In a world where success is flashed across the globe at the speed of a tweet, where wealth can be created overnight and companies listed in a matter of years, many an anonymous entrepreneur has been thrusted into the limelight and glorified for their supersonic rise to success.
Indeed we have been conditioned to believe that entrepreneurs are a rare breed of people who possess more guts and gumption than the rest of us. Mention ‘entrepreneurs’ and images of Richard Branson, Mark Zuckerberg and Steve Jobs come to mind. The media portray them as a mysteriously talented, charismatic type with a bigger appetite for risk than the average Joe. So its easy to fall into the trap of thinking that with enough attitude, one can succeed and become one of those glorified entrepreneur types.
The reality though, is that the genius, risk-taking entrepreneur is the exception rather than the norm. Depressingly, studiesshow that most entrepreneurs are just ordinary people not much different from the rest of us, but with access to extraordinary wealth.
According to a Reuters report, most startups are created by ex-bankers with deep connections. And since its a well known fact that venture capitalists do not entertain cold calls but prefer to be introduced to founders via their own connections, this creates an ecosystem where bankers, wealthy investors and VCs can networkand get their startups off the ground.
Interestingly, most of these connections begin in renowned universities. Alumnus of Harvard, MIT and Yale frequently end up working in top banks, venture capital firms and other established companies like Google and McKinsey where they continue to build networks with powerful people.
Jeff Bezos, for example, appears to be a classic case of the well educated and well connected. He is a Princeton graduate who worked on Wall Street for a decade before launching Amazon.
Being well connected usually overlaps with being wealthy. Most successful business owners can be traced back towealthy families.Founders who have rich backings can tide through the early yearsbecause they have access to cash flow – something most poor and middle class entrepreneurs do not. For example, everyone knows Bill Gates started Microsoft but not many know that his wealthy parents funded his company and helped him land his first client in IBM.
Talent or Connections?
Critics argue that just being wealthy and well-connected doesnt guarantee success. Take the case of Color. Its well-connected founder successfully raises USD41 million without even having a product, only to fail spectacularly not long after.
So is a successful entrepreneur like Brit Morin a product of sheer talent or good connections? Some argue it takes a good dose of talent to make it to top universities and work in renowned companies in the first place. Bill Gates, for example, was a genius coder way before he went to (and dropped out of) Harvard and started Microsoft. And it is these capable people – the ones with both talent and connections to wealth – who ultimately stand out from the rest.
Still, Silicon Valley is full of Brit Morins and the scrappy entrepreneurs who make it on their own are few and far in between. Despite the gloomy statistics, not everyone have to be wealthy and well-connected to become a successful entrepreneur as this survey shows. Those without cash and social capital hustle their way to success. Legendary rags-to-riches stories are legendary exactly because they are rare.
So remember the realityto remind yourself that its not easy to be a successful entrepreneur but dont let that stop you from reaching for the skies!