Are entrepreneurs born or made?
Depends on who you ask, but it is STILL worth the discussion since the research still shows a resounding “entrepreneurs are born AND made.” (Another Tech Crunch article.)
Kauffman Foundation Small Business Research participated in a survey of 549 entrepreneurs. They found that the majority didn’t have entrepreneurial parents. They didn’t even have entrepreneurial aspirations while going to school. They simply got tired of working for others, had a great idea they wanted to commercialize, or woke up one day with an urgent desire to build wealth before they retired. So they took the big leap.
They also found that 52% of the successful entrepreneurs were the first in their immediate families to start a business — just like Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos, Larry Page, and Sergei Brin. Their parents were academics, lawyers, factory workers, priests, bureaucrats, etc.
What did affect their successes? Education. The key is to provide education at “teachable moments” — when the entrepreneur is thinking about starting a venture or ready to scale it. What entrepreneurs need isn’t the type of abstract course they teach in business schools, but practical, relevant knowledge.
The Kauffman Foundation has spent billions of dollars studying entrepreneurship education, and their latest project is called Labs. The Labs program is built around a novel idea: that highly motivated individuals with “scalable ideas” can be recruited to be entrepreneurs and to be made successful, by surrounding them with a network of other experienced entrepreneurs; sources of money; and mentors. The goal is to educate entrepreneurs and surround them with a powerful network. This is what many successful programs around the country are doing without the Kauffman Foundation funding: building an ecosystem and entrepreneurial culture around motivated and aspiring young entrepreneurs.
Anecdotal evidence also shows that there are many more factors at play than that of genes. A BusinessWeek article noted waves of spinoffs from Google. I doubt that all of these Google employees who are starting successful businesses were born with entrepreneurial genes.
(Article in TechCrunch by Vivek Wadhwa an entrepreneur turned academic. He is a Visiting Scholar at UC-Berkeley, Senior Research Associate at Harvard Law School and Director of Research at the Center for Entrepreneurship and Research Commercialization at Duke University.)