Alex Salkever, in his January 11, 2010 Article, “Anatomy of an Entrepreneur: He’s Not Who You Think He Is,” uncovered some amazing results as he worked with Vivek Wadhwa and several other top researchers on a research project about what makes entrepreneurs tick. Vivek Wadhwa is a visiting scholar at U.S. Berkeley, a senior research associate at Harvard Law School, and director of research at the Center for Entrepreneurship and Research Commercialization at Duke University. He also founded two enterprise software companies, one of which went public.
What they found is that what the typical entrepreneur stereotype looks like– a recent college graduate (or even a college drop-out) living off ramen noodles, sleeping in the office and hitting up a venture capitalist for start-up funds, people that have rarely worked for other companies or other people (it’s not in their blood) — proved to be mistaken.
The average entrepreneur or founder of a fast-growing technology or knowledge industry company is married, has children, and worked for many years at a company or for someone else before branching out and starting his or her own business.
Were rich kids given a leg up in starting their businesses? Not really. About 71% of the Entrepreneurs came from middle class backgrounds, with the majority of them coming from lower-middle and mid-middle class backgrounds. More than three-quarters of the entrepreneurs surveyed had worked for someone else for at last six years before launching their businesses. The most significant source of funding for all businesses was their personal savings. The main obstacle entrepreneurs reported was lack of knowledge about starting a business, and fear of failure and the aftermath.
Why is this so important? It is rapidly becoming a strong consensus in economic circles that Entrepreneurs and Small Businesses are the primary drivers for growth in the U.S. economy as a whole.
The implications of these findings for how we can pursue an economic strategy to encourage Entrepreneurs is quite clear. “Look in the workforce, not in the university business-plan contest, for startup talent,” said Wadhwa. He also believes that the focus on venture capital as a primary funding source is not really warranted; while VCs have their place, there are lots of other ways to get a startup funded. Lastly, Wadhwa believes that just about anyone who wants to can become an Entrepreneur. “These people saw very few barriers to starting their own company, and that is key to their success.” says Wadhwa. In other words, the most important ingredient for an Entrepreneur is not age or youth, not experience, not family or lack of commitment, but the belief in oneself and the desire to succeed.