What Is the Difference Between Entrepreneurship and Intrapreneurship?
An intrapreneur is essentially an entrepreneur that works in an organisation and is responsible for developing new internal initiatives.
Whether it’s launching a new product to enhance customer experiences or finding an innovative solution to cut production costs, intrapreneurs are always looking for imaginative ways to add value to their business.
While an entrepreneur aims to increase their individual wealth and economic impact by creating a new business, intrapreneurs leverage existing resources and networks within a company to launch transformative innovations and initiatives.
Intrapreneurs can either work on incremental innovation projects or more experimental ideas to help their employer thrive in an ever-more competitive and dynamic marketplace.
- Goal setting: entrepreneurs rely on their vision or their capability to identify gaps in the market to set their goals, while an intrapreneur’s targets are typically set by senior leaders.
As employees of a company, intrapreneurs don’t have complete autonomy over how they work or what they work on. Their ultimate goal is to reach milestones and meet business outcomes. This is not as negative as it might seem though: as entrepreneurs often tend to fall in love with their ideas, the reality check of senior managers helps intrapreneurs focus on impact and equips them with a path to success.
- Access to Resources: entrepreneurs mostly rely on personal networks, their own resources and stamina to forge their own path. On the other hand, intrapreneurs get access to the breadth of capabilities, resources and insights available within an existing organisation, giving them a counter-intuitive head start. This also means they have to deal with internal processes, stakeholders, conflicting objectives and sometimes politics.
- Mitigated Risks: risk-taking is all in a day’s work for both entrepreneurs and intrapreneurs. However, the types of risks they take can differ dramatically. Ambitious entrepreneurs put themselves in an incredibly vulnerable position when launching a new business. Whether it’s quitting their day job or gambling with their life savings, entrepreneurs face enormous pressure. An intrapreneur also experiences risk as a failed venture could damage their personal brand within the company or industry. However, there’s less financial downfall as they’ll still receive their salary.
- Approach to Failure: entrepreneurs are solely responsible for their failure. On the other side, every decision intrapreneurs make must reflect the company as a whole, not just an individual’s maverick ideas. When things don’t go to plan, the consequences aren’t isolated to the individual. However, failure isn’t necessarily a bad thing as companies can learn from failure to understand what their customers want and expand the boundaries of what’s possible.
- Safety Nets: a month of poor sales can be game over for an early stage entrepreneur. A single bad choice may mean financial disaster when new businesses are taking off. On the other hand, established organisations have the competitive advantage of providing safety nets to encourage ambitious bets. Even if a carefully planned innovation project fails, its impact will unlikely be reflected in the overall company accounts, thus giving intrapreneurs more room for maneuvering and creativity.
In essence, from the individual’s perspective, intrapreneurship is less risky than entrepreneurship.
Small failures and calculated risks can be absorbed by an existing organisation, increasing the likelihood of the next innovation project to be successful. On the other hand, if something goes wrong for an entrepreneur, they feel the full force and their lives might take a negative hit as a result.
On top of this, intrapreneurs can rely on existing resources, capabilities, access to market and insights that would otherwise take years to build. Provided that they are offered a receptive environment, they are in fact more likely to succeed.
In their enviable position, intrapreneurs are finally able to unleash their entrepreneurial attitude while still getting a decent salary and contributing to future-proofing the company they work for.