What does it mean to be an entrepreneur?

I saw The Social Network recently. It’s sharp, smart, funny and very entertaining. One fascinating scene in the movie got me thinking about what it means to be an entrepreneur. The scene involves Sean Parker, who is like the sidekick in this movie but could easily be the hero in another movie. Sean Parker is the co-founder of Napster and played a key role during the early days of Facebook. Vanity Fair ran this profile of him recently.

Coming back to the scene. Sean Parker is talking to a girl, Amy:

Amy: So what do you do?

Sean: I am an entrepreneur.

Amy: You are unemployed.

Sean: I wouldn’t say that.

Amy: What would you say?

Sean: That I’m an entrepreneur.

Amy: Well, what was your latest preneur?

A couple of observations:

  1. The scene nails the fact that there is a stigma of unemployment associated with entrepreneurship. I am not sure why that is. Is it because entrepreneurs don’t have typical 9 to 5 jobs? Or is it because many unemployed people find it easy to pass themselves off as entrepreneurs? Amy may just have been kidding, but in India, a lot of people think “Nothing better to do” when you tell them you are an entrepreneur.
  2. Some entrepreneurs tend to be self-deprecating, even insecure, till they have achieved some measure of success. They feel that calling themselves entrepreneurs would be cheating unless they have something to show for it. I went through that phase but finally decided that the textbook definition – “someone who organizes a business venture and assumes the risk for it” – works quite well.

So chill. And if you are wondering if you are an entrepreneur, you are. Don’t let a label hold you back.

[You can watch the scene here.]