It’s a rather widespread opinion that entrepreneurs like taking risks, which is often the idea (or excuse…) ex-future entrepreneurs appeal to when they explain why they’re not getting off the ground. In reality, entrepreneurs aren’t looking to take risks: they’re actually trying to minimize them.
The chance of running into nasty unforeseen circumstances doesn’t only concern entrepreneurs. Salaried workers are concerned for their whole careers: they could get fired, get uninteresting tasks forced on them, work with a team they don’t get along with, progress in a negative environment… Unlike entrepreneurs, salaried workers place the decisions that create pressure in other people’s hands.
Entrepreneurs build their own work environment according to their values and personality. Thus they choose their constraints and accept responsibility for the negative (or positive) consequences that follow.
Some experts, such as Frank Knight (Risk, uncertainty and profit), comment that entrepreneurs don’t distinguish themselves from others through their weak aversion to risk but through their weak aversion to uncertainty. That, unlike risk, is unknown and immeasurable.
When startups launch a product on a new market, they face uncertainty rather than risk. The example of Motorola, used by Philippe Silberzahl in hist article, is very relevant: for years, not a single factor allowed this telecommunications giant to predict the promising future of the mobile phone market.
So entrepreneurs accept uncertainty – that is, the possibility of a world where destiny doesn’t exist – because it’s integral to their freedom to act and create. The only risk that entrepreneurs take, then, is that of failing. But sometimes, failure is an indispensable element to success, as entrepreneur Michael Litt’s conference on TEDxUW shows.
In the end, entrepreneurs refuse to consider success of failure as a mere statistic or improbability. So they don’t like taking risks, rather they like the idea of being (imaginary?) masters of their destiny.
During the transition into entrepreneurship, the future entrepreneur must thus understand that the life he’s choosing will be no more or less risky than the employee life he had before, but unlike before, he can only blame himself for his failures.
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