Founders + Entrepreneurship.
Startup Founders & Entrepreneurs: What’s the Difference?
Founder Definition vs. Entrepreneurship Definition
A founder is someone who has an idea for a business or product and transforms that idea into a company. Startups often feature multiple partners with unique skills and build a company’s groundwork before hiring their first employee.
An entrepreneur starts or invests in a company as a source of income. While startup founders are dedicated to growing their company and making an impact on the world, entrepreneurs focus on finding the most efficient route to profitability.
Differences Between Startup Founders and Entrepreneurship
Generally speaking, entrepreneurs engage in business to accumulate profits, whether for personal gain, to grow a business, to benefit a non-profit organization or for philanthropic reasons. Entrepreneurs can acquire profits in several different ways, such as creating products, starting or investing in companies, purchasing resources, or facilitating an acquisition.
A founder is someone behind the creation of a startup company that begins with an idea of how to fundamentally improve a product or service, or fill a need within an industry. A startup founder takes the first steps towards turning the idea into a reality, building a company based on the most efficient way to bring a product to the marketplace. Many startups are created with the intention to one day be acquired by a larger company while others are able to leverage their success and become a stable, singular entity.
What Is a Founder?
A startup founder takes the first steps in turning an idea into a business. Startup founders recognize a need for a particular item or service and try to find ways to fill these gaps. Most startups require heavy lifting and tireless hours, especially early in their development, so founders do not generally create startups to acquire wealth. Rather, founders believe that their ideas can change the way people interact with their world and each other in a fundamental way.
From deciding upon the logistics of how to launch an entirely new idea into a marketplace to the daily needs of running any business, startup founders often work around the clock to make their business a reality. Many startups are able to succeed despite these demands by splitting up the workload among cofounders. Bringing on a cofounder in the early stage of a startup allows a company to become more nimble — one founder may be devoted to researching and developing a product while another may focus only on networking and acquiring funding. In exchange for a percentage of a company, cofounders have the potential to significantly reduce the amount of time required for a product to hit the market.
CEO vs. Founder
As a startup transitions into a company and products hit the market, the role of CEO must be established. While a founder will often take on the CEO title, that is not always the case. A founder may instead opt into taking a more hands-on position and leave it to a more experienced person to lead their company. A CEO is responsible for overseeing the work of other top-level executives throughout the organization, ensuring the startup remains vigilant in its goals and realistic about expectations.
Successful Startup Founders
- Brian Chesky & Joe Gebbia – AirBnB
- Jack Dorsey – Twitter
- Leah Busque – TaskRabbit
- Steve Jobs – Apple
- Masayoshi Son – SoftBank
- Emily Weiss – Glossier
- Whitney Wolfe Herd – Bumble
- Larry Page & Sergey Brin – Google
- Jeff Bezos – Amazon
What Is an Entrepreneur?
Types of Business Entrepreneurship
There are many different forms of business entrepreneurship one can pursue, each possessing a variety of benefits and costs of entry. Entrepreneurship requires a great amount of discipline, foresight, and focus, so pursuing the right form is crucial to success. Entrepreneurship can be categorized based on markets and entrepreneurial goals. Here are some of the most common forms of entrepreneurship.
What separates social entrepreneurship from others is the end goal — social entrepreneurs don’t seek to make profits or accumulate wealth. Instead, social entrepreneurs build nonprofits and organizations that work toward facilitating societal change.
Small Business Entrepreneurship
Small business entrepreneurship is the most common form of entrepreneurship and provides multiple entry points for entrepreneurs to begin exploring and finding a niche. Most entrepreneurs starting small businesses seek to build a sustainable lifestyle for themselves and their families on their own terms, with independence being a primary driving factor. Most small businesses do not seek funding from venture capitalists.
Large Company Entrepreneurship
All companies, particularly large companies, must continue a cycle of innovation to maintain relevance amongst their customer base. Entrepreneurs at large companies are focused on the design of new products and services to keep up with market demands. Large companies can also acquire smaller companies to keep their products and services fresh.
Startup entrepreneurs seek funding from venture capitalists to bridge gaps in markets and create products that fulfill a clear need in the world. Startup entrepreneurs work to develop a product and company over time and are dedicated to successfully bringing products to market over maximum profitability.
Entrepreneur vs. Investor
Often, entrepreneurs are owners of their companies or are heavily involved in the operation of the business. Entrepreneurs keep tabs on what a company aspires to achieve and the means necessary to achieve its goals. However, entrepreneurs can also be investors who are independent of companies, offering direct avenues to funding in exchange for a stake in the organization. Investors in large companies are often given a Board of Directors spot to remain up-to-date on a company’s opportunities, threats, and current operational status.
Traits of Successful Founders
Startups are created to meet a variety of needs and come in several different forms. While every founder has a unique goal they are setting out to accomplish with their business, many have similar characteristics that steer them towards success.
Traits of Founders
- Instinctual thinking
- Networking and entrepreneurial thinking
Some of the traits that are most necessary to succeed as a startup founder include:
The first step in every startup’s story is solidifying the idea that will bring a company into the public eye. By ensuring they have a well-rounded perspective on what a company’s growth and path to market looks like, founders can set their startup on a successful path.
For a startup to succeed, it must produce products or services that fulfill a specific need within a market or industry. Founders must be dedicated and passionate about unlocking a solution to this need while continuing to grow their company and compete in crowded markets.
Along with the drive to keep refining their product, startup founders must keep a company’s goals in mind with every decision they make. Without focus, startups can get caught up in pursuing ideas that distract them from bringing their big idea to market. Co-founders help each other remain focused on a company’s overall goals through a sense of accountability and checks and balances.
4. Instinctual Thinking
While focus and vision are top priorities for any startup founder, the most successful founders know when to follow their instincts and go with their gut. Market changes and new challenges inevitably emerge while laying a company’s groundwork, so startup founders must be able to process information quickly and make swift decisions.
Every startup requires a tremendous amount of time to succeed, and along the way, many challenges may threaten a product’s ability to hit the market and a company’s ability to be profitable. Startup founders must be able to see these challenges through and keep a level head to lead teams to success.
6. Networking and Entrepreneurial Thinking
One commonality among all startups is funding. Founders must be able to seek out and receive funding from investors to truly build a robust organization. This means that attending networking events, getting to know key industry investors, and having a well-thought-out pitch are all crucial parts of growth.
No founder can see the future but every founder must be able to analyze data and have strong insights into their industry to keep up with ever-changing consumer needs.
Traits of Successful Entrepreneurs
Many of the traits required for a startup founder also apply to successful entrepreneurs. Regardless of the type of entrepreneurship one is pursuing, maintaining a sense of instinctual thinking, passion about a market, and foresight into how consumer needs may develop is essential to entrepreneurial success. Additionally, there are a few other traits that benefit any entrepreneur or investor.
Traits of Entrepreneurs
- Risk tolerance
1. Risk Tolerance
Whether starting an organization or investing in a startup, the risk of failure always carries a high probability for entrepreneurs. Entrepreneurs must ensure they have the security and wherewithal to withstand an investment gone wrong and move on to their next pursuit. No successful entrepreneur will have a perfect investment record.
Becoming an entrepreneur means working with a variety of people with a variety of ideas. Entrepreneurship requires the flexibility to acknowledge others’ ideas and find the compromise that works best for a product and company, regardless of personal feelings.
In addition to being able to compromise in business, entrepreneurs need to be able to collaborate with their partners to get the most out of a company. Great products are developed by combining the expertise of multiple stakeholders with insight over a product’s place in the marketplace, so entrepreneurs must come prepared with their best ideas to help a company grow.
There isn’t one set path to becoming an entrepreneur or founder, rather it is a combination of experiences and skills that lead individuals to create new products, services or business opportunities. Founders and entrepreneurs can range from people with minimal work experience to seasoned professionals. The driving force behind becoming an entrepreneur or a founder are ideas that shake up a market or industry.
Once founders and entrepreneurs have a business idea, the next steps are to develop and test the product or service, create a business plan, secure funding and then finally launch the business and continuously manage it.
Skills for Startup Founders
Since founders are typically responsible for taking their ideas and turning them into tangible products, they need to have a combination of technical skills and soft skills.
Skills for Startup Founders
- Computer and coding skills
- Data analysis skills
- Communication skills
- Leadership skills
Computer and Coding Skills
Founders, especially those in the tech industry, often benefit from having basic computer skills and knowledge of coding and programming languages to successfully build software products. These technical skills allow founders to build their product as well as understand the hiring needs for highly technical roles in the future.
Data Analysis Skills
Being able to conduct data analysis helps founders understand and monitor their market and competitors, test their products and better understand the developments and features their products need.
Communication is crucial for almost every job and founders are no different. The ability to articulate their product or service’s function and importance is essential to getting investors to participate. As your company and team grows, communication between leaders and employees will establish the company’s mission, culture and values.
Founders that plan on having a hand in the day-to-day operations of their company need to have strong leadership skills. Founders that become CEOs will be responsible for making strategic business decisions and establishing people management processes and best practices.
Skills for Entrepreneurs
There are many points of crossover between the skills needed to be a founder vs. an entrepreneur. However, since entrepreneurs are typically driven by a product or company’s profitability, having in depth financial knowledge and networking skills are essential.
Skills for Entrepreneurs
- Networking skills
- Financial analysis skills
- Business acumen
- Communication skills
As entrepreneurs look for business opportunities, understanding how to network will help them establish a pool of people to lean on as resources. Strong people networks can help entrepreneurs learn of new investment opportunities and up and coming products as well as connect with potential customers or investors for their own business.
Since entrepreneurs can be both investors and those seeking investment, having a thorough understanding of financial markets and analysis is crucial. Basic math and accounting skills can go a long way for entrepreneurs. Entrepreneurs will also need the financial know-how to understand revenue models, acquisitions costs, overhead cost and gross and net margins.
Having strong business acumen allows entrepreneurs to take a big-picture view of their investments or help solve operational issues that arise. Developing business acumen means that entrepreneurs should have an understanding of several key areas: how a company earns a profit, the drive behind business decisions, how to create budgets, how to prioritize projects and how to attract and work with investors.
Similar to founders, entrepreneurs need to have strong communication skills to build their network and establish trust with investors.