By Brian Mitchell, CEO & Managing Partner
Stop saying you or what you’ve done is “intra-prenurial”. Nobody is buying it and it’s undermining your actual achievements. I’ve repeatedly heard senior executives use the term “intra-preneurial” to describe a new(ish) internal business channel or some other incubated initiative within an established company. Many of these same big company execs believe that this experience mirrors a start-up. It doesn’t. Many of these same execs also believe that their accomplishment of growing an existing revenue stream from say 50M to 60M at a 1B company is comparable to growing a startup from pre-revenue to 10M or 10M to 20M. It isn’t. Entrepreneurial settings are much different. Entrepreneurs often build something out of nothing more than an idea, they plan and actualize that idea, and grind the growth until it becomes meaningful…and then it gets even harder because the expectations are to scale aggressively. Oh, and it’s all time sensitive as payrolls need to be met.
Big company executives might be incredibly dynamic and can thrive in a startup as well as they do at a 1B+ company, but until there is a proof point it is an unknown. It’s different. The so-called intra-preneurial experience is not as relevant as they might believe. If an internal initiative doesn’t flourish, the company as a whole continues. Whereas if an entrepreneur doesn’t succeed, the company dies. The intra-preneurial initiative has significant capital behind it, existing resources to pull from, and likely an external brand for immediate credibility. The entrepreneurial venture must secure external funding – a full- time job in and of itself – or bootstrap it or it’s over. The entrepreneur needs to identify resources, consultants, new employees, and their networks become exhausted – building the right resources is also a full-time job. Hopefully the entrepreneur/founder has some personal brand credibility to leverage because NOBODY has ever heard of their company – meetings are tough to come by. “Who?” is a common response when they identify their company in yet another evangelical business introduction. And “why should I care?” is what every respondent is thinking.
If/when the entrepreneur ultimately succeeds, it is typically a herculean task that overcame countless trials, rejections, setbacks, and other learning experiences. With all due respect to my friends and colleagues who have only been at big companies, you may be brilliant and have relevant experience, but you’re not entrepreneurial. Until you’ve worn those shoes, you’ll carry much more credibility with those that have by acknowledging it. Have at it.