Is there an Entrepreneurial Gene?

Are entrepreneurs born or made? What’s been your experience? Think about the successful entrepreneurs you know (maybe you are one of them). Was this drive present from the crib and diapers or is it more of a nurtured talent?

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Julie is the Founder and CEO of BrandTwist, a brand consultancy that helps entrepreneurs and corporations build stronger, more profitable brands.


  1. That’s a great question. For me, I just can’t help myself. As much as I’ve tried to fit into a larger organization, something deep down inside is drives to grab a small team and chase after a new idea. After starting a half dozen companies, it fells like it’s just who I am.

  2. Characteristics I have seen in entrepreneurs include either fearlessness or a great capacity to overcome fear. In some there is also an aversion for authority and having to work for anyone else, which is usually stronger than any fear of failure. Everything else, talent, creativity, vision, etc., is secondary and variable.

    Thanks for the great blog.

  3. It is a hard question to answer.
    I come from a family of entrepreneurs so i know my parents, grandparents and siblings were a huge influence.
    The drive and desire to task risks seemed to be bred into us, but I believe an entrepreneur is both born and cultivated by those that surround them from an early age ~ your parents – did they always encourage you? did they let you make mistakes and understand that is the best way to learn? ~ your siblings/teachers/adults/colleagues that make up your daily life – were they driven and creative? did they think outside of the box? did they take risks?
    the best advice i can give for anyone waivering to make that jump is jump in with both feet, don’t look back. the worst that can happen is you are in the same place you started except you experienced an awesome ride along the way with huge lessons learned.

  4. There are institutionalized paths to success in society, and most of them bore the hell out of me.

    There will always be people who negate socially approved goals and means by creating a new system of acceptable goals and means.
    They’re sociopaths. They are my tribe.

    This stuff comes from the crib. No doubt.

    I’ve seen people who don’t have the gene, try and fake the gene, and it’s a train wreck.

  5. Yes. You either have it or you don’t. If you have it you are driven to create and innovate.
    That said, being an entrepreneur is a choice because it’s
    never the easy path. People who have the gene embrace, sometimes
    crave, and certainly create, adversity.

  6. So, I believe there are personality traits that make someone more likely to be a successful entrepreneur:
    -a crazy amount of drive
    -dislike of rules, routine, (maybe authority)
    -outgoing (maybe not totally necessary, but helpful)
    -comfortable with discomfort/the unknown, etc.

    But then, I think there are all kinds of things that are learned. I had the personality -but I was in sales, product management, and I was looking to operate in a more creative field in these same roles, before I was encouraged to be an entrepreneur. For me, it took training and a paradigm shift for me to understand:
    -the philosophy of “work for yourself.”
    -the mentality of not seeing walls and pushing a business forward
    -how much work it *really* takes
    -the process of how to start a company

    I wouldn’t have done it without a push and some mentorship. And, so far, we’ve had some success, but I still don’t totally see myself as an entrepreneur. I feel like I’ll have to have a couple more start-ups under my belt before I go around saying that’s what I am. 🙂

    So, in short I think there’s an innate personality requirement that is typically necessary, but I think it takes a lot of nurturing to create a real entrepreneur.

  7. The answer is both. As with other performance fields there are those who are born with a natural ability and talent.

    Many parents of entrepreneurs share stories of young children establishing lemonade stands at early ages with a little more zeal than normal kids.

    Then there are those who had traditional careers for much of their lives, only to become entrepreneurs much later, and after much hard work and education.

    Sometimes it is sparked by a particular passion, and other times the goal itself is to be an entrepreneur and to be your own boss.

    The best entrepreneurs are of course those who combine both. They start ventures at a young age and work hard to be better each time. They study them, stay addicted to them, and learn from other entrepreneurs they surround themselves with.

    So, nature or nurture can get you there eventually, but the best result comes from combining the two.

  8. Thanks for all of the responses. (And the passion!). It seems that there is a slight leaning so far towards nature (@John, @Debby, @Tim,@Lizabeth).

    Although @Natalie,@Ann and @Gabriel bring up important points about having people around you to nurture that innate drive as well as having the self-discipline to continue to develop your own talent, learn from your mistakes, and I think most importantly not give up.

    From my observation it is a difficult path. You have to get up every day and motivate yourself. And one thing that noone mentioned, but that I have observed in my work with entrepreneurs, is it can be pretty lonely. One upside about working in big companies is that there is a lot of comfort in numbers. (Lots of downside too).

    Wondering how folks combat that loneliness and who do you find to bounce ideas of off or motivate you when you are getting stuck. Any thoughts?


  9. I wanted to be an entrepreneur at a young age – in college – but thought that the best way to get there was through a traditional MBWA training – P&G brand management. I ended up doing the corporate thing for way longer than I expected (20 years!) before finally deciding enough was enough.
    I finally embarked on the entrepreneur path 5 years ago (age 42) and could not be more pleased, mainly in terms of living my life values, but surprisingly financially as well. It blows me away that I could have gone longer without realizing the potential of the alternative path.
    I don’t believe that entrepreneurship is right for everyone, but I do believe that if you don’t try it, you won’t know if it’s right for you.

    • @Julia thanks for the comment. That’s a great point about no knowing if it’s right for you until you try it. I’m happy for you that in your case it seems to be a great fit and you found your calling.

  10. To me it’s mostly genetic. However there have been many business lessons (both good and bad) I’ve learned through my corporate life. I am on my second attempt at my own business and had spent 5 years in between working for a large advertising agency. A trusted advisor, who by the way is a very successful entrepreneur himself, kiddingly warned me that I would ultimately go back to working for myself even after the first attempt didn’t go as planned. Just like anything genetic, Once it’s in your blood, you can never take it out.

    In closing, I appreciate everyone’s posting here. Reading this blog helped remind me of the great qualities that make a successful entrepreneur.

  11. @Lee Thanks for sharing. I think your “try, try again” message is important. Like anything worth doing, going out on your own isn’t easy. Here’s wishing you much success the second time around.


  12. Ann, That’s a great list of personality traits. I have a lot of those traits.

    To answer Julie’s question for me it almost feels like it’s genetic. I don’t think I have enough fingers to count how many ventures and partnerships my dad went into while I was growing up. Each one was an adventure that’s for sure. He also had this need to teach us along the way.

    I tried the job thing–when you have a great idea they usually take months to progress or get shelved.

  13. Julie’s question about combating loneliness…

    I have a team that I stay connected with through out the day. I also have a good friend who is on a similar path to entrepreneurship and we share resources and bounce ideas via email and meeting-up.

    For those that are truly alone there are groups like (free) & other coworking venues (you can pay a membership fee like a gym but for an office space).

    Or organize your own coworking group — find 2 locals and a meeting place and start off meeting once or twice a week.


  14. Born Born Born… In my humble estimation, you’re ether born round or you’re born square… For me, an entrepreneur is different in so many ways… But the one trait they all have in common – a fearless vision of what is possible and the fortitude to make it happen…

    It can’t be taught but it can be studied… It can’t be passed-on but it can be understood… It’s in some of us and not all of us…

    I honestly feel entrepreneur(s) have an inner voice that keeps them going… It’s that focus and drive that makes them succeed – despite all the odds thrown at them…

    Perhaps Vergil said it best – Mens agitat molem (The mind moves the matter).

  15. @John thanks for the comments.It seems like the scale is squarely tipped to the side of genetics. (And thanks for the Latin quote!)

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