SIMILAR GARMENTS, OF DIFFERENT CLOTH
The terms Founder, Entrepreneur and Businessperson are often used interchangeably. However, there are genuine semantic differences between each.
I define each as the following:
- Founder - one who creates and nurtures a venture that creates a new market, enables other ventures, or powerfully satisfies a previously unfulfilled need within society.
- Entrepreneur - one who undertakes a venture that focuses a targeted solution on a previously unserved (or underserved) niche.
- Businessperson - one who takes a well-established formula and seeks to optimise it's overall execution.
Founding means wilfully going where there is no roadmap. It involves developing a new technology (which may be a blend of soft, as in culture, and hard, as in algorithms) that has the power to change human experience, create new markets, and unlock new capacity for other ventures to build upon. You are one of the prime movers whose vision shapes society.
You're a Founder!
If there is a rough roadmap to follow, if you're taking a known business model and a new service (or a new business model and an old service), and you're targeting it to a niche, that's extremely useful. If you optimise a process, if you specialise in creating more efficient execution through your own twists on a proven concept - great! You find the best that's out there, and you bring it to the people.
You're an Entrepreneur!
If you take a tried-and-tested formula, but you find a need in society that people are willing to pay you for, and you serve them, that's awesome. You're not so distinct in what you offer, but you serve society, and compete within it largely based on proximity to customers, and your ability to sell. We all need corner stores, hairdressers, accountants, and traders. You are the backbone of society.
You're a Businessperson!
I define a Founder as someone who suffers from a need to create something original, from a desire to see something new and improved in the world, a desire born from pain at witnessing unfulfilled need. That pain drives them to shoulder the burden of being a prime mover.
People often mistake Founding or starting a new venture as being 'the fun bit'. It's not. Not when it comes to actually getting someone to pay you for what you create. It's by far the hardest, most miserable bit. It's also the most fulfilling, if one's alignment is oriented towards tolerance for uncertainty, and a need for freedom. And if one can stomach the ride.
Actually running a sustainable company is relatively straightforward. There's a great deal lot more noise, of course, but the battle is already won. It's a game of strategy, rather than tactics.
Transitioning from founding a venture to sustaining it can be a rough ride. Founding and Sustaining require different worldviews. Entrepreneurs are a blend of the two, and likely find such transition easier.
Unless one is willing to start something new, groundbreaking, and just plain difficult, then one is not in my view a true Founder.
Founders are different. Founders are slightly broken. Founders have something to prove.
In fact, I wager that most Founders don't really care too much about money for its own sake. They don't chase it. It's simply a tool, a means to an end, not a goal per se.
A Founder would never open up a corner shop. Not unless they had an honest vision of beating Sam Walton at his own game.