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1.17 Other Definitional Issues

There is another way to take this definitional issue of entrepreneurship, and that is to try to define what entrepreneurship is not. But, that approach is not very helpful either. However, some of our colleagues are on the verge of describing entrepreneurship as something really exceptional, that being entrepreneurship is the creation of high growth firms. We address the issue of growth in a later chapter of this book. However, for an in-depth discussion on why this is a fool’s errand, we refer you to our book Understanding the Myth of High Growth Firms: The Theory of the Greater Fool (Brännback et al. 2014).

In the same vein some view second-generation family business owners as not being entrepreneurs, as they did not create the venture but just inherited the firm. If that is the case Ray Kroc was not the entrepreneur at McDonald’s nor were the two McDonald brothers Richard and Maurice, but their father Patrick was. This definition would mean that only founders can be entrepreneurs. Just like McDonald’s where those who came later would be the acknowledged entrepreneurs, we have plenty of examples of family firms remaining entrepreneurial generation after generation as we can see in firms that reinvent themselves with new products, markets, and organizational structures. Heineken Brewing is another example of a family firm making entrepreneurship happening in terms of new markets and brands under the leadership of Alfred “Freddie” Heineken, the grandson of the founder.

Returning to Necessity Entrepreneurs, such as immigrants or oppressed minorities, these individual did not initially discover an opportunity but had to find a way to make a living and therefore had to do something. To say that this is not entrepreneurship is to negate the struggle many of these people have undergone. Interestingly, many necessity-based firms are actually exploiting opportunities and thus the distinction between the types can be fuzzy at best.

There are a few who think that only those with frame-breaking technology can be true entrepreneurs. We totally disagree. These technology entrepreneurs, who are real special cases, face entirely different challenges than many “ordinary” entrepreneurs in established industries or necessity entrepreneurs in trying to survive physically. They need much more initial funding and it takes forever to turn a profit if they ever manage to do so. Biotechnology entrepreneurs are a special case of technology entrepreneurs as that is about developing science first, then technology, and only then figure out whether there is a business opportunity involved there too. Perhaps, the one thing all of the above have in common is hard work and a desire to achieve a goal, which differs for each. If you think being an entrepreneur is easy, this is not the right career choice for you.

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