Even though I’ve been a lifelong journalist, I always knew I wanted to “start my own thing.”
In the early years, I channeled that restless energy into freelance writing and eventually, writing my own books. When I finally had the guts, I funneled all that energy into building what is now Radiate. Radiate may have been born 18 months ago, but it’s seeds were planted years earlier. I’ve always dreamed of starting a business but I just didn’t know what it was nor did I have the confidence to do it.
Turns out, the skills you need as a journalist fit very well with being an entrepreneur. You need to know how to communicate your ideas effectively. You need to build trusting relationships. You need to be able to tell stories. You need to know what your customers want and you need to love doing research and digging into data.
Which leads me to the question: are entrepreneurs born or can they be made?Are some of the skills I learned innate or can they be acquired? I’ve always been curious about this, which is why I asked several of the Expert CEOs and entrepreneurs on Radiate what they thought.
Not surprisingly, many thought entrepreneurship can absolutely be learned. “I think people worry too much about being born an entrepreneur; anyone can do it,” said Kevin Ryan, the serial entrepreneur behind such hits like Business Insider, MongoDB and Gilt Groupe.
Brad Keywell, the Chicago-based investor and entrepreneur behind such companies like Groupon, said: “I think that it is only learned through experience. So it is hard to truly learn the whole framework or playbook of entrepreneurship in a classroom or from a book.”
Meanwhile, others like Mellody Hobson, President of Ariel Investments, disagreed. “I actually think you’re born an entrepreneur,” she said. “There are things you learn along the way that make you a better entrepreneur, but I think you have to have a constitution for being an entrepreneur in order to do it well. It’s very unpredictable at times and therefore a person must be very comfortable with that, and I don’t think you can teach someone to deal with the unpredictable nature of being an entrepreneur.”
Susan Lyne, Founding Partner & President at BBG Ventures, said entrepreneurship can be learned but that there are certain people whose personalities lend themselves well to starting businesses. “Somebody who likes to work for themselves, who is proactive, who is a self-starter, who is impatient with waiting for something to happen to them, and those people are sort of natural entrepreneurs,” she said.
And finally, Gary Vaynerchuk, the CEO of VaynerMedia who has built and invested in several successful businesses says there’s a big misperception about entrepreneurship. “Very few people that can actually build a business that maintains their lives and so, I think there’s a huge misconception on entrepreneurship,” he said. “I think everybody thinks they can make a million dollars a year because they’ve got some big idea and the fact of the matter is, we’re gonna look back at this last decade of all these entrepreneurs, all these kids, all these apps, there’s only gonna be a very small percentage of people that actually built the business and made money.”
So what do you think? Are entrepreneurs born or can they be made?