Tuesday, February 19, 2008

The Average Entrepreneur

He's not what you might think:

Typical stories of entrepreneurs in American culture center on the individual’s creativity, personal vision, risk-taking, and other personal characteristics. We laud the entrepreneur as someone very special who knows how to “think outside the box.” In reality, entrepreneurs are not much different than your average middle-class, suburban next-door-neighbor. In fact, your neighbor may very well be an entrepreneur. Scott Shane makes this point in his new book, The Illusions of Entrepreneurship.

Shane finds that most entrepreneurs are very average, and if they’re not average, they’re unique in unexpected ways. Here is the typical entrepreneur (pg. 41):

  • He is a white man in his forties.
  • He is married with a working spouse.
  • He attended college but might not have graduated.
  • He was born in the United States and has lived here his whole life.
  • He has spent much of his life in the town where he started his business.
  • He is just trying to make a living, not trying to build a high-growth business.
  • He worked previously in the industry in which he started his company, something like construction or insurance or retail.
  • He has no special psychological characteristics.

One of the main messages of Shane’s book is that it’s time we stop thinking about entrepreneurs as somehow being more special or more psychologically qualified than others. The truth is that entrepreneurs are pretty average.

Apparently Mr. Average is not just good at starting a business, but he's lucky in love too!


Angela said...

Isn't that Greg Grunberg in the photo?

Brian Hollar said...

Yeah. I remember seeing him in an interview saying he usually played the "everyman".