Inventor Entrepreneurs May Be The Rare Exception
In my experience, inventors and technologists aren’t interested or aren’t very good at building a business, and entrepreneurs aren’t usually good scientists. These people need to find each other, and can jointly make a great team for a new startup. Without the synergy, companies like Apple might never have gotten off the ground.
Historically, it’s also not often that a good inventor was also a good entrepreneur. There are some old arguments that even our entrepreneur heroes, like Thomas Edison, really cheated on the invention side. Most of the great entrepreneurs of recent times, like the young Steve Jobs, had a great technologist, Steve Wozniak, who could implement his dreams.
I’m convinced that this is because the personal characteristics required for these two jobs are quite different. For example, here are a few of the attributes that come to mind for a good technologist:
- One idea, one focus. They have perseverance, based on strong personal conviction that something is possible. An inventor has to know precisely how things work. Inventors build solutions to a problem, and they relish in the success of having solved the problem.
- Good with details. If you have ever written a patent application, you know it’s all about details, linkages, and causes vs. effects. Good inventors love to diagram out all the details, algorithms, and get their reward from finding new ways of getting things done.
- Creative and artistic. You have to give the creator some resources, time, and throw in some food once in a while, and a “completed design” will appear in due time. Then they are done. They hate sales, and don’t understand what making a profit even means.
- Realistic if not pessimistic. Every inventor, programmer, musician, and artist will tell you that you can’t schedule invention. They won’t commit to a completion date, and always dream of an unlimited budget. They expect many attempts will be required.
Entrepreneurs, on the other hand, have a complementary but different set of strengths and weaknesses:
- Lots of ideas, can’t focus. Most good entrepreneurs are idea people, and can flood you with ideas. The reason they can’t focus is that they haven’t yet flushed out all of the half-baked ones. When teamed with someone who can focus, things work, and a lot of wasted effort is avoided.
- Likes the big picture, not good with details. An entrepreneur always has a “vision” of a bright future. But many fail, or have lots of stress because they don’t like to deal with the details. They tend to leave the details to others, who don’t have the vision or the skill, so the business suffers.
- Good at starting a business and selling. Every entrepreneur reads everything they can find on running a business, maps out all the steps in their head, or explicitly on paper (business plan). They love talking about their business and their product, and dream of having millions of customers.
- They exaggerate and are too optimistic. Exaggeration, pipe dreaming and denial are the tools and comforts of the trade of entrepreneurism. The psychological source of this “always at the edge” may be an addiction to adrenaline, the pleasure/high of “pulling it off” at the last minute, or the high that victory brings.
For a successful business, it takes the discipline and creativity of a technologist, as well as the vision, planning, and optimism of an entrepreneur to create customer value. So if you’re an entrepreneur, find yourself a frustrated technologist and likely both of you can find more success and happiness.(No tags for this post.)
Written by Martin Zwilling
You might also be interested in
Co-founder Equity Split: A New Framework to Objectively Divide Startup Ownership and Get Back to Building a Business
We’ve just released our free Co-founder Equity Split tool. It’ll give you a fair and objective recommendation about how to divide your startup’s ownership, so you and your co-founders will have a sensible, real starting point for this notoriously hard, crucially important conversation.
Many startup founders find themselves lacking clarity and direction when it comes time to divide their
With startup growth up 61% since 2014 and more investment programs emerging, it can be overwhelming for founders to know just where to jump in. As the most startup-friendly accelerator on the planet, MassChallenge has helped 835 startup companies around the world, who have raised over $1.1 billion in funding and created over 6,500 jobs. We have seen startups at
Update 2017: To help you understand how your startup will look to investors according to this methodology, we’ve created a fundraising feedback tool that will give you investor-level insight into your startup’s performance. In just about 15 minutes, it will tell you how much money your startup is likely to raise, where you can find that capital, and what to
After less than a year, Glassbreakers is now a team of 10, we have thousands of active users on our free product, we’ve expanded into enterprises with paying customers and raised over a million in seed funding. After a few of my Glassbreaker matches inquired, I started to reflect on what it’s like to build a startup
The median investor looking at your proposal is in her 40s. Her eyes are going, not to mention her brain. I look at a lot of spreadsheets and analytic reports, and way too many are difficult to read and therefore hard to understand.
In an effort to make my life easier, I’ve summarized here the steps that will