Want to Become an Entrepreneur? Be an Intrapreneur First

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entrepreneur intrapreneur intrapreneurship

Many people want to become entrepreneurs. The lure of being your own boss and potentially becoming the next Elon Musk sounds appealing. What’s less glamorized is the risk, luck, stress, and work that is required to start your own company.

You read about the success stories but don’t realize all the failures that happen. A large majority of entrepreneurs fail.

You might think you have two options: become an entrepreneur or work a 9 to 5 and go through the same repetitive motions. There is another option that may appeal to you: intrapreneurship.

A great way to become an entrepreneur is to become an intrapreneur first. In this post, we’ll explain the two and discuss why.

Entrepreneur

Let’s start by defining what most people are familiar with: entrepreneur.

An entrepreneur is someone who launches and runs their own company. They take on all of the risks of starting a company from scratch in exchange for receiving all of the rewards if successful.

If he or she is able to provide a valuable product or service, success will naturally follow if the customer/client base is there.

Entrepreneurs have complete freedom to all design and decision-making. They are their own boss, which requires self-discipline and accountability.

entrepreneur and intrapreneur

Becoming an entrepreneur does not require a college degree, though it won’t hurt to have one. Becoming an entrepreneur comes down to an individual identifying a problem and filling that gap with a solution. That solution is the entrepreneur’s product or service.

Examples of Entrepreneurship

  • Mark Zuckerberg founding Facebook
  • Elon Musk founding/co-founding numerous companies including Tesla, SpaceX, The Boring Company, Neuralink, PayPal, and more
  • Arianna Huffington founding the Huffington Post
  • An individual leveraging social media to build a personal brand and provide products and services

Intrapreneur

“Intrapreneur” is a lesser-known word. An intrapreneur is someone who works within an organization and uses entrepreneurial skills and thinking to innovate and provide value to the company they are working for.

These can be employees from intern to vice president and beyond. Anyone who fosters innovation for the benefit of their employer is an intrapreneur.

An increasing amount of organizations are encouraging intrapreneurship from their employees. Some talented individuals are specifically brought on to innovate and work on value-generating projects.

Intrapreneurs work within the playground of their company. They use company resources to spark innovation. This removes a lot of the risk that an entrepreneur would take on for a similar venture.

how intrapreneurship works

With less risk comes less reward. The intrapreneur may come up with a billion dollar idea, but won’t be entitled to all the reward. The reward goes to the company.

The intrapreneur may receive recognition, a raise, and a promotion for their contribution, but there is a cap to what they can receive.

Additionally, intrapreneurs do not have full autonomy with what they work on. Different companies will allow for different levels of flexibility, but none will allow the intrapreneur to have the freedom that an entrepreneur has.

Example of Intrapreneurship

A great example of intrapreneurship is demonstrated with the origin of Gmail, by Google. Google has a policy that encourages intrapreneurship. Employees are encouraged to use 20% of their work time to work on something they believe will benefit Google.

Well, Paul Buchheit used his 20% to develop what would become Google’s email service Gmail.

Many companies nowadays, especially tech companies, encourage their employees to innovate like this.

Similarities and Differences Between an Intrapreneur and Entrepreneur

Similarities

Entrepreneurs and intrapreneurs share many of the same traits.

They are…

  • Innovative
  • Curious
  • Problem-solvers
  • Flexibile
  • Resilient
  • Optimistic

Both groups require honed leadership skills. The entrepreneur and intrapreneur both have teams to manage. The entrepreneur is at the top of the organization while the intrapreneur works under the umbrella of a company.

Both strive to develop something new, or improve upon something that currently exists, in order to add value to a market.

Differences

 EntrepreneurIntrapreneur
DefinitionSomeone who launches and runs their own companySomeone who creates innovative and value-generating initiatives within an organization
Source of Capital and ResourcesUses own capital and resourcesUses capital and resources of the company
RisksTakes on 100% of potential risksThe organization bears the financial risk. Intrapreneur does not. Risks being fired.
RewardsBoundless potential rewardCapped potential reward. Organization gets the benefit
AutonomyFull autonomy for vision, decision-making, timeline, etcLess autonomy. Must abide by company's expectations, systems, processes, regulations.

Why You Should Use Intrapreneurship to Lead to Entrepreneurship

man showcasing on tablet

The odds are stacked against you as an entrepreneur. If you quit your job to start a company, you may be making a huge mistake.

The company itself will require startup capital from your own personal savings. Your day to day life will also require capital. You need to eat and pay for rent, transportation, utilities, etc.

It’s nearly certain that your journey will not go according to plan. Surprises always pop up. If you cannot weather those surprises, you can get completely wiped out or have unmanageable stress.

Some can make it, but most will not. I’m not trying to be pessimistic. These are just the facts.

Intrapreneurship as a stepping stone

Don’t let the paragraphs above kill your hopes and dreams. There is still a way to become an entrepreneur without risking it all.

I believe becoming an intrapreneur can be a great stepping stone to entrepreneurship. Work for a company and build up capital and experience. Look for opportunities to innovate and add value. Observe and learn as much as you can about running a company.

You will need to learn finance, accounting, management, marketing, logistics, and more. Find a mentor that can guide you. At a large company, this can be your boss or a more senior colleague. If you work at a small company, try to form a relationship with the C-suite executives.

After doing this for a few years, you will have saved up a good amount of money. You will also have tangible experience. With those two, you could then take the leap to start your own company.

My own personal experience and mindset

When I was in college, all I wanted to do was start my own business and be my own boss. I tried and failed, ultimately accepting that I would have to enter corporate America and work a 9 to 5.

At first, I was disappointed that I had to work for a company at the bottom of the totem pole.

At some point, maybe due to a certain book or YouTube video, my mindset changed. Instead of believing that I was bound to the 9 to 5 life forever, I began to see this phase of my life as temporary. As a period to learn and become a mentee.

I currently work for a firm that allows me to be an intrapreneur. I have full support to innovate and bring value to the firm. In exchange for this value, I receive compensation in the form of bonuses.

Meanwhile, I am learning how to run a business and seeing the highs and lows that come with it.

On the side, I am launching businesses of my own. Thanks to my salary and work experience, this is much more doable – and likelier to succeed – than it would have been immediately after graduating college.

Additional related reading:

Summary

If you dream of becoming an entrepreneur, understand that there are multiple ways to get there.

You don’t need to start the next tech company at 22 years of age. You don’t need to burn the boats and quit your job to launch a business.

Strategize and have patience. Becoming an intrapreneur can allow you to build the skills and experience of launching a venture without having to bear the full financial risk.

Brandon Hill Photo

Author: Brandon Hill

Brandon is the creator of Bizness Professionals and author behind each post. He is currently a working professional, primarily in finance, and looks to provide resources to aspiring or current young professionals for well-rounded professional and personal development. Find out more on the About page.

There may be affiliate links on this page, which means I may receive a small commission for any purchases made through links in this post. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. Products that are linked are ones I highly recommend and have used/tested myself.

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