When I think of entrepreneurship one of two images comes to mind. First, we have the everyday business owner. This entrepreneur ranges from your local restauranteur and plumber to, at its most successful, the founder of Chick fil A or Dominos Pizza. These entrepreneurs are typically taking an existing business model and making improvements on the margin.
The second entrepreneur is the Zero to One-er. As Peter Thiel covers in his book, going from zero to one involves creating new and better ways of doing things that lead to human progress. Elon Musk, Steve Jobs, and Thiel himself would fall under the category of having this mindset when it comes to starting new companies.
“The simple truth is that it is quite possible to create a thriving business without a big idea.
In fact, starting up with a tried and tested concept is very sensible.” -Trevor Ginn
“Today’s “best practices” lead to dead ends; the best paths are new and untried.” -Peter Thiel
“Properly understood, any new and better way of doing things is technology.” -Peter Thiel
These are pretty drastic visions of entrepreneurship, but young entrepreneurs can find value in both. Taking to heart that you can succeed in business without the one grand idea makes entrepreneurship accessible to so many more people who are initially intimidated by the term and these types of entrepreneurs make significant day to day improvements in the quality of life for their customer. This vision also plays up the importance of grit and execution. Entrepreneurship is not easy and it’s only cool once you have succeeded in a meaningful way.
What this vision tends to leave out though is that entrepreneurs are the drivers of progress in the world. Lets not leave the perceived responsibility of greater standards of living and changing culture for the better to the politicians, activists, and armies. Lets embrace the fact that entrepreneurship has been improving society more than any other institution or process throughout history and challenge ourselves to create the new technologies that will lead to greater human flourishing.
The Zero to One model does this well. It puts the onus on the leaders of enterprise to create value for others which has a lasting impact on society and it embraces the intellectual depth required to be an entrepreneur that will create that value. In fact, the Zero to One vision knows that the only way society will improve in the future is through the new technologies created through entrepreneurship.
If you’re attracted to this vision, just keep in mind that the focus and level of execution required only becomes greater at this level and that improvements on the margin will still play a vital part to continued innovation.
While these visions of entrepreneurship are certainly different from one another, they are both important to consider as young people are deciding if entrepreneurship is a path for them. Promoting both will lead to a culture that values entrepreneurship and makes it accessible to future generations, which will increase the prominence of both visions resulting in continued progress.