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Entrepreneur: Defining the Enigma

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If you search the Internet for the word entrepreneur you instantly get at least six direct definitions, all slightly different, and yet all containing a common thread. The connection between the varied definitions lies in the areas of risk and income.

The original definition for the word entrepreneur is generally attributed to an Irish-French economist by the name of Richard Cantillon. In the early 1700s he used the word to define non-fixed income earners who pay known costs of production but earn uncertain incomes.

Two leading online dictionaries define the word entrepreneur as someone who starts a business, or manages and organizes an enterprise, and is willing to risk loss in order to make money. In some cases this leadership comes with considerable initiative and risk.

Yet another generally recognized online dictionary offers synonyms for the word entrepreneur such as: tycoon, speculator, magnet, whiz kid, go-getter, mogul, and hustler.

In a recent random social media survey, a majority of respondents defined the word entrepreneur with the term passion, and thought that it should be synonymous with dedication and goal achievement. What did the minority think? Their opinion was that entrepreneur was an overused term that has become synonymous with someone who has an inflated self worth but hasn’t achieved much.

Why is there such a disparity between definitions?A�Has the perception of what defines an entrepreneur changed over the course of human history since the 1700s?

Given all of the disparity between definitions and perceptions, there is an implicit understanding that entrepreneurs are innovators. They are truly risking their financial security, and perhaps their career or reputation, in the name of an idea or venture. Passion is critical, and uniqueness is mandatory. One Forbes writer has specifically called the state of mind of the entrepreneur as a primordial urge to fill a need, any need.

It is in fact this state of mind, this unique drive, that both intrigues and scares us. Imagine standing before a precipice to success with eyes wide open, and still making the jump.A�A�Over the course of this series, we will dive into the academic study of the psychology of an entrepreneur, we will examine the affects and impact to the self, we will delve into the personal side effects of being driven this way, and we will talk with three local real life successful entrepreneurs.


5-part series on Entrepreneurs

1) Defining the Enigma

2) The Entrepreneurial Orientation

3) High Risk Roulette

4) The Aftermath of the Drive

5) A View from Easy Street


A�”The true entrepreneur is a doer not a dreamer.” – Nolan Bushnell, Co-founder of ATARI

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