What makes an Entrepreneur
Being in the business of investments and entrepreneurs I cannot but think about the vast gamut of people one comes across in this line of work and what differentiates the ones who clearly stand out as entrepreneurs vs. the rest. Having been in different professional environments – starting out as a software engineer, then a consultant (fortunately a short stint!), an investment banker, an entrepreneur and then finally a VC, I have had the good fortune of being exposed to a wide variety of archetypes. This is not to pass judgment, and I’m aware that in reality this may sound like a generalization or a stereotype, but the hard truth is that we as investors are constantly evaluating Founders and trying to ascertain if they have that special something aka the X factor that makes an entrepreneur. Experiencing each phase of this journey has helped me appreciate and recognize what goes into the making of an entrepreneur and piecing this puzzle together is what our job is about. It’s a bonus that we happen to be paid to make that distinction and it is also fun!
With this context, here is my take on the different archetypes of people when they are put in different roles. Caveat emptor, I have been in each of these roles and seen up close how people can transcend archetypes and grow in different roles and thus have nothing but utmost admiration and empathy for entrepreneurs attempting this audacious path. As investors when we meet Founders we ask ourselves where they are in their journey and I’ve found categorizing it helps streamline the various roles with better clarity.
The people roles & archetypes in an Organization
Most organizations have goals to achieve and to achieve any goal requires resources. So, using goals and resources as two dimensions, one categorization of the archetypes might be:
IC (Individual Contributor): Typically classified as a resource themselves and achieve goals either assigned as a task directly or in conjunction with other resources (ICs) e.g. I was a resource when I worked as a software engineer. The role of a resource is often such that achieving a goal independently is possible but less common and they often act as an integral component in accomplishing the overarching goal
Manager: A manager is given a set of goals and resources (including ICs) that s/he is expected to work within to meet their targets. A “good” manager will further break it down into sub–goals and assign them to ICs along with necessary resources in a way that ensures the highest level of efficacy such that if each IC meets their sub–goal, the goal given to the manager is met
CEO: As VCs we often think about the characteristics of a CEO vs. an entrepreneur. In my view, a CEO assesses all available resources and generates goals for the organization. These goals along with the relevant resources are allocated to managers who in turn delegate as covered above and that is the essence of how a classic organization’s engine works. The approach taken by a good leader is to maximize output with the available resources. Great CEOs have an intuitive understanding of timing as well and embody the phrase “strike when the iron is hot”.
Entrepreneur: Entrepreneurs are built differently – they operate exclusively in the realm of goals. Period. Unconstrained by resources and uninhibited by any conformation to norms. Fearless. It makes them the dreamers and visionaries that we all love and admire. Resources to them are a form of constraint and they don’t believe in constraints as their mind is clutter free. What sets them apart is their innate belief that they can generate any resources necessary to achieve their goals. And the best entrepreneurs are able to transcend roles of an IC, Manager or CEO in pursuit of the one and only thing that matters – The Goal. Great entrepreneurs don’t care much about timing and live by the phrase “strike so hard the iron become hot”.
What we at Matrix are really looking for is this person. If you are one or know one, please reach out