Posts Tagged ‘entrepreneurs’

On the Meaning of Entrepreneur

Wednesday, 20 May 2015

There has been and is a lot of confusion over the English word entrepreneur. Now, I say English word advisedly, because, though entrepreneur was derived from a French word spelled exactly the same way, a word is not merely a sequence of symbols, but such a sequence in association with a concept or set of concepts, and the English word entrepreneur doesn't have quite the same meaning as the French word.

The French word means contractor or, more generally, one who undertakes.

We didn't need a new word for contractor; it would be contemptible affectation of one sort or of another to introduce a longer French word for such purpose. In fact, there was some attempt to engage in that sort of affectation in the 19th Century, first in the entertainment industry.

But the sequence entrepreneur was reïntroduced to English in the mid-20th Century with the intention of identifying a narrower concept that meritted a word of its own. That concept was of a person who attempts to create a market where one does not exist — offering a new sort of product, or offering a sort of product to those who have not been purchasers of such things.

The entrepreneur is not merely a small business person, nor an active business person, nor an independent contractor, nor some combination of the three. The entrepreneur is an economic explorer, seeking to cultivate new territory — typically with pecuniary profit in mind, but sometimes just for the satisfaction of having brought a market into existence.

Whatever the motivation, it is in the rôle of attempting to create markets that the entrepreneur is the great hero and the entrepreneuse the great heroine of the market economy. And some unconscious sense of that heroism has passed through our society, causing business people aren't such explorers to want to label themselves entrepreneur. The word has become diluted in general use, and many people are using it as if, well, it meant no more than the French word from which it were derived. Economists with a fair understanding of the market process shake their heads in dismay. We need a word for those heroes.

A Less than Manic Monday

Monday, 2 June 2008

While I was visiting the Woman of Interest during the second week of May, I had a hold placed on my mail. During that time, a CD arrived dall'Italia. Unfortunately, some time between then and when the carrier attempted to deliver it, it went missing within the local postal facility. Finally, on Friday or on Saturday, I found a note in my mailbox declaring that they'd made a final attempt at delivery — the package requiring my signature (rather than that of the apartment complex manager) for some reason — and would hold the thing until 22 June. I wasn't thrilled, but I had two other reasons to go to the post office to-day anyway. I had a package to send to the Woman of Interest (which package holds two devilish rubber ducks and a fair quantity of jelly beans), and needed a small money order to pay for a purchase made by way of eBay.

Also in my box on Friday or on Saturday was a note that the complex office had a package for me, which package contained A Drawing Manual by Thomas Eakins, a volume of lectures by Ludwig Heinrich Edler von Mises that had been absent from my collection, and a DVD of In the Heat of the Night (1967).

At Bronx Pizza this evening, someone spotted a dollar left on the floor; I knew who had probably dropped it, and gave it to her. Not exactly the scenario of one of my polls, but quite close.

Later, at David's Coffee Place, I noticed a group of four people whom I've seen there on prior occasion, again discussing a business venture built around a social networking site. I won't name their site here, because I really don't wish them ill, but to me, they seemed foredoomed to failure. First, centralized social networking already has some heavy hitters, and if this new site has useful innovations then they are going to have a hard time avoiding imitation by those established players. Second, the group of four only have one actual programmer, and the others don't seem to have a prior background in the business side of any similar venture; further, the programmer doesn't seem to have the personal connections to the other three that they have to each other. Third, I over-heard mention of a failed attempt to secure funding, which would have stuck them with a 35% APR — such debt doubles in less than 2 years and four months.