Peter Cohan

Peter Cohan, Contributor

I write from near Boston about startups and political economy

Which of These Six Entrepreneurial Types Are You?

Stanford GSB school flag.

Stanford GSB school flag. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Over the last few years I have interviewed over 150 start-up CEOs for my forthcoming book, Hungry Start-up Strategy. There’s no one-size-fits-all way to think about what an entrepreneur is. I’ve concluded that there are six different types of entrepreneurs based on two categories:

  • Pre-start-up work experience. There are some people who start companies before or right after graduating from college; others rise near the top of the corporate world before launching their own ventures; and still others become start-up CEOs because investors bring them in to rescue start-ups with the skills that led to their earlier start-up success.
  • Start-up purpose. People start companies for many reasons but the two most significant ones I found — and they are not mutually exclusive — were to seize a growing market opportunity or to satisfy a hunger for meaning in their work life.

Which of the six entrepreneurial types are you? To help you figure it out, I’ve outlined a brief definition of each and give an example from my interviews.

College/Market Opportunity

Examples of this type abound — they include most famously the college dropouts like Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg. But there are plenty who start companies during college and keep on running them after they graduate.

Consider the newsreader App company, Pulse, about which I wrote in May 2011. Akshay Kothari, a Stanford Masters’ candidate wanted an easier way to consume news on his iPad. This idea turned into his company, co-founded in May 2010 with Ankit Gupta also a Stanford grad student – who handles the software side of the business. Pulse grew from one to 11 million users by the end of 2012.

Kothari is an entrepreneur who saw a market opportunity and used his technical skill to seize it right out of school.

Post-corporate/Market Opportunity

Often it takes significant corporate experience to develop the contacts and learn an industry well enough to identify a market opportunity for an entrepreneur to seize.

As I wrote in May 2012, after years as a derivatives trader and hedge fund executive, Mike Cagney got a Masters’ from Stanford Business School and saw an opportunity to go after the $1 trillion student loan market based on what he learned about social.

Cagney co-founded SoFi to tap alumni’s wealth and contacts to provide loans to current students at their universities. In 2012, SoFi plans to provide $150 million in loans to both in-school students as well as recent graduates looking to consolidate.

Cagney is an entrepreneur who taps his experience and industry knowledge to find and seize a market opportunity.

Paul Champion

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