Intrapreneurs and entrepreneurs are often confused to be the same. While entrepreneurship is, for many years now, accepted and sometimes glorified, intrapreneurs have remained the unsung heroes of the corporate world. They are more depicted as senior executives that have gone on top of the corporate ladder rather than innovators with the company. They may have many qualities and skills in common such as problem solving, resourcefulness, leadership, innovativeness, risk taking and the motivation to pursue their vision. However, if we go beyond these common traits, these two terms are inherently different in many ways. Let’s find out the difference between entrepreneurship and entrepreneurship.
Entrepreneurship vs Intrapreneurship: The definition
Entrepreneurship plays a vital role in the economic development of a country. Simply put, entrepreneurship is the act of creating a business. There are multiple definitions of entrepreneurship and one of them is “the pursuit of opportunity beyond resources controlled” from Howard Stevenson of Harvard Business School. It can also be defined as the process of starting and developing a business to deliver a new product or service to the market and to make a profit. In some minds, entrepreneurship can refer to venture-capital backed startups or any other small business. Entrepreneurs take risks and enjoy most of the rewards associated with these ventures. They innovate, create jobs and change, they give back to the society and add to the national income.
The term ‘intrapreneur’ was first used in 1978 by Gifford Pinchot III, an American consultant and author. He used this word to describe “a person within an organisation who has the entrepreneurial skills and drive necessary to help that organisation grow and succeed.” (Viki, T. 2022). Intrapreneurship is the phenomenon of giving power to employees to innovate, valuing their ideas and providing a framework and resources to turn these ideas into a profit-making model. In Neal Thornberry’s paper on Corporate Entrepreneurship: Antidote or Oxymoron?, published in the European Management Journal, entrepreneurship is defined as identifying “a group of managers within a corporate structure and encouraging them to develop the mindset of green field entrepreneurs. These managers are typically directed to pursue promising spin-up business development opportunities or simply to offer “outside the box” perspectives on ongoing ventures.” A clear example of successful intrapreneurship can be Gmail. Paul Buccheit, the creator of Gmail, worked independently within Google’s organisation to develop the first version of this amazing tool.
Now that you have a clear understanding of entrepreneurship and intrapreneurship, how do these differ?
A higher level of risk with entrepreneurship
Risk is a major difference between those two sciences. An entrepreneur will enter in a new business venture with his/her own money or will attempt to raise capital from business angels and venture capitalists. He/she bears all types of risks in terms of investment, business loan, market failure, product development and reputation. On the contrary, intrapreneurs will bear lower levels of risks than entrepreneurs. They will get the support and resources they need from the management of the organisation and will be able to fund their ideas at every stage of the business cycle. If the project fails to take off, the intrapreneur will still receive a salary unlike the entrepreneur that depends on sales to take a salary. Moreover, the reputation of an intrapreneur is less at risk as he/she will work on projects behind the curtains and will reveal these when they are ready.
Objective and motive behind the initiative
The main objective of an entrepreneur is to create something new and which has an socio-economic value so as to make a profit and create incremental wealth. The main motives of an entrepreneur are to gain financial freedom, independence and to innovate whilst the primary motives of an intrapreneur will be to improve the competitive advantage of the organisation and drive sustainable growth within the company. They expect more autonomy and freedom in doing their job. Intrapreneurs will serve the organisation and themselves whilst entrepreneurs aim at serving the customers.
Dependency and reporting lines for the intrapreneur
Entrepreneurs are free to make their own decisions and do not have a reporting line. They can indulge in as many projects as they want and have no reporting line. The amount of freedom that it provides cannot be compared to the one that intrapreneurs get. In intrapreneurship, decisions are made collectively. It can be perceived as autonomy rather than complete freedom.
Intrapreneur have easier access to resources
Entrepreneurs, in some cases, have limited access to resources. They should rely on their own network, capital and educational/professional background to start a business from scratch while intrapreneurs will get the assistance they need within the organisation and will get access to funds, mentorship from management, training and more depending on the project they are working on.
Still thinking the best way to go into the business world? Are you more of an entrepreneur or intrapreneur ? You can ask yourself these questions: would you rather have the resources and education to start a new project or the freedom to run your own venture and make all the decisions? Can you adapt to an existing culture or would you rather create your own? How tolerant of risk are you?
If you want to go further and require a helping hand in doing so, you can join our employee-innovation and pre-incubation programmes tailored to both entrepreneurs and intrapreneurs, namely Test Drive and Turbine’s intrapreneurship programme. Benefit from one-to-one coaching sessions with our experts, pitching opportunities and networking opportunities to get your project on the right track, at its very beginning. Get in touch with our team at email@example.com for more information.
Eisenmann, T. Entrepreneurship: a working definition. 2013. Harvard Business Review. Link: https://hbr.org/2013/01/what-is-entrepreneurship
Thornberry, N. 2001. Corporate entrepreneurship:: antidote or oxymoron? European Management Journal, Vol. 19. Issue 5. Pgs 526-533. Viki, T. 2022. Why intrapreneurs are not just entrepreneurs working inside large companies. Forbes.