An Australian university professor has offered an in-depth insight into entrepreneurship and its defining factors, including why entrepreneurialism is about the team rather than the individual.
Professor Andre Spicer received his PhD from the University of Melbourne, and has since held positions at the University of Warwick as well as visiting Professorships throughout Europe.
Spicer is an expert on the political dynamics of business and organisations.
In an interview with the University of Melbourne’s research web talk show Up Close, Spicer shares his thoughts on the terms “entrepreneurs” and “entrepreneurship”.
According to Spicer, academics have two ideas about what an entrepreneur is, the first being “someone who comes up with an innovative arrangement of the factors of production”.
“So factors of production comes down to the things which create value and, for economists, that’s essentially three things; land, labour and capital,” he said.
“So what the entrepreneur does is combine those three things together into a kind of innovative format… That’s one idea about what the entrepreneur is.”
Spicer said the second idea is not people who come up with an “innovative arrangement of things”, but who “see it operating in one place, take the idea and apply it to their own places”.
According to Spicer, it’s important to move away from the idea of someone such as Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg as the embodiment of a great entrepreneur because “that’s not reality”.
“Most people who are successful entrepreneurs are first of all in middle age, second of all they start up a business in an industry which they’ve been working in for years; they know the ropes of the industry,” he said.
“The third thing is it’s often not an individual, it’s actually a team of people.”
“Most of the time, successful entrepreneurial ventures are actually entrepreneurial teams, not entrepreneurial individuals.”
“So I think there’s a big gap here between the kind of image which we have of the entrepreneur as this sort of heroic young individual guy and the reality, which is kind of often more staid, collective, middle-aged entrepreneurial ventures.”
When asked whether entrepreneurs are born or made, Spicer said a person’s background can often play a greater role than genetics, suggesting entrepreneurialism is somewhat circumstantial.
“Having said that, there are some things that people try and do to kind of increase people’s ability to be an entrepreneur, things, I suppose, like creativity training,” he said.
“But often… the more important things are just nuts and bolts stuff about running a going concern rather than some process of coming up with a brilliant idea.”
Spicer said there has been a major rise in social entrepreneurship throughout the world recently, with opportunities aplenty for entrepreneurs prepared to look for them.
“If you begin to take your eye away from starting up things as kind of a for-profit venture and look at not-for-profit ventures, you begin to see a whole range of different forms of entrepreneurship,” he said.
“A lot of the students here who are going out into the world of work now… face a pretty big problem, which is basically there’s not that many jobs around.”
“The lucky ones obviously get jobs in big companies, some people go and start up small businesses or attempt to do it.”
“Others actually feel like even though they’ve gone to business school, they’ve been trained in finance and strategy and all the rest of it, they think at the end of it ‘This isn’t really for me, I want to begin to use the tools I’ve learned in business school to do not-for-profit work’.”
“Often they find these are better ways of doing what they want or changing the world than going and working for a large company or even starting up their own small venture.”