Perhaps this question raises more questions that it ever will answer. If you’re just a little like me, when you read this question there is a cloud of insecurity that hovers over your head waiting to point out that ‘you’re not a real entrepreneur’.
Contrarily to the story we tell ourselves, this doubt of worthiness doesn’t go away with success. The lingering insecurity after you climbed those mountains that were twice as high as you first imagined is as uncomfortable as waking up in a tuxedo.
Don’t take my word for it, ask any successful entrepreneur and they’ll share the same doubts and insecurities about their place in the world as you do. They just have a different tint (or instagram filter) that they see though.
Back to the question, let me make it easier for you. After years of starting, poking, thrashing, growing, failing and [many more adjectives] in the startup world, I’ve experienced three distinct types of Entrepreneurs:
- The Hustler — (Sales Entrepreneurs)
- The Genius — (Technical Entrepreneurs)
- The Tribe Leader — (Product Entrepreneurs)
Yes, The Hustler is a film (that I haven’t seen) and IMDb thinks it’s about an 8.1 / 10. But I’m talking about the infamous protagonist from another movie — Wall Street (which IMDb rates as 7.1 / 10…oh well).
Gordon Gekko is the authentic Sales Entrepreneur. My guess is that you know entrepreneurs who aspire to be like old mate GG in the way they talk, dress, act and the stories they tell themselves about the world we live in.
The misconception is that Sales Entrepreneurs care only about money. This isn’t true. The only thing they care about is winning the game.
You know when you meet the Hustler when they don’t really care about the product or service that they are selling. You’ll hear them say things like:
“We’re going to disrupt this industry”
“We only need 1% of this $12b market”
The Hustler sees the natural breeding rate of mice in the world and has the insight that if they can buy a cheap enough mouse trap to sell to the most number of people, they’ll win in the mouse trap business.
Steve Wazniak is the archetypical “Genius”. These Technical entrepreneurs have very different aspirations to the Hustlers. Their sense of professional worth usually doesn’t come from connecting with customer aspirations but rather from reaching the technical elite in their industry.
They build products in the way that they would want to use them. This sometimes turns out to be what the market wants, although often it’s not. Their comparison of value comes from what their peers are working on, whether it’s computer science, engineering, architecture, music and even literature, the Genius cares about mastery of their area of expertise.
The Genius sees the world though their technical lens and solves every problem within their domain of knowledge. Where their worldview resonates with a market, they can be very successful.
You know you’re talking to a Technical Entrepreneur when you’ll hear them say:
“How this looks on the inside matters to me
just as much as the outside does to the world”
A Genius recognises that the world doesn’t need a better mouse trap, but you could engineer a better way of stopping the mice from breeding and never need a mouse trap again.
The Tribe Leader
Tribe Leaders only care about a few people at any one time. They obsess over these people. They bring them together, connect them, explore their problems and analyse what these problems mean by standing in the shoes of their followers.
Product Entrepreneurship is the path taken by entrepreneurs who see themselves as Tribe Leaders. It’s a process of starting with a niche market and focusing on what causes them pain, joy and utility as a source of generating business opportunities.
Tribe Leaders will spend most of their time with their followers, refining and validating their assumptions on how the tribe sees the world. Their goal is to strip away all of the layers that come between their current worldview and the shared worldview of their tribe. They want to feel the pain that their followers feel with the purpose of providing a solution to remove that pain.
Product Entrepreneurs start at a very different place to Sales and Technical Entrepreneurs. They don’t have ideas, they don’t have products, they don’t have markets. They identify an group of people who share a worldview and seek to understand what common problems are painful enough to solve.
You’ll hear a Product Entrepreneur say something like:
“Why have you always done it this way?
“What would it mean to you if you never had to
deal with [insert problem here] again?”
Product Entrepreneurs don’t care about the general mouse-trap problem but they will focus on how the mice effect one segment. Perhaps they’ll centre on vegetarians who dislike the surprise of an unwelcome mouse in their house but want a humane way of herding them to greener (or cheesier) pastures.
I’m a Product Entrepreneur
If you’ve been reading my blog then you may have already guessed that I’m a Product Entrepreneur. In a commercial sense, I really only care about the people who are part of the tribe for whatever project I’m working on. Sure I care about other people too, but I don’t try to solve everyone’s problems.
After 10 years of startups, from my teen years up to now my mid-20's, I’m going to spend more time writing about Product Entrepreneurship. The path has been laid by many before me and I’m going to write about my experiences and examples of other Tribe Leaders who have been successful in connecting with their followers and building products to solve their problems.
If you’re a Product Entrepreneur, join me for the ride.