Intrapreneurs vs Entrepreneurs

Do you think like an entrepreneur yet, enjoy working for other organisations and don’t want to build a start-up?

The following article is a summary of entrepreneurs and intrapreneurs and how equally important they both are in innovation and growth.

When we think of innovation and start-ups, we typically think of entrepreneurs and founders of companies like Steve Jobs and Madam C.J Walker. These inspiring humans who come with passionate ambition and visions to innovatively address a problem through starting a business/startup, while taking on high risk through capital and time, for a potential high reward through market growth and return on investment. While entrepreneurs with this growth mindset are courageous and bold in the way they operate, equally courageous and bold are intrapreneurs.

As Canva’s Chief Evangelist Guy Kawasaki says ‘There are lots of guys and gals inside established companies who are as innovative and revolutionary as their bootstrapping, soy-sauce-and-rice-subsisting, external entrepreneur counterparts. This is for these brave souls who face a different kind of reality and must practice the art of entrepreneurship inside a company—or “intrapreneurship.’

Intrapreneurs may be less spoken about in the media, but have played a significant role in the way they practice entrepreneurial mindsets and practices within an organisation. They may bear less risk and thus less reward working within a business, compared to entrepreneurs who create their own business, but they are equally important in creating a return on investment, growth and impact within a company.

In fact, many start-ups value intrapreneurship so highly, that they have dedicated time allocated for personal projects outside ‘business as usual’ tasks. Google being one of those start-ups, where they have ‘20% time’ allocated to intrapreneurial activities, from which came out the infamous intrapreneurship stories of Paul Buchheit, one of Google’s early employees, who built Gmail which added significant value and growth to Google.

Entrepreneurs or intrapreneurs don’t have it better, they just have it different.

The key difference being the:

  • Risk/reward appetite – entrepreneurs having a greater risk/reward appetite than intrapreneurs
  • Preference in working for a company with established leadership, operations and systems or leading the creations of a startup from scratch
  • Strengths – Do your strengths align with creating a start-up or creating innovation within a startup?

The key similarities are the growth mindset and unrelenting desire to innovate and solve problems. While entrepreneurs are mostly spoken about in podcasts we might listen to and books we read around startup success stories because of their leadership roles when starting their companies, intrapreneurs are equally, if not sometimes more important in driving the innovative growth of businesses. Their equal value and importance is a reminder that through individual reflections on strengths, risk appetite, working style and preference, meaningful innovative solutions and change can be created through both – entrepreneurs and intrapreneurs.