Chapter 13: Business Models
Entrepreneurship has traditionally been defined as the process of designing, launching and running a new business, which typically begins as a small business, such as a startup company, offering a product, process or service for sale or hire. It has been defined as the “…capacity and willingness to develop, organize, and manage a business venture along with any of its risks in order to make a profit.” While definitions of entrepreneurship typically focus on the launching and running of businesses, due to the high risks involved in launching a start-up, a significant proportion of businesses have to close, due to a “…lack of funding, bad business decisions, an economic crisis — or a combination of all of these” or due to lack of market demand. In the 2000s, the definition of “entrepreneurship” has been expanded to explain how and why some individuals (or teams) identify opportunities, evaluate them as viable, and then decide to exploit them, whereas others do not,and, in turn, how entrepreneurs use these opportunities to develop new products or services, launch new firms or even new industries and create wealth.
Traditionally, an entrepreneur has been defined as “a person who organizes and manages any enterprise, especially a business, usually with considerable initiative and risk“. Rather than working as an employee, an entrepreneur runs a small business and assumes all the risk and reward of a given business venture, idea, or good or service offered for sale. The entrepreneur is commonly seen as a business leader and innovator of new ideas and business processes.” Entrepreneurs tend to be good at perceiving new business opportunities and they often exhibit positive biases in their perception (i.e., a bias towards finding new possibilities and seeing unmet market needs) and a pro-risk-taking attitude that makes them more likely to exploit the opportunity.“Entrepreneurial spirit is characterized by innovation and risk-taking.” While entrepreneurship is often associated with new, small, for-profit start-ups, entrepreneurial behavior can be seen in small-, medium- and large-sized firms, new and established firms and in for-profit and not-for-profit organizations, including voluntary sector groups, charitable organizations and government. For example, in the 2000s, the field of social entrepreneurship has been identified, in which entrepreneurs combine business activities with humanitarian, environmental or community goals.
An entrepreneur is typically in control of a commercial undertaking, directing the factors of production–the human, financial and material resources–that are required to exploit a business opportunity. They act as the manager and oversee the launch and growth of an enterprise. Entrepreneurship is the process by which an individual (or team) identifies a business opportunity and acquires and deploys the necessary resources required for its exploitation. The exploitation of entrepreneurial opportunities may include actions such as developing a business plan, hiring the human resources, acquiring financial and material resources, providing leadership, and being responsible for the venture’s success or failure. Economist Joseph Schumpeter (1883–1950) stated that the role of the entrepreneur in the economy is “creative destruction“–launching innovations that simultaneously destroy old industries while ushering in new industries and approaches. For Schumpeter, the changes and “dynamic disequilibrium brought on by the innovating entrepreneur … [are] the ‘norm’ of a healthy economy.”
Entrepreneurship typically operates within an entrepreneurship ecosystem which often includes government programs and services that promote entrepreneurship and support entrepreneurs and start-ups; non-governmental organizations such as small business associations and organizations that offer advice and mentoring to entrepreneurs (e.g., through entrepreneurship centers or websites); small business advocacy organizations that lobby the government for increased support for entrepreneurship programs and more small business-friendly laws and regulations; entrepreneurship resources and facilities (e.g., business incubators and seed accelerators); entrepreneurship education and training programs offered by schools, colleges and universities; and financing (e.g., bank loans, venture capital financing, angel investing, and government and private foundation grants). The strongest entrepreneurship ecosystems are those found in top entrepreneurship hubs such as Silicon Valley, New York City, Boston, Singapore and other such locations where there are clusters of leading high-tech firms, top research universities, and venture capitalists. In the 2010s, entrepreneurship can be studied in college or university as part of the disciplines of management or business administration.
The term entrepreneur is defined as an individual who organizes or operates a business or businesses. Credit for coining this term generally goes to the French economist Jean-Baptiste Say. However, the Irish-French economist Richard Cantillon defined the term first in his Essai sur la Nature du Commerce en Général, or Essay on the Nature of Trade in General, a book William Stanley Jevons considered the “cradle of political economy”. Cantillon used the term differently; biographer Anthony Breer noted that Cantillon saw the entrepreneur as a risk-taker while Say considered the entrepreneur a “planner”. Cantillon defined the term as a person who pays a certain price for a product and resells it at an uncertain price: “making decisions about obtaining and using the resources while consequently admitting the risk of enterprise.” The word first appeared in the French dictionary entitled “Dictionnaire Universel de Commerce” compiled by Jacques des Bruslons and published in 1723.
Relationship between small business and entrepreneurship
The term “entrepreneur” is often conflated with the term “small business” or used interchangeably with this term. While most entrepreneurial ventures start out as a small business, not all small businesses are entrepreneurial in the strict sense of the term. Many small businesses are sole proprietor operations consisting solely of the owner, or they have a small number of employees, and many of these small businesses offer an existing product, process or service, and they do not aim at growth. In contrast, entrepreneurial ventures offer an innovative product, process or service, and the entrepreneur typically aims to scale up the company by adding employees, seeking international sales, and so on, a process which is financed by venture capital and angel investments. Successful entrepreneurs have the ability to lead a business in a positive direction by proper planning, to adapt to changing environments and understand their own strengths and weakness.
The entrepreneur is commonly seen as an innovator — a designer of new ideas and business processes. Management skill and strong team building abilities are often perceived as essential leadership attributes for successful entrepreneurs. Political economist Robert Reich considers leadership, management ability, and team-building to be essential qualities of an entrepreneur.
Theorists Frank Knight and Peter Drucker defined entrepreneurship in terms of risk-taking. The entrepreneur is willing to put his or her career and financial security on the line and take risks in the name of an idea, spending time as well as capital on an uncertain venture. Knight classified three types of uncertainty:
- Risk, which is measurable statistically (such as the probability of drawing a red color ball from a jar containing 5 red balls and 5 white balls)
- Ambiguity, which is hard to measure statistically (such as the probability of drawing a red ball from a jar containing 5 red balls but an unknown number of white balls)
- True uncertainty or Knightian uncertainty, which is impossible to estimate or predict statistically (such as the probability of drawing a red ball from a jar whose contents are entirely unknown)
Entrepreneurship is often associated with true uncertainty, particularly when it involves the creation of a novel good or service, for a market that did not previously exist, rather than when a venture creates an incremental improvement to an existing product or service. A 2014 study at ETH Zürich found that compared with typical managers, entrepreneurs showed higher decision-making efficiency, and a stronger activation in regions of frontopolar cortex (FPC) previously associated with explorative choice.