In part two of this series, I’ll cover three more colours of entrepreneurship that I came across during my tour.
3. Opportunity: spotting and addressing needs
One intrapreneur who embodies this colour and is also purpose-driven is Marcus Krug. After a PhD in theoretical computer science, he was keen to solve problems and joined SAP. He studied entrepreneurship, lean start-ups, and venture capital. He grew to lead SAP’s Innovation Centre in Berlin. On the path, he championed and drove a number of intrapreneurial ventures in SAP across sectors from fintech to health tech. As an intrapreneur, he looks at the ‘expected’ case (statistically speaking) as opposed to the best case. Part of his advice to me was to “never accept your job role as given. You can transcend it” in service of the purpose of the business. He reminded me that you don’t need innovation in your job title or description to be an innovator.
4. Achieving scale and results
Peter-Paul De Leeuw, INSEAD alumnus, and founder and CEO at Amberscript, was a strategy consultant before taking the plunge into entrepreneurship after INSEAD. He first set up a search fund, inspired by the INSEAD elective Realising Entrepreneurial Potential (REP). He then joined a start-up studio where he founded Amberscript, which aims to make audio accessible for everyone. Speaking with him, I realized how start-up studios provide an alternative path to prospective founders. They manage the risk, reduce uncertainty, and provide boosters. For example, participants receive initial funds and a salary, intros to tech talent, and other freelancers. They may even find co-founders. Supported by the studio, Peter-Paul made the mindset switch from a consultant to a founder.
5. Helping people reach for their potential
Gustavo Burnier, INSEAD alumnus, experienced entrepreneur, CMO, and non-executive director. He embodies many colours, most notably 3 and 5. Gustavo first joined the founding team in 1999 at Despegar.com (IPO’ed in 2017 on the NYSE), co-founded Handmade Design in 2015, a strategic design firm with an HQ in Sao Paulo working with top clients across industries. Gustavo’s focus on people is immediately discernible when you meet him, and evidenced by the 28 people who wrote him testimonials on LinkedIn.
He says about starting something new, “in an ideal world, if I had 100 days to solve a problem, I’d spend 95 days understanding the problem, and 5 days building a solution”
Sebastian Klein, serial entrepreneur and published author. Sebastian and long-time collaborator Ben Hughes met in Australia. They moved back to Berlin and tried to find big needs to address. They experimented by creating the ‘penguin hug’ cooling scarf (https://www.penguinhug.de/) and the content site, ‘Handbook of Awesome’ (http://handbookofawesome.com/), before founding Blinkist (https://www.blinkist.com/) — an app widely known and loved for its book summaries. Blinkist began with Sebastian sending email summaries of books he read to his friends (and eventually co-founders), and them realising that he was onto something. Most recently, Sebastian set up Neue Narrative, a self-organised publishing house which belongs to the people who work in it. His advice to people interested in entering the start-up world was to “get your feet wet by learning a city’s (start up) ecosystem and how it works. That’s where you meet people, learn how things get done.”
Fabian Hansmann, INSEAD alumnus, started trying entrepreneurship, as an early teen with a snowball, that well, snowballed. Since his teens, he’s founded, funded, and facilitated the growth of a number of start-ups. He even had a hand in making Berlin’s start up ecosystem what it is today. One of his superpowers is spotting companies that are successful in one market and replicating them in another.
He says: “I very rarely see people who shouldn’t be entrepreneurs. Many don’t jump into water. But most people who try it, do no regret it.”
It was Fabian who first opened my eyes to the many different colours of entrepreneurship, and inspired this two-part blog.
Each person has their own unique motivations and reasons for starting their own businesses. Whether you’re driven by self-expression, purpose, opportunity, achieving scale and results, or helping people reach for their potential, there’s a colour of entrepreneurship that is your own. So, grab a brush and start painting your own picture. The world is your canvas.
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.