An entrepreneur is “a person who sets up a business or businesses, taking on financial risks in the hope of profit.” The total opposite of the entrepreneur is the wantrepreneur. He has a different motivation, which I am going to explain later on. Both terms are broad umbrella terms and therefore fairly meaningless without further specification.
Wantrepreneur is a horrible word. It sounds abhorrent which makes it all the more suitable for the person it describes. I can sympathize with their struggle because I have been in the unfortunate situation to be one of them for several years.
Let’s define wantrepreneur first. You can distinguish two types of wantrepreneurs:
Type A: A wantrepreneur is a person who is interested in entrepreneurship but isn’t ready to take a leap of faith just yet. He reads TechCrunch daily, follows Gary Vee on Facebook, listens to every business podcast there is and buys every new management book. Nothing is wrong with these activities in itself, but the problem is that the wantrepreneur doesn’t translate the information into action.
The wantrepreneur is stuck in the research phase. The information/action ratio should be around 1/40. One hour of research and forty hours of work. But the wantrepreneur does it the other way around if he takes any action at all. The only “work” he is doing is conceptualizing his business ideas. The problem is that he tricks himself into thinking that he is already taking action by reading business blogs and listening to podcasts thereby preparing himself for entrepreneurship.
You can learn about business second-hand to a certain degree, but you have to get your hands dirty to gain more in-depth knowledge. As an entrepreneur, you are primarily a problem solver and you can’t anticipate most problems beforehand, which means you can’t develop your problem-solving skills without taking action. Reading about page optimization and optimizing your own homepage are two totally different beasts. You have to take into account the opportunity cost of consuming business media as well; you could have used the time to work on your business instead.
This inaction is tragic because the wantrepreneur is one step ahead of the general population. He knows about entrepreneurship and is interested in business, but he doesn’t do anything about it. I can relate to the wantrepreneur because I have been one for several years. I attended startup events and business workshops, read business blogs and listened to every entrepreneurial podcast on the internet. I was living in a dream world, where I was thinking about different business ideas.
Type B: A wantrepreneur can also be a person who started a company, but with a different intent. He took some action to give the impression of an entrepreneur without actually working. He sees himself as the next Steve Jobs and talks about how he is going to disrupt industry x. His company is more about himself than creating something of value. He likes the lifestyle, but he is the caricature of an entrepreneur. His startup isn’t solving a problem and the lack of substance is compensated with flashy marketing.
I think the type A wantrepreneur is more interesting because his motivation is less clear and I am going to break it down later on. In contrast, the type B wantrepreneur uses entrepreneurship merely as a vehicle for his ego.
Maybe you think it’s ironic that I am advocating less consumption of business information given that this is a business blog. I believe business blogs have their time and place; otherwise, I wouldn’t put all my time and energy into this blog. But at the same time, they can be a major time sink and they should be an addition and not a replacement for actual work.
If you read this blog as a form of procrastination, you should leave right now and work on your own project. I am an optimist at heart, so I like to think of my readership as exclusively action takers, who read this blog in their leisure time.
The prevalence of wantrepreneurs depends on location and industry. You can find type A wantrepreneurs all over the world. They come in all shapes, size and forms. More interesting is the concentration of type B wantrepreneurs in several cities.
Berlin is an excellent example of this phenomenon. In the last couple of years, Berlin has emerged as a leading startup hub in Europe alongside London, Paris and Stockholm. The rise of Berlin as an innovation hub has attracted type B wantrepreneurs alongside serious entrepreneurs. Berlin has a rare combination of sizable venture capital funding and low cost of living, which makes monetary success less urgent than in expensive regions like Silicon Valley. The bohemian vibe and the large entrepreneurial community can suck you into an endless circle jerk of meetups and keynotes.
The concentration of wantrepreneurs also varies across industries. B2B companies are less flashy than B2C companies and therefore tend to attract fewer wantrepreneurs. Hyped industries with excessive media exposure like fitness and social network apps attract the highest number of wantrepreneurs.
There are several reasons for the prevalence of wantrepreneurs, which are deeply rooted in human nature. While the motivation of type B wantrepreneurs can be explained with narcism, the motivation of type A wantrepreneurs is more complex:
1. Risk aversion: You always take a risk when you start a company. The outcome is uncertain and you might fail.
2. Laziness: Starting a company takes effort. You have to build something from the ground up, which is easier said than done.
3. Paralysis by analysis: You think you have to collect more information before you are capable of starting a company. Collecting information becomes the substitute for starting a company, but you can’t become a great entrepreneur by reading books (sic!). It doesn’t matter how many business books you read; you are going to make big mistakes anyway. The only thing you can do is to accept your mistakes and learn from them.
Paralysis by analysis is the most common obstacle and fortunately also the easiest to overcome. You have to realize that more information isn’t helping you and that you have to take massive action. The first step is the hardest and once you have started, it’s downhill from there.
The above-mentioned reasons differ from the self-rationalizations of the type A wantrepreneur. He tricks himself into thinking that he has valid reasons for his inaction. When you talk to a wantrepreneur, you will encounter the same excuses time and again. Enter one of the following lame rationalizations for not starting a business:
“I don’t have time for starting a business.” Solution: Work on the weekends or get up earlier.
“I don’t have the resources to start a business.” Solution: Save money and built an MVP.
“I don’t have a good business idea.” Solution: Generate ideas with tools like the free Adobe Kickbox and pick the most promising one.
“I have too many brilliant business ideas and I don’t know where to start.” Solution: Pick the most promising one and go from there.
“I am not qualified to start a business yet.” Solution: Start a business anyway or intern in a startup: Learning by doing.
This tiring list goes on to infinity and I am sparing you the rest.
If you are a type A wantrepreneur and you want to become an entrepreneur I have two recommendations for you:
- Stop consuming business media altogether. No blogs, books, podcasts and social media. Not even Julian Power. If this approach is too radical for you, you can also limit your daily media consumption. 30 minutes every evening is more than enough. This restriction forces you to become more selective with your media use. I recommend limiting your media consumption to one topic at a time (e.g., copywriting) instead of jumping from one topic to another. The best strategy is only to look up information when you have an immediate problem instead of anticipating problems.
- Start taking action. You have spent enough time on the sidelines, now it’s time for massive action and to get your hands dirty. It’s all about gaining momentum. I don’t care what you do; anything is better than doing nothing. Register a domain on Namecheap, buy hosting on Siteground, install WordPress and start grinding. It’s important to have something tangible, which you can work on because it makes the abstract concept of entrepreneurship more concrete.
7. Information overload
Analysis paralysis is so prevalent because you can access an unlimited amount of information any time via Google these days. Personally, I prefer to read books because of their superior depth. If you think you have to read business books then make it the following five. The truth is you don’t have to read any book before starting a business, but these books are my favorites anyway. Only two of them are business books in the traditional sense:
- Showboat: The Life of Kobe Bryant (Mindset)
- The Art of the Start 2.0: The Time-Tested, Battle-Hardened Guide for Anyone Starting Anything (Business)
- The One Thing: The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results (Productivity)
- The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do, and How to Change (Productivity)
- The 7 Day Startup: You Don’t Learn Until You Launch (Business)
It’s your choice to be an entrepreneur or a wantrepreneur. If you are a wantrepreneur, you need to take a long hard look at yourself and let go of the bullshit.
Now you know everything you need to know about transforming from a wantrepreneur to an entrepreneur.
The rest is up to you,
9. Recommended books
Showboat: The Life of Kobe Bryant
The Art of the Start 2.0: The Time-Tested, Battle-Hardened Guide for Anyone Starting Anything
The One Thing: The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results
The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do, and How to Change
The 7 Day Startup: You Don’t Learn Until You Launch