Can anyone be an entrepreneur? Yes and no, three founders say

5 min read
30 Oct 2020

he question of whether or not a person needs to have certain qualities in order to found a company has long been debated. But there are no easy or universal answers. Here’s what three successful entrepreneurs had to say about the topic.

Entrepreneurship levels are stable or on the rise globally, according to the 2017/18 Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM), which is one of the world’s largest single studies on entrepreneurs.

The GEM’s report also found that nearly three quarters of entrepreneurs have started businesses in pursuit of an opportunity rather than out of necessity. And the region it found to have the highest proportion of entrepreneurs is North America.

In light of this data on founders the world over, including figures which show that more and more people are shunning the notion of working for someone else, one can’t help but think whether a founder needs to have particular characteristics.

What makes a founder different from someone who doesn’t choose to launch their own company? Can just about any type of person start a business? Also, can you still be considered an entrepreneur if you haven’t exactly founded a company?

Three types of entrepreneurs

For the founder of Startup Guide, Sissel Hansen, there are three types of entrepreneurs out there: those who are born to be entrepreneurs, those who become entrepreneurs over time, and those who don’t necessarily launch their own business.

“I really feel I was born to be an entrepreneur,” Sissel says, adding that in her part-time jobs in the past at places like restaurants, she kept looking at the clock wondering when her shift would be over. Sissel thinks natural-born founders are the most willing of the three types to take risks.

As well, these types of entrepreneurs realize that the journey is the fun part rather than the end goal, according to Sissel. “They are persistent and have visionary thinking, but they also need to be realistic,” she says.

Persistence is no doubt something that propelled Sissel forward with her own startup. Within four years, she’s managed to build up a company which began as a one-person operation in Berlin to a team of currently 20 people across three European cities.

Startup Guide books can now also be seen in over 20 cities around the world, such as NYC. And in the near future, there’ll be a Startup Guide book for Singapore, Cape Town and a few other cities in Africa.

Another type of founder is one who develops her entrepreneurial know-how over time and with experience, Sissel says. These are usually people who are either educated or have taken on jobs that have allowed them to collect valuable skills and knowledge when it comes to building a company.

Lastly, there are those who aren’t exactly itching to create the next big tech startup such as Apple, but are still very much entrepreneurial, Sissel says, explaining that examples of these types of people are those who work at startups, such as designers or creatives.

‘Entrepreneurship isn’t a developable skill’

Gary Vaynerchuk, an American serial entrepreneur, investor, author and outspoken internet personality, has a different take on the question of whether or not anyone can be an entrepreneur.

While Gary agrees with Sissel in that he thinks entrepreneurs are born and not made, he doesn’t believe entrepreneurship is a developable skill. Gary points out on his website that top basketball players aren’t automatically ready for the NBA after playing a few basketball games. In this vein, he criticizes the fact that “entrepreneurs” these days expect founding a company to be something they can pick up and learn spontaneously.

“Little thought is given to that fact that just like the top athletes in the world, entrepreneurs who build successful businesses come from a certain breed. They have an entrepreneurial DNA that allowed them to hone in on their business skills in the first place,” Gary says.

Gary’s story began back in the 1990s when he grew his family’s local liquor business from $3 million to $60 million in sales within a five-year period. He then began YouTubing about the family business and before he knew it, he started landing appearances on national TV. He is currently chairman of VaynerX, a media and communications company, and CEO of ad agency VaynerMedia.

The five major traits that Gary believes a person needs in order to build a business and live the life of a founder are: salesmanship, a good understanding of consumers, patience, an independent spirit (i.e. you trust your own intuition) and drive (or a chip on your shoulder, as he describes it).

And while everyone is born with some capability of running a business, Gary believes a significant chunk - 90 percent - are born with the capability to actually run it into the ground. He also thinks that while anyone can start a business, “only the top 25 percent will actually grow into multi-million dollar companies with more than one employee.”

‘Entrepreneurs want to solve problems’

For Ryan Allis, yet another successful entrepreneur who launched his first company in the early 2000s in the US and saw it grow to 300 employees and bring in $50 million in annual sales, entrepreneurship has more to do with solving a meaningful problem in the world.

“I think anyone can be an entrepreneur,” Ryan says, adding that “if you're an entrepreneur, you're someone that takes action and you're someone that wants to create a better world.”

For Ryan Allis, yet another successful entrepreneur who launched his first company in the early 2000s in the US and saw it grow to 300 employees and bring in $50 million in annual sales, entrepreneurship has more to do with solving a meaningful problem in the world.

“A lot of people are very entrepreneurial,” says Ryan, stating that in cities like Lagos, Bangalore and Bogota the streets are filled with independent entrepreneurs running their own shops. “They’re basically doing whatever it takes to hustle and make a difference to solve a real problem.”

The types of people who launch their own venture in Ryan’s opinion are usually “driven, caring, ambitious people” who may be dissatisfied with the status quo and are willing to take action to make a difference.

“Could anyone in theory possess qualities such as these which are typical of entrepreneurs? Absolutely,” Ryan says. “But is everyone this type of person? Definitely not.”

Main photo: Unplash/Maxwell-Ridgeway

*This article was originally published on October 17th, 2018 and updated on December 11th, 2018.