Are you an Inventor or a Founder?

As a VC, I end up meeting some amazing people of many different backgrounds and profiles.  But there are two categories of people which are tightly correlated, but distinctly different.  The difference between what I’d call an “Inventor,” someone who has many ideas for businesses to start, and a “Founder,” an entrepreneur who starts a company, is subtle.  Many of the qualities of the former are necessary, but not sufficient attributes, for the latter.  In my observation:

  • An Inventor generates ideas; a Founder pursues them.
  • An Inventor is always brainstorming; a Founder is brainstorming for his next company.
  • An Inventor wants to see his concepts come to life; a Founder wants to bring them to life himself.
  • An Inventor looks to others to turn ideas into reality; a Founder naturally attracts people who want to transform ideas into reality.
  • An Inventor wants to see his vision eventually realized; a Founder wants to be there when his vision is realized.
  • An Inventor relishes in concepts; a Founder relishes in the details.
  • An Inventor wants fulfillment; a Founder wants to build.
  • An Inventor is passionate to imagine; a Founder is passionate to create.

There isn’t a value judgment inherent in the above distinction, that one is somehow “better” than the other.  But rather, it’s only true Founders who should be starting companies.  And the self-awareness of the two profiles is certainly a quality which not everyone of either type necessarily possesses, though the most enlightened of both groups do.

According to Wikipedia, French economist Jean-Baptiste Say coined the term entrepreneur as “one who undertakes an enterprise… acting as intermediatory between capital and labour.”  Now we could argue about the modern definition of the word, but I’d include in the notion of entrepreneur being a facilitator among capital, labor, AND ideas… but certainly not just ideas solely.  Great Founders do so much more than conceive.

David Beisel

David Beisel is a co-founder and Partner at NextView Ventures. He has been focused on early stage Internet startups his entire career, both as an entrepreneur and venture capitalist. As an investor in the digital media space, David was most recently a Vice President at Venrock and previously a Principal at Masthead Venture Partners. Prior to becoming a venture capitalist, David co-founded Sombasa Media, an e-mail marketing company best known for its flagship product BargainDog. Sombasa was successfully acquired by About.com where David served as Vice President of Marketing. David holds an MBA from the Stanford Graduate School of Business and an AB in Economics, magna cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa, from Duke University. He also founded and leads the Boston Innovators Group, an organization which holds quarterly entrepreneur events drawing a thousand attendees.

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