Are You an Entrepreneur?

With the VT KnowledgeWorks Entrepreneurship Summit – which includes a Business Concept Competition, one Open, one for Students – just three months away, “What’s an entrepreneur?” is a hot topic.

According to its site, “The Kauffman Foundation is often referred to as one of the largest foundations in the United States – or as the world’s largest foundation devoted to entrepreneurship,” yet I couldn’t find a definition of an entrepreneur in its entrepreneurship section.

I asked Jim Flowers, Executive Director of VT KnowledgeWorks for that definition, and he kindly answered:

In general terms, an entrepreneur may be defined as an independent participant in the marketplace, taking personal responsibility for his or her own financial survival and well-being.  More specifically, a “true” or “complete” entrepreneur is someone who conceives, organizes, and leads a new, independent commercial venture at significant personal cost and risk, both financial and emotional.  It is not someone who does only part of that set of jobs.  So, for example, someone who opens a new coffee shop, or buys a car wash franchise, while definitely a risk-taker,  is not a “complete” entrepreneur, since he or she does not conceive or fully organize the venture.  The same can be said of an inventor who licenses an invention to someone else who then exploits it for their mutual gain. 
Simply put, if you dream up a business, put it together, run it, and depend on it financially, you are an entrepreneur.

We’ll share the results!

If you’re interested in submitting an application to the Open Business Concept Competitions, step-by-step directions are hereMore about the Summit is here, including a video on the fundamentals of entrepreneurship by Jim Flowers.


VT KnowledgeWorks is a client of Handshake Media, Incorporated, the parent company of Handshake 2.0.

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  1. I think this definition of “entrepreneur” is a bit restrictive in its scope. What I mean by restrictive is that I tend to think of an entrepreneur as someone who’s willing to take responsibility for their own success, regardless of whether it’s a brand new business idea, or an
    established industry with a new spin. If you’re willing to take the reins, lead the charge and be responsible for the success – and failure – of the venture, to ME that’s entrepreneurial.

    And you’d be one of those.

  2. I struggle with this defintion, too, Jeremy. I do think Handshake 2.0, and its parent company, Handshake Media, have an original business model, one that’s never been tried before. If I bought a McDonald’s franchise, I’d feel like a business owner, not an entrepreneur. I think that’s the distinction Flowers makes and probably one I make it my head, too. Currently anyway. Thanks for adding to the discussion!

  3. Good conversation-
    It is a fine line between the two. I agree about owner vs entrepreneur. Maybe there isn’t an actual line…
    Developing and commercializing a novel compound to treat age-related macular degeneration is certainly an entrepreneurial activity (OcuCure Therapeutics). However, our drug is not the first drug developed to treat AMD. Nor, will it be the first antiangiogenic compound to treat AMD. So, using Jim’s “complete entrepreneur” definition, one could argue that OcuCure would not meet the criteria.
    So, it’s difficult to define..old market/new technology, new market/old technology, inventor/creator vs production/manufacturing vs sales/marketing/distribution. All of these fall into the entrepreneurial space…and entrepreneurs are found throughout the entire process.

  4. I’ve heard, “An entrepreneur wants to change the way things are done.”

    This comment in The New York Times addresses that:

    It’s a component not present in Jim’s definition, so I wonder what he thinks about that.

    Jeremy mentions “new” and Sam mentions “first.” These may be important to defining entrepreneurship.

    I am continuing to ponder and thank you both for your comments.

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