Entrepreneurship In Real Life

Rethinking inclusion and what it means to be an entrepreneur

When you think of an entrepreneur, what image comes to mind?

Is it someone like Steve Jobs, or Mark Zuckerberg, or Elon Musk? If so, you’re not alone.

When I typed the word “entrepreneur” into a Google Image search, this was the result.

Google Image results for “Famous Entrepreneur”

Google Image results for “Famous Entrepreneur”

Does it match the image that came to your mind?

There’s a worthy conversation around the inequitable representation of women and people of color in these search results. But there’s another pattern within these results that’s talked about less frequently. One that I think needs to be brought to light.

Rather than looking at the entrepreneur in these search results, what if we looked at the business behind the person? There’s a pattern here that helps to explain the apparent ubiquity of the white male persona that has come to define the image of who successful entrepreneurs are.

Do you see the pattern?

The businesses are as diverse as their leaders. The vast majority of these entrepreneurs run businesses in the tech space. The vast majority of them have raised hundreds of millions of dollars in capital. And the exit strategy of the vast majority have been to take their businesses to initial public offerings (IPO’s). These businesses were all designed to be rockets.

In fact, every one in the top row of results meet these criteria. If you didn’t recognize them, they are the founders of Facebook, Tesla (Elon Musk also owns SpaceX which is currently privately held), Microsoft, Amstrad (British consumer electronics company), LinkedIn, Yahoo, and Facebook again.

Do we need more diversity and inclusion in these tiers of the business world? Absolutely. But that also misses the point. There’s already a wonderfully diverse and thriving world of small business owners and so-called “lifestyle” entrepreneurs that fall outside of the definition of entrepreneurship that tends to get all the attention.

So while others worthily strive to bring more people of differing colors, genders, and backgrounds into the world of business and entrepreneurship, I want to work to broaden the limits of that world. I want to remind people that entrepreneurship doesn’t mean one thing.

If we simply change what it means to be an entrepreneur, I believe we can have a much more meaningful conversation.

What if instead of talking about how to raise money, we talk about how to start a business from scratch? What if instead of talking about how innovative the latest tech businesses are, we talk about how companies are using existing technology to provide amazing customer experiences or operate efficiently? What if instead of talking about the struggles businesses face due to sinking stock prices, we talk about the real struggles that small business owners face every day to keep people employed?

What if instead of talking about the unicorns, we talked about the other 99.9%.

Here’s a different Google Image result of entrepreneurs.

Google Image results for “Small Business Owner”

Google Image results for “Small Business Owner”

They were already there. All it took to see them was a simple change in perspective.

I believe it’s time to see a new face of entrepreneurship. One that is already here, and always has been.

It’s time to highlight businesses who aren’t in tech.

It’s time to celebrate businesses who grow by selling their products and services rather than by selling a piece of their business.

It’s to applaud businesses that enrich the lives of their employees, owners, and community rather than enriching the wallets of investors.

It’s time to peel back the curtain and see what entrepreneurship looks like in real life.