Steve Blank The difference between innovators and entrepreneurs


I just received a thank you note from a student who attended a fireside chat that I had at the ranch. Something I said seemed to inspire:

"I've always thought you had to be innovative, original to be an entrepreneur. Now, I have a different perception. Entrepreneurs are the ones who make things happen. (This) requires concentration, diligence, discipline, flexibility and perseverance. They can take an innovative idea and make it impactful. … Successful entrepreneurs are also those who take up the challenge, adapt and adjust their plans to adapt to any problems that may arise. "


Over the past decade, I have watched hundreds of my engineering students and about 1,500 of the country's top scientists in the National Science Foundation's Innovation Corps. , diagnostics, digital health, therapeutics, drones, robotics, bitcoin, machine learning, etc. Some of these world-class innovators are recruited by large companies such as professional athletes, with equal pay checks. Others join startups to launch themselves alone. But what I noticed is that it is rare that the most intelligent technique innovator is the most successful contractor.

Being an expert in a technology field rarely makes you competent in business. Building a business requires very different skills from building a neural network in Python or decentralized blockchain applications in Ethereum.

Nothing makes me happier than seeing my students get great grades (and as they can tell you, I make them work really hard for them). But I remind them that customers do not ask for your transcript. Until we start giving notes of resilience, curiosity, agility, resourcefulness, recognition of style, tenacity and passion for products and customers, top scorers and successful entrepreneurs at best have zero correlation (and anecdotal evidence suggests that the correlation may actually be negative.)

Most of the big tech startups – Oracle, Microsoft, Apple, Amazon, Tesla – were built by a team led by a contractor.

This does not mean that if you have technical skills, you can not build a successful business. It means that success in construction a company that evolves depends on the search for a product / market adjustment, a sufficient number of customers, sufficient funding, a sufficient number of employees, distribution channels, etc. entrepreneurial skills you must quickly acquire or find a co-founder who already owns them.

Lessons learned

  • Entrepreneurship is a call, not a job.
  • An appeal is something you feel you should follow, it gives you direction and purpose, but does not guarantee a salary.
  • This allows you to create a missionary zeal to recruit others, encourage clients to embrace a vision, and have virtual investors finance a set of slides.
  • That's what makes you stand up and do it again when customers say no, when investors make fun of your idea or when your rocket fails to save space.

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