The many colours of entrepreneurship: part 1 | Team HX Design

Entrepreneurship is often thought of as a one-size-fits-all endeavor, with the young, Silicon Valley, tech start up founder being the most commonly portrayed image in mainstream media. But in reality, there are many different types of entrepreneurs, each motivated by different things.

In the summer of 2022, I had the opportunity to undertake INSEAD’s student-driven summer start-up tour (SSUP), which was supported by the Maag Entrepreneurship Centre. During this tour, I reached out to people with unconventional entrepreneurial careers in the European hub cities of London, Amsterdam, and Berlin, to understand what they do, and why they do it. 

Over 30 people generously offered their time to meet in person and share their candid insights with me. The individuals I spoke to included entrepreneurs, venture architects, investors, business designers, innovation heads of large companies, and artists.

Through these conversations, I realized that there is no singular type of entrepreneur. Entrepreneurship can be motivated by different things for different people, or a mix of things. In mainstream media and narrative, a few colours are disproportionately represented. Just as a painter has a palette of colours to choose from, there are many colours of entrepreneurship, each representing different motivations. Some people have a dominant colour, while others have a mix.

In this first part of a two-part series, I want to share with you some of the colours of entrepreneurship that I came across during my tour, along with real-life examples of people who embody them. My hope is that by giving you a glimpse into the diverse motivations of entrepreneurs, you may relate and be inspired to start up yourself

Motivations (colours):

  1. Self-expression: honing your skills while keeping your agency
  2. Purpose: changing something in communities, society, environment or the world

Some entrepreneurs I met who had shades of these colours were:

Justus Bruns, a designer and artist based in Amsterdam. He co-founded two companies to be able to pursue his artistic ambitions: VOUW, an art, design, and technology studio that has exhibited in three continents, and Convince Agency, a client-service digital design agency to provide steady income to support his art at VOUW. Justus’s mantra is to “build what you want to see in the world”.

Priyank Mathur, who is on a mission to combat mis/disinformation, violent extremism, and gender inequality through the power of tech and media. As the founder and CEO of Mythos Labs, Priyank brings his expertise in media from his time at Ogilvy & Mather and as a contributing comedy writer at The Onion. Not only does he run Mythos Labs, but he also hosts documentaries and podcasts for the UN, Newslaundry and Mythos Labs, always staying ahead of the curve in media trends. In his words, “I look at entrepreneurship as a way of expressing myself. It doesn’t have to be about being obsessed with scaling, or with an idea.” 

Nishita Gill, the founder of Treemouse, a boutique agency that works as a long-term partner with clients targeting systemic change, is driven by a desire to change people’s minds. A trained designer, Gill has worked with clients such as Clinton Health Access Initiative, Meta, Omidyar Network India, and Elsevier, using her skills to effect change in the world. In her own words, “I really want to change people’s minds about things. That’s what drives me.”

Hanson Cheng, co-founder and CEO at the Tyre Collective, who is driven by a sense of purpose. Hanson and his three classmates from the Royal College of Art and Imperial College Innovation Design Engineering Masters program came together to address sustainability challenges. Through their work, they discovered that tyre wear is the second-largest microplastic pollutant in our environment. They designed a product to collect tyre-wear at the source, reducing emissions. Cheng noted how starting a business in a hub like London can provide access to support and resources.

In part two of this series, I’ll cover three more colours (motivations) of entrepreneurship and the people I met who exhibited these. 

Disclaimer: This is not meant to be an exhaustive list of ‘colours’, i.e. of types of entrepreneurs. These are just some that I came across and have articulated. Also, the stories of people here are my interpretation of their motivations. They are meant to help you find one or more examples you relate to, not to typecast them.

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