An entrepreneur is an individual who takes on the responsibilities of a business venture. An entrepreneur is a “risk-taker” (Case, The Origins of Entrepreneurship). An entrepreneur is an “agent of change” (Sobel, Entrepreneurship, The Library of Economics and Liberty). They are the movers, shakers, and producers of the market.
Entrepreneurship, in its simplest form, is the act of shouldering the risk and responsibility of a business. Peter Drucker defines entrepreneurship as “the act that endows resources with a new capacity to create wealth” (Carleen, A Brief History of Entrepreneurship). The word comes from the French verb, ‘entreprendre’, which means “to do something” or to undertake”. The verb originated in the 13th century, and by the 16th century, ‘entrepreneur’ was cemented as as a term to describe those individuals who ‘undertake’ a business venture (Sobel). In the next couple of centuries, the word was developed as an academic term to describe this particular kind of economic actor.
As stated in Drucker’s definition, the goal of this process of undertaking known as entrepreneurship is to make a profit. The entrepreneur attempts to discover “new ways of combining resources” that generate more market value than those resources can generate “elsewhere individually or in some other combination” – it is at this point that the entrepreneur makes their profit (Sobel). However, whether or not such a venture succeeds, every entrepreneurial project moves the market forward. As new entrepreneurs learn and build from past entrepreneurial mistakes. Progress and entrepreneurship become one through the process of elimination.
Joseph Schumpeter, another significant 20th century economist who “further refined the academic understanding of entrepreneurship”, confirms this essential progressive nature, as he “stressed the role of the entrepreneur as an innovator who implements change in an economy by introducing new goods or new methods of production” (Sobel). According to Schumpeter, the entrepreneur is a disruptive force in an economy; they introduce “new products [that result] in the obsolescence or failure of others” (Sobel). This fundamental strategy lends itself to the idea of entrepreneurs as competitors. As the progress of the market benefits from both the successes and losses of entrepreneurs, entrepreneurial misfortune becomes intrinsic to the market. Every entrepreneur is fighting against others in the hopes of capitalizing on the market space; only one (or some) can win, while others must lose. This is why entrepreneurs are affiliated with the idea of risk – it’s (literally) a risky business.
Though the intrinsic components of innovation and risk have maintained, over the decades, entrepreneurship has evolved. Entrepreneurs are not only business owners, and entrepreneurship is not a quality that one simply takes on by inspired choice. In her article, Why Everyone is an Entrepreneur Now, Jana Kasperkevic states that “we can no longer believe in ‘this idea that people would go to college, study hard, get a degree, land an entry-level job at a big, stable company.’ Nor can we believe in the old 20th century compact of employees slowly working their way up the ladder.” (Kasperkevic, Yeh & Casnocha, Inc. Magazine). She borros Chris Yeh and Ben Casnocha’s quote: “[Nowadays], the employer is saying, ‘Hey, make my company more valuable, and I’ll make you more valuable.’” (Inc.). Every individual new to the job market must have the skills of an entrepreneur, as their value as an employee is dependant on the productive contribution they bring to their prospective employers. The basis of their employment is their ability to bring new, more efficient methods of production (see Sobel) to their employer. Kasparkevic summarizes this contemporary system: “the modern compact is based on alliance.
In Intern Nation, Ross Perlin speaks to the employee’s side of this alliance, in which each individual must become an entrepreneur in the form of an intern, in order to gain enough value to be qualified as a stabilized employee. In the contemporary age, entrepreneurship is a preliminary stage before workers can truly enter the workforce. As temporary, popularly unpaid workers, the main motive of taking on an internship is to get “a food in the door,” or “build your resume” or “make contacts” (Perlin). This is the value that the intern gains from this alliance – an alliance that requires new workers to take on entrepreneurial tactics, as they “[learn] on the job…and “[build] up a ‘personal brand’” (Perlin).
Entrepreneurs are often characterized as brave, ambitious individuals. Thomas R. Eisenmann discusses the pursuit involved in entrepreneurship, stating, “entrepreneurs have a sense of urgency that is seldom seen in established companies, where any opportunity is part of a portfolio and resources are more readily available” (Eisenmann, Entrepreneurship: A Working Definition). Entrepreneurs must forge a profit with limited materials and financial resources and limited time. This is a vulnerable state in which to work with money on the line, and they stand to lose a lot. The reasoning to invest in such an unstable endeavor is largely due to the socia valuing of economic autonomy. Perlin quotes Grossfeld, who writes, “People think of internships as part of their strategy for becoming autonomous – and go-it-alone autonomy is pitched as a way to survive a brutal economy” (,Grossfield, Perlin). These are the same motives that encourage an entrpreneurial spirit, and the countless article titles that appear in a google search of the words ‘entrepreneurship’ + ‘autonomy’ serve as evidence for this phenomenon. Perlin includes, “self direction morphs into self-exploitation and voluntary mobility is fast path to disposability” (Perlin). Entrepreneurship has become in ingrained in modern economic structures and is a process that nearly ever worker must take on. Though autonomy and independent innovation are two of its central characteristics, the concept becomes complicated when those characteristics are ingrained in a socially mandated system of mobility like the internship.
Case, John, “The Origins of Entrepreneurship”, Inc., Manuseto Ventures 2018, https://www.inc.com/magazine/19890601/5675.html
Carlen, Joe, “Introduction.” A Brief History of Entrepreneurship: The Pioneers, Profiteers, and Racketeers Who Shaped Our World, Columbia University Press, New York; Chichester, West Sussex, 2016, pp. 1–4. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/10.7312/carl17304.3.
Eisenmann, Thomas R., “Entrepreneurship: A Working Definition”, Harvard Business Review, Harvard Business School Publishing 2019, https://hbr.org/2013/01/what-is-entrepreneurship
Kasparkevic, Jana. “Why Everyone is an Entrepreneur Now”, Inc. Magazine, 2018 Manuseto Ventures, https://www.inc.com/john-boitnott/5-signs-its-time-to-hire-your-first-employee.html
Sobel, Russel S., “Entrepreneurship”, The Library of Economics and Liberty, Liberty Fund 1999-2019, Inc, https://www.econlib.org/library/Enc/Entrepreneurship.html