Entrepreneur vs. Intrapreneur: What’s the Difference and Which One Are You?

June 4, 2018
Posted in Blog, Other
June 4, 2018 Madeleine

Two guys walk into a bright office building and sit down to take a questionnaire about an investment portfolio. One man looks at the other and says: “I’m willing to risk it all! Bring on the mullah.” The other guy looks back and says: “Great, I’ll be happy to help create a plan that will be perfect for you, I’ve got some great ideas to throw your way, and I’ll be glad to help you achieve your goals.” 

One is an entrepreneur and the other an intrapreneur.

The first is willing to lay it all on the line and the other is willing to take on the risk of helping the first become massively successful.

These individuals have a surprising amount of character traits in common, which sometimes makes it difficult for people to determine which role they are best suited for. Distinguishing if you are an entrepreneur or an intrapreneur can help you live up to your full potential in your current and future roles. Make sure you’re following the correct path, it could save you thousands in lost time and effort.

Realistically Determine Your Risk Aversion and Abilities

If you have ever watched the HBO series Silicon Valley, you have seen these two personality archetypes aptly portrayed by the two main characters, Richard Hendricks played by Thomas Middleditch and Erlich Bachman played by T.J. Miller. The series follows two young entrepreneurs who work to develop an industry disrupting startup company. In the show T.J. Miller’s character, Erlich Bachman is the landlord of an “incubator” which means he allows programmers to live for free in exchange for a slice of the pie.  He receives profit shares from all the programmer’s startup ideas and companies. Thomas Middleditch’s character, Richard Hendricks, and the other programmers work tirelessly to create a successful startup but put up with living with their annoying landlord, the constant threat of corporate espionage, lawsuits, and the constant stress of going entirely broke.

Although both characters are portrayed as entrepreneurs, Miller, whose character seems delighted by managing the publicity for the startup, attending board meetings, and presenting at tech conferences is a perfect example of a misguided intrapreneur.

Both intrapreneurs and entrepreneurs are often risk takers, game changers, and leaders; however, entrepreneurs are more willing to suffer for their success. Both actively put themselves in a role that allows for taking total control. Entrepreneurs must work with any outcome to reap the potential extraordinary rewards.

Those with entrepreneurial skills may have a different view on their projects outcomes than intrapreneurs and they likely feel a heightened connection to the perceived result. Often entrepreneur’s motivations are more altruistic than intrapreneurs. To garner necessary funding, a startup must show its potential for future profits, usually by solving a problem that consumers face. With increased competition for investor’s attention, the entrepreneur faces a battle to show how brilliant their idea is and must be willing to devote hours or even years to build their business. They do this understanding the potential for a lack of direct profits within the first few years. If they utilize their own capital to bring their new company to market, the potential risk is even greater. They are sometimes required to risk their jobs and financial well-being to gain capital from potential investors.

Entrepreneurship and intrapreneurship are slightly different and do not share all the same abilities. Entrepreneurs are sometimes more introverted, yet they develop an assertive personality type as they make their way in the business world. They learn how to sell their ideas to others. Friends and associates may likely describe them as having an expressive personality type, even if they often appear introverted.  Entrepreneurs will share their views with others and may regularly get emotional when sharing their ideas.

Successful intrapreneurs also develop a strong skill set that enables them to establish trust and resources within their companies. Intrapreneurs are usually adept at working with others to achieve a goal. Intrapreneurs learn to remain amiable while working with others and become skilled at explaining the reasoning behind their ideas. They like ideas and projects that have quantitative, replicable results. Intrapreneurs have likely already calculated the pros and cons of entrepreneurship or have ventured into the entrepreneurial space and decided to work within the corporate structure.

entrepreneur small business

Which One Are You?

Because intrapreneurs play a critical role in the success of many successful companies it is important to determine if you are more suited to an intrapreneurial role versus chasing an elusive entrepreneurial dream.

If you enjoy management, have great PR skills, enjoy coaching others, and working on a team you are likely well suited for intrapreneurship. Moving up within the corporate structure is difficult and presents a great deal of risk. Focus on developing extremely good networking skills and presenting a professional corporate image always. Learn to develop trust within your company so that others understand that they can rely on you. Endeavoring to become a leader in your workplace can cause unwanted jealousy or suspicion. Promoting ideas that are ill-aligned with your company’s vision could even lead to termination. It takes determination and years of experience to become a successful intrapreneur. Intrapreneurs place a great deal of importance on their work and moving up the ladder. They enjoy receiving recognition for their workplace achievements.

A truly successful entrepreneur is autonomous and highly risk-averse. If you are excellent at maintaining focus and able to determine which business venture you are interested in pursuing, you are likely a true entrepreneur. Entrepreneurs often enjoy the learning process and devote a great amount of time to self-improvement.

The relationship between these two tenacious personality types is usually symbiotic in nature. They benefit from advantageous cooperation often building off the strengths and contributions of the other. Both intrapreneurs and entrepreneurs are incredibly important to the success of powerful, game-changing companies. Their abilities to think creatively and create solutions within meaningful industries is necessary for continued technological and societal improvements. While entrepreneurship is a highly regarded career path, the decision to seek intrapreneurial opportunities is equally salient.

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Madeleine is the driving force behind the business management and growth of Content Refined. As a young entrepreneur, she is always looking for different ways to improve the business for her clients and for her employees.