Zivity co-founder and angel investor Cyan Banister fires back at those who complain that everyone is an entrepreneur these days. By Cyan Banister (Founder, Zivity/Signal Media Project & Investor, Banister Capital)
Ugh, everyone is an entrepreneur!
I go to a lot of events and typically the conversations at these events are similar.
"How are you doing?" "What have you been up to?" "How is x, y or z company?" "What investments are you excited about right now?"
And then usually a complaint or two about "social media experts" and "how everyone these days is an entrepreneur".
That last line is usually said with a tone of disgust or followed up with: "I get so many business cards where people are the CEO of whatever idea. These people aren't CEOs! These people aren't founders?! These people are jokers!"
Then there is an awkward pause, because that person usually is looking for my approval for their ludicrous statements. Surely, a professional angel investor like myself must be seeing all of these cards and must share their disdain for these wannabe entrepreneurs. I like to let the negativity hang in the air like a dank wet rag and I like them to feel their own discomfort for a while before responding. I usually look into their eyes with a "say what?!" expression and then I let them know my dismay and complete lack of approval.
We live in an era -- a wonderful era -- where anyone can be an entrepreneur, and I truly believe that everyone, at some stage in their life, should try it. If someone fancies themselves an entrepreneur, I'm their biggest cheerleader. If they are the CEO, even better. Anything that teaches people to respect and love businesses and capitalism is a benefit to the world. I can find no higher calling in life other than parenthood that is as valuable. Creating value in the world that people want and a strong desire to create jobs, well, what's wrong with that?
Sure, there are people who fantasize about being a "full time" entrepreneur and they moonlight with their day jobs, but that doesn't make them less of an entrepreneur, that just makes them not fully committed -- yet. They might not attract investment or a team, but that doesn't mean they aren't living the dream and someday they might take the leap and let go of the trapeze they've been holding on to in order to see if they can do it.
"They will never have what it takes to be successful." Well, who cares really? If they learn along the way and treat life as a university, we have a person who comes out of that experience appreciating the value that successful entrepreneurs and businesses bring to all of us.
"But, but, they dilute the meaning of the word entrepreneur!"
To this, I say, get over your elitist bullshit. There are successful entrepreneurs, somewhat successful entrepreneurs, just starting out entrepreneurs, not so successful entrepreneurs and everything in-between. We can gauge people by what they've done or how they are doing, but to make entrepreneurialism some kind of higher calling only available to very few? That's just vilainous. If anyone thinks that, they should be ashamed of themselves and go reflect on a mountain for a while. It also shows a complete lack of respect for the small business entrepreneur, because it basically implies that you have to be Mark Zuckerberg in order to be a success -- that the only measure of success is in millions or billions of dollars.
You can be a success and have a small business that operates off cash flow. As a matter of fact, most businessses in the world fit into that category, and there's absolutely nothing wrong with it. You can operate a profitable hot dog stand and, guess what? You are an entrepreneur and don't let anyone take that from you.
I've heard these statements from operators, investors, etc. There's no one group saying them, but it is an aweful virus that I think should be stopped, and the only way to kill bad speech is through more speech, so I'm hoping that after you read this you'll go to an event and nip this negativity in the bud when you see it.
One way I like to diffuse this sort of thinking is to show someone an object in the room - spoons are my favorite,or a cup and then talk them through the process of that object eventually ending up in my hand. Teaching people to marvel at how anything gets to us and showing them that it involves people and a simple dream of being an entrepreneur usually helps. Some people can't be changed, but I hope that all of us, for the sake of the world, give it a try.
Do you agree it's time to stop disrespecting 'Wantpreneurs'?
About the guest blogger: Cyan is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of Zivity, a prolific angel investor with her husband Scott Banister, board member, advisor and also a contributing writer for TechCrunch. She currently serves on the board of directors for Mimoco. Image credit: Jay Williams via Flickr.