Are Entrepreneurs Made or Born That Way?

There’s been a fair amount of discussion since Vivek Wadhwa posted Can Entrepreneurs Be Made? on TechCrunch late last month. He quotes Kauffmann Center research indicating, he says, that entrepreneurs aren’t really born that way.

We found that the majority didn’t have entrepreneurial parents. They didn’t even have entrepreneurial aspirations while going to school. They simply got tired of working for others, had a great idea they wanted to commercialize, or woke up one day with an urgent desire to build wealth before they retired. So they took the big leap.

different strokes

I think the problem is that we try to generalize way too much. Everybody wants to find a pattern, but things are more random than that. Entrepreneurs aren’t a homogeneous manageable type or group. They are a bunch of very diverse individuals.

This is just anecdotal data, obviously, but it makes me think. My wife and I have five grown-up children, all raised in a household steeped in entrepreneurship, serial startups, and chronically broke. Of our older three, all in their middle thirties now, one is certain he never wants to start his own company, one is immersed in entrepreneurship and has been involved in virtually nothing but startups, and one is really hard to tell one way or the other. With the other two, still in their twenties, it’s too soon to tell.

I’m one of four siblings. None of the others are entrepreneurs, and I am. Our parents were not entrepreneurs.

Every case is different. Every startup is different. Business education helped me get going on my own, but not the next person. Growing up with it helped one of our children, but not the next one.

Find your own place.


  • Andama Kaka says:

    thanks, for that concern about how one comes to become an entrepreneur, actually I think that it is one’s and the exposer in life which helps determine his or her way of life

  • millicent boakyewaa antwi says:

    entrepreneurs are made but not born. explain

    • Tim Berry says:

      Millicent, “made but not born” is a shortcut phrase to refer to the debate between nature, characteristics one is born with, and nurture, characteristics acquired after birth through experience, education, family, and so on. Made but not born would imply that nurture, meaning experience and education is more important than inherent characteristics.

  • Mneiae says:

    I plan on being an entrepreneur. My dad is a serial entrepreneur and my aunt has a successful 30+ year old spa. I agree that entrepreneurs are too diverse for others to make generalizations about them. My aunt and my dad are diametrically opposed as far as leadership style goes, yet they both have started successful businesses.

  • Gail Reid says:

    Tim- This is my first look at your blog but I’ve known your software product for a long time, I used it when I owed my own CPA firm once upon a time.

    I had to comment on the “Nature vs Nurture” theory in today’s post. I agree that one’s family background is never a definitive predictor of lifestyle choice. However, my own choices were very much influenced by my parents and grandparent, all of whom were entrepreneurs for most of their working lives. I always knew I wanted to run my own business (didn’t realize how challenging it was). My husband on the other hand came from a family of civil servants and has always taken it for granted that he would work for someone else. We have two daughters in their early 20’s who are new to the workplace. So it remains to be seen what impact coming from a ‘split’ household will have on them.

    • Tim Berry says:

      Thanks Gail, and I agree with you that it’s a fascinating subject but also hard to draw conclusions. Re your two daughters, I left my own two daughters in their 20s out of this post on purpose, because I think they’re too young to know. My wife and I came from extremely different backgrounds, neither one of us a child of entrepreneurs, but one of us raised by a single mother who struggled throughout, the other in a nice suburban home with two parents and a good income. We ended up getting through entrepreneurship together. Who knows.

      Sometimes I think it’s random: the factors present themselves, or they don’t.


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