from the French meaning “to undertake”, and therefore, any venture, whether personal or professional, could qualify as entrepreneurial.  However, in my opinion, entrepreneurship is a term that should be reserved for the ambitious.  Not to belittle anything less, but entrepreneurs are those seeking to make big changes, whether it is businesses, governments, people or anything else for the better.  The greater the desired change, the greater the forces already in place, the greater the entrepreneur.

Returning to the question, as with anything, there are two ingredients to success and those are motivation and aptitude.  Motivation is the desire to push, claw, scratch and fight, and continue against repeated obstacles.  Aptitude is the ability to plan, lead, adapt and execute.  Both are critical.

I firmly believe that motivation is either inherent or transformative.  A person is either born with the desire to be an entrepreneur, or there is something that happens in their lifetime to make them that way.  The motivation to be an entrepreneur cannot be forced upon a person.  Although my respect for Steve Jobs is qualified, he is someone who possessed an unmitigated and genuine desire for his craft.  In recruiting John Sculley, the former President of PepsiCo to join Apple, Jobs said “Do you want to sell sugared water for the rest of your life?  Or do you want to come with me and change the world?”

Conversely, aptitude can be taught.  There are many resources to help aspiring entrepreneurs including books, seminars, and courses, and sufficient diligence will begin to illuminate the path.  However, the best educator is failure, and if a person is willing to try, fail, adapt and try again, it is only a matter of time before they find their way.  Anyone with sufficient motivation will find a way to gain the skills and network necessary.

In summary, entrepreneurs are both born and made.  Motivation is nature, but skill is nurture.  Given the choice, I would rather work with someone with boundless motivation and limited aptitude, than someone lacking motivation but rich in talent.  Along the lines of Darwin, success belongs not to the fittest or most intelligent, but those most willing to adapt.