A few months ago a strategic planning exercise led me to ask about the kinds of technology entrepreneurs that I have encountered in the marketplace. Since then, I've done some research into typologies that help with understanding ourselves and others. After I describe my eight entrepreneurial types, I include some quick references into this type of research.
My work focuses on helping Entrepreneurs to build and grow their businesses, especially those dealing with software, internet or e-Commerce related businesses. If you were an entrepreneur I worked with, I'd first want to understand you from the perspective of your deepest motivations for your business. This knowledge helps me to answer important questions like:
- How do you define success?
- What are your business biases?
- How will others in the entrepreneurial eco-system perceive you?
- What are some prescriptions for filling gaps you may have?
Following is a quiz that highlights some of the key elements of the different "entrepreneur archetypes" that I've encountered. What kind are you?
Answer the questions under each type and see which one(s) resonate most deeply with why you would start a business. I include a brief commentary on each archetype. In the future, I'll publish some details on the implications of each type. Comments and suggestions are welcome!
1) Get Big Fast (Tagline: Scale)
- Is your primary motivation financial gain by creating a global enterprise?
- Do you want to change the world with your idea?
- Are you a student or recent graduate?
- Do you have limited experience with starting a business?
- Do you have a healthy dose of enthusiasm and idealism?
Commentary: I've encountered a number of student entrepreneurs who fit this category. Their unbridled enthusiasm and optimism is a double-edged sword.
2) Freedom Builder - Industrialist (Tagline: Creating Value in Emerging Markets)
- Is your primary motivation financial gain by creating “cool technology” stuff?
- Are you an experienced business person coming out of a different, (maybe even non-technology) industry?
- Do you feel that you have a good handle on how business operates?
Commentary: Often approaching their new venture with a been-there, done-that attitude about business, this entrepreneur brings business acumen but sometimes encounters a culture clash as they move from more traditional business settings to the fast-paced technology world.
3) Passion Mavens (Tagline: Change the World)
- Do you have an area of expertise that can be leveraged to help a large number of people or organizations like businesses, schools, towns, governments?
- Do you consider yourself an artist or artisan?
- Would you describe yourself as more of a "Feeling person" than a "Thinking person"?
- Are you relatively inexperienced on the business front?
Commentary: These are usually loving, caring people who are filled with optimism. Oftentimes they need to fill big business gaps like defining a clear value proposition, a go to market strategy or a business model.
4) Spice of Lifers (Tagline: Play for Synergy)
- Is your primary motivation for starting a business to "set yourself up" for a potential second career - which initially is a part-time pursuit?
- Do you plan to play the role of “strategist/idea generator” while having a virtual team that can help you achieve your goals?
- Is your business concept a passion of yours which not received your full attention?
- Are you hoping for cash-flow, passive income streams and enjoyment from your venture?
- Are you an experienced business professional in an unrelated field from your business idea?
Commentary: This entrepreneur seeks a second-career and is often willing to invest evenings and weekends to research, detail and pursue their dream. Often bound by existing time constraints, they usually realize the need for and seek out a team that can help them reach their goal.
5) Solopreneur (Tagline: Independence)
- Do you seek independence from organizational constraints and hierarchy?
- Does the slogan, “Do what you love, love what you do” resonate with you?
- Are you seeking a positive lifesytle and cash-flow from your business to support that lifestyle?
Commentary: Independence and balance form the cornerstone of the solopreneur. They enjoy working with teams, but will keep their distance as a "virtual team member". They often need help with infrastructure.
6) Expert Idea Generator (Tagline: Immortality through Ideas)
Adopted from John B. Miner (1997) for this type - see below for more on Miner's types.
- Do you have deep technical domain expertise that can be captured in a product or service?
- Do have a deep desire to innovate?
- Would you consider yourself to be a strong "conceptual" thinker and highly intelligent?
- Do you believe in new product development as a key element of company strategy?
Commentary: The true inventors of the world are driven to create; create to improve; improve to help; help to be remembered. Aspiring to be the next Dean Kamen (Segway) or Thomas Edison they can work with relentless energy. Oftentimes communication skills present opportunties for optimizing.
7) Freedom Builder – Technologist (Tagline: Believable Growth)
- Do you want to achieve independence so you can build/create “cool” stuff that adds value?
- Do you desire growth for its excitement, high energy and personal validation?
- Are you coming out of a corporate environment with a specific technology proficiency?
- Did you find the corporate setting "stifling" to pursuing your dreams?
Commentary: These entrepreneurs have typically grown in the cocoon of a corporation until they realize that they have wings. Many times they will seek business degrees just before or immediately upon leaving the corporate world to round out their technical experience.
8) Serious Competitor (Tagline: Play to Win)
- Is your primary motivation to create value through a deep understanding of market systems?
- Do you enjoy competition through playing high stakes, winner-take-all “games”?
- Do you have a business degree or MBA?
- Do you consider yourself relatively business savvy?
Commentary: This group represents the entrepreneur most adored by Venture Capitalists. They are typically very conceptual, fast on their feet and go way deep on the markets they are pursuing. They see and ride waves - and as near as I can tell - they all have a formula for "businesses that work" (but not always the same one).
Some points of reference:
As part of a recent course in Integral Theory, I pursued this question in my term paper. I researched a number of theories that others had used in thinking about "types" of entrepreneurs, CEOs and people in general.
The type systems that I found provided a pretty interesting introspection into the nature of people and which classifications are most helpful in a business setting. For example, I found that the general purpose typologies of the Enneagram and the Keirsey Temperament Sorter
(very similar to the Meyers-Briggs instrument known by many) both have some basis in ancient wisdom and philosophy. However, while the Enneagram
can provide deep insights into the self, it can take months or even years to really settle on what your Enneagram Type is. The Keirsey Temperament Sorter provides an objective test in less than 1 hour which provides insights into a person's preferences for inter-personal interaction, conceptual style and receptivity to different types of work. As such, it can be very helpful to business.
Some other worthwhile types that I came across in my study were four types outlined by John B. Miner in his book "A Pscyhological Typology of Entrepreneurs"
Miner outlines the types:
The Personal Achiever: characterized as having a motivation for self achievement, Type A personality, desire for feedback on achievements, desire to plan and set goals for future achievement, strong personal initiative, strong personal commitment to their venture, desire to obtain information and learn, internal locus of control, high value placed on careers in which personal goals, individual accomplishments and demands of the work govern and low value placed on careers in which peer groups govern (anti-communal ethic).
The Real Manager: characterized by high supervisory ability, strong self-assurance, strong need for occupational advancement, strong need for self-actualization, weak need for job security, strong personal decisiveness, positive attitudes towards authority, desire to compete, desire to assert oneself, desire to exercise power, directive in cognitive style, desire to stand out from the crowd and desire to perform managerial tasks
The Expert Idea Generator: characterized by desire to personally innovate, conceptual in cognitive style, belief in new product development as a key element of company strategy, high intelligence, desire to avoid taking risks
The Empathetic Supersalesperson is characterized by an empathic cognitive style, desire to help others, high value attached to social processes, strong need for harmonious social relationships and belief in the sales force as a key element of company strategy.
I also found a kindred system in Ed Schein's Career Anchors. This MIT professor outlines his Career Anchors http://www.solonline.org/res/wp/10009.html as types of work that people gravitate to. However, Dr. Schein is focused on all types of workers.
There is a lot to think about in starting a new venture. Maybe the first question an entrepreneur needs to ask is why am I REALLY doing this.