In defense of intrapreneurialism

Trevor pointed me to a ChubbyBrain article that derided “intrapreneurs” as having nothing in common with their entrepreneurial brethren. While I don’t necessary love the term, what we did at Fishworks is probably most accurately described as “intrapreneurial” — and based on both our experiences there and the caustic tone of the Chubby polemic, I feel a responsibility to respond. (And so, I hasten to add, did Trevor.) In terms of my history: I spent ten years in the bowels of Bigco, four years engaged in an intrapreneurial effort within Bigco, and the past year at an actual, venture-funded startup. Based on my experience, I take strong exception to the Chubby piece; to take their criticisms of intrapreneurs one-by-one:

Of course, there are differences between a startup within a large organization and an actual startup. When I was pitching Fishworks to the executives at Sun, I thought of our activity as both giving up some of the upside and removing some of the downside of a startup. After living through Fishworks and now being at a startup, I would be more precise about the downside that the intrapreneur doesn’t have to endure: it’s not insecurity (or at least, not as much as I believed) — it’s the grueling task of raising money. At Fishworks, we had exactly one investor, they knew us and we knew them — and that was a blessing that gave us the luxury of focus.

On balance, I don’t regret for a moment doing it the way we did it — but I also don’t regret having left for a startup. I don’t doubt that my career will likely oscillate between smaller organizations and larger ones — I see strengths and weaknesses to both, much of which comes down to specific opportunities and conditions. In short: there may be differences between intrapreneurialism and entrepreneurialism — but I see little difference between the intrapreneur and the entrepreneur!

Posted on July 12, 2011 at 2:26 pm by bmc · Permalink
In: Uncategorized

4 Responses

Subscribe to comments via RSS

  1. Written by In Defense of the Intrapreneur | | blog
    on July 12, 2011 at 2:32 pm

    [...] I read a rather harsh criticism on Hacker News today about “Intrapreneurs”. The Intrapreneur is an “Internal Entrepreneur” who starts up new projects, ideas, etc, but from within an established company. I personally feel this criticism is rather misguided. The key to the argument was that Intrapreneurs take no risk, and therefore do not deserve to be associated with any deviation of the word “Entrepreneur”. Update: My colleague Bryan has also written his thoughts on the subject. You can read them here. [...]

  2. Written by Prakash
    on July 13, 2011 at 9:59 am

    Bryan, to respond to the first point about risk – there might be few people who hope you fail, you also get a very large group of people who are ready to help you. They are your beta users too, are available without the hassel of NDAs.

  3. Written by Neo Smith
    on July 14, 2011 at 4:50 am

    When I used to work like an engineer I used to think that my Team leader did nothing took no risk had little accountability, got his salary for knowing and not doing….etc etc. I felt the same for my manager when I became a T/L & similar feelings arose for my senior manager when I was a manager.
    All I want to say is unless you step into one’s shoes you don’t realize what that person does, what risks he takes and what responsibility he has

Subscribe to comments via RSS