The Pursuit

Q: How do you define entrepreneurship?

A: This is an easy one. My favorite definition of entrepreneurship comes from Harvard Business School professor Howard Stevenson:

“Entrepreneurship is the pursuit of opportunity without regard to resources currently controlled.”

In other words, entrepreneurship is the ability to pursue opportunity without money, or permission, or pedigree, or most other means that might make the pursuit easier. Stevenson emphasizes the pursuit without regard to possessions. As I see it, his definition hints at this truth: the heart of entrepreneurship is never about what we have. It’s about what we do.

This idea comes alive for me every single time I have the privilege of seeing firsthand the extremely tough circumstances in which most of the world's hard-working entrepreneurs live and even thrive: circumstances that include abjectly few resources, vastly less than even the scrappiest start-up in a Silicon Valley garage have. They are farmers, fishermen, brick makers, rickshaw drivers, seamstresses, shopkeepers, and so many others. I've met people who live in mud huts but have launched several ventures. I've met individuals who haven't been formally educated past grade school but have grown their microenterprises to the point where they can support their families. I had come face-to-face with real people who, despite their lack of experience, expertise, power, money, popularity, or approval, succeed on their own terms as entrepreneurs.

Great entrepreneurs embody Stevenson's definition: they choose, day after day, to move forward in pursuit of an opportunity, regardless of what they control or don't control. Regardless of what they lack or have lost or must fight against. They succeed not because of what they possess but because of what they are determined to achieve.