According to a New York Times article, those who follow an entrepreneurial path were often troublemakers in their youth. The article is in response to “scandal-ridden entrepreneurs” like Martin Shkreli, a pharmaceutical company founder recently convicted of fraud and awaiting sentencing. Shkreli, it seems, often skipped high school classes to strum on his guitar or play chess. He is not the only one to take this path, according to the article.
The Times sites research by two economists to suggest that entrepreneurs “…are also more likely than others to have been intelligent people who engaged in illicit activities in their teenage years and early 20s. And those indiscretions have not been limited to using drugs or skipping school, but have included antisocial acts like taking property by force or stealing goods worth less than $50.”
Inc. Magazine quickly came to the defense of self-starters. “Entrepreneurs are richly endowed with traits like determination and risk-taking; they are also unusually creative problem-solvers, according to research by Gallup. It’s no surprise they’re willing to push a little further or harder than most people,” Inc.‘s editor-at-large Leigh Buchanan wrote in an article titled “Not All Entrepreneurs Are Rebels, Rule-Breakers or Disruptors.”
The Times referred to the idea of creative destruction to suggest that most entrepreneurs want to turn everything on its ear, establishing chaos in the name of creative genius. “The thing is, though, most entrepreneurs aren’t out to bring down the world order,” writes Buchanan. “They are disruptive to the extent that they’ve created something that wasn’t there before. The successful ones come up with a product or service that is higher quality, or more functional, or less expensive than what already exists on the market. Most are content to build sustainable midsize companies that serve the needs of their customers, their employees, their communities and themselves.”
So which is it? Are entrepreneurs lifelong rowdy disruptors looking to topple established entities for the sake of their own success? Or are they motivated self-starters who want to improve the world with their ideas? By and large, Buchanan says, the entrepreneurs she has interviewed have described creating their own small businesses as a teenager, not shoplifting from other businesses or vandalizing property. The idea of rabble-rouser-turned-successful-businessperson has a delicious ring to it, and certainly a few entrepreneurs can claim to have taken that route. Most, however, would likely take umbrage. We want to hear from you: What are your thoughts?