April 06, 2008

The Illusions of Entrepreneurship

Businessweek has an interview with Scott Shane, professor of entrepreneurial studies at Case Western University, and author of a newly published book with the above title.
At the individual level, the core fact here is the typical, median, right-smack-in-the-middle entrepreneur is a failure. The cost is everything associated with that. So if you start a business and the business dies, you could have been working for somebody else. You could have been making a salary. You could have had the stability—you wouldn't have had that kind of stress that comes from the up and down of running that business.

So there's the personal costs. From an individual level, the myth is that somehow if you manage to hit the average or hit the median, you're going to be fine. The reality is that the distribution is so skewed you have to hit the top for it to matter, and in fact, you have to hit the top 10% to have income as an entrepreneur better than what you would have gotten working for other people.

...It makes a lot of sense if people say, "You know what? I'm going to earn less money running my own business, but I really don't like to work for other people, and that's why I'm doing it. It's making me happier and I really don't care." I think that's great. The part of it that becomes a problem is when people just won't admit the reality that it may make them happy and they're doing it because they want to be independent, [but] then they delude themselves into believing that also it's financially better.

Arun Natarajan is the Founder & CEO of Venture Intelligence, the leading provider of information and networking services to the Private Equity and Venture Capital ecosystem in India. View sample issues of Venture Intelligence India newsletters and reports.