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, and the people who do so are called ‘entrepreneurs‘.
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.
Recent advances stress the fundamentally uncertain nature of the entrepreneurial process, because although opportunities exist their existence cannot be discovered or identified prior to their actualization into profits. What appears as a real opportunity ex ante might actually be a non-opportunity or one that cannot be actualized by entrepreneurs lacking the necessary business skills, financial or social capital.
Traditionally, an entrepreneur has been defined as “a person who starts, 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.
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.”
“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.
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.
Entrepreneur is a loanword from French. First used in 1723, today the term entrepreneur implies qualities of leadership, initiative, and innovation in new venture design. Economist Robert Reich has called team-building, leadership, and management ability essential qualities for the entrepreneur. Historically the study of entrepreneurship reaches back to the work in the late 17th and early 18th centuries of Richard Cantillon and Adam Smith, which was foundational to classical economics.
In the 20th century, entrepreneurship was studied by Joseph Schumpeter in the 1930s and other Austrian economists such as Carl Menger, Ludwig von Mises and Friedrich von Hayek. The term “entrepreneurship” was coined around the 1920s, while the loan from French of the word entrepreneur dates to the 1850s. According to Schumpeter, an entrepreneur is willing and able to convert a new idea or invention into a successful innovation. Entrepreneurship employs what Schumpeter called “the gale of creative destruction” to replace in whole or in part inferior offerings across markets and industries, simultaneously creating new products and new business models. Thus, creative destruction is largely responsible for long-term economic growth. The idea that entrepreneurship leads to economic growth is an interpretation of the residual in endogenous growth theory and as such continues to be debated in academic economics. An alternate description by Israel Kirzner suggests that the majority of innovations may be incremental improvements such as the replacement of paper with plastic in the construction of a drinking straw that require no special qualities.
For Schumpeter, entrepreneurship resulted in new industries and in new combinations of currently existing inputs. Schumpeter’s initial example of this was the combination of a steam engine and then current wagon making technologies to produce the horseless carriage. In this case the innovation, the car, was transformational, but did not require the development of dramatic new technology. It did not immediately replace the horse-drawn carriage, but in time, incremental improvements reduced the cost and improved the technology, leading to the modern auto industry. Despite Schumpeter’s early 20th-century contributions, traditional microeconomic theory did not formally consider the entrepreneur in its theoretical frameworks (instead assuming that resources would find each other through a price system). In this treatment, the entrepreneur was an implied but unspecified actor, consistent with the concept of the entrepreneur being the agent of x-efficiency.
For Schumpeter, the entrepreneur did not bear risk: the capitalist did. Schumpeter believed that the equilibrium ideal was imperfect Schumpeter (1934) demonstrated that changing environment continuously provides new information about the optimum allocation of resources to enhance profitability some individuals acquire the new information before others, recombine the resources to gain an entrepreneurial profit. Schumpeter was of the opinion that entrepreneurs shift the Production Possibility Curve to a higher level using innovations.
Initially, economists made the first attempt to study the entrepreneurship concept in depth Richard Cantillon (1680-1734) considered the entrepreneur to be a risk taker who deliberately allocates resources to exploit opportunities in order to maximize the financial return. Cantillon emphasized the willingness of the entrepreneur to assume risk and to deal with uncertainty. Thus, he draws attention to the function of the entrepreneur, and distinguishes clearly between the function of the entrepreneur and the owner who provides the money. Alfred Marshall viewed the entrepreneur as a multi-tasking capitalist. He observed that in the equilibrium of a completely competitive market, there was no spot for “entrepreneurs” as an economic activity creator.
Dating back to the time of the medieval guilds in Germany, a craftsperson required special permission to operate as an entrepreneur was the small proof of competence (Kleiner Befähigungsnachweis), which restricted training of apprentices to craftspeople who held a Meister certificate. This institution was introduced in 1908 after a period of so-called freedom of trade (Gewerbefreiheit, introduced in 1871) in the German Reich. However, proof of competence was not required to start a business. In 1935 and in 1953, greater proof of competence was reintroduced (Großer Befähigungsnachweis Kuhlenbeck), which required craftspeople to obtain a Meister apprentice-training certificate before being permitted to set up a new business.
In the 2000s, “entrepreneurship” has been extended from its origins in for-profit businesses to include social entrepreneurship, in which business goals are sought alongside social, environmental or humanitarian goals, and even the concept of the political entrepreneur. Entrepreneurship within an existing firm or large organization has been referred to as intrapreneurship and may include corporate ventures where large entities “spin off” subsidiary organizations.
Entrepreneurs are leaders willing to take risk and exercise initiative, taking advantage of market opportunities by planning, organizing, and deploying resources, often by innovating to create new or improving existing products or services. In the 2000s, the term “entrepreneurship” has been extended to include a specific mindset resulting in entrepreneurial initiatives, e.g. in the form of social entrepreneurship, political entrepreneurship, or knowledge entrepreneurship.
According to Paul Reynolds, founder of the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor, “by the time they reach their retirement years, half of all working men in the United States probably have a period of self-employment of one or more years; one in four may have engaged in self-employment for six or more years. Participating in a new business creation is a common activity among U.S. workers over the course of their careers.” In recent years, entrepreneurship has been claimed as a major driver of economic growth in both the United States and Western Europe.
Entrepreneurial activities differ substantially depending on the type of organization and creativity involved. Entrepreneurship ranges in scale from solo, part-time projects to large-scale undertakings that involve a team and which may create many jobs. Many “high value” entrepreneurial ventures seek venture capital or angel funding (seed money) in order to raise capital for building and expanding the business. Many organizations exist to support would-be entrepreneurs, including specialized government agencies, business incubators (which may be for-profit, non-profit, or operated by a college or university), science parks, and Non-governmental organizations, which include a range of organizations including not-for-profits, charities, foundations and business advocacy groups (e.g., Chambers of Commerce). Beginning in 2008, an annual “Global Entrepreneurship Week” event aimed at “exposing people to the benefits of entrepreneurship” and getting them to “participate in entrepreneurial-related activities” was launched.