Hundreds of thousands of people talk about entrepreneurship every single day. And I don’t blame them. People who came up with an idea and followed up with a perfect execution creating world-changing companies such as Amazon, Stripe, Netflix or Facebook, to name a few, deserve all the coverage they can get. They took risks, they sacrificed a lot of things, and they made it.
However, beyond their spectacular successes, some people believed in the idea at the beginning or did things in such an effective way that became crucial to transforming those startups into multinational companies.
Who are these people?
Some of them get some coverage while others just stay anonymous. These men and women who work hard and take ownership of a startup are what we call intrapreneurs.
But wait a moment, is intrapreneurship even a thing?
It is what an entrepreneur needs to take his or her project to the next level. No company has grown to a relevant point with just an entrepreneur and a bunch of people who just follow their commands. Instead, great modern companies are created on the base of a problem-solving idea, of course, and a solid base of employees who take the project as their own; in other words, intrapreneurs.
So now that intrapreneurship is defined, who can be considered an intrapreneur? Not every employee on a startup is an intrapreneur. From my experience, I would say for a small company to thrive, at least, 10% of its employees must have a clear and strong sense of ownership.
When I talk about ownership, it’s not only bragging about the latest investment round closed by your startup or the new partnership with the coolest company in town; here I am talking about rolling up your sleeves and getting stuff done. So, I will only consider intrapreneurs those employees who, regardless of their position, work as hard as they need and as long as the business needs to grow rapidly.
OK but, what do you consider hard work and ownership?
Let me put it this way, ownership is when you cannot stop thinking about new ways of improving processes in your company or when hard times come, you are ready to fight for the company against any challenge because you believe in the project. You have the project for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and more importantly, you are a real fan of what is being done by the organization.
Many of you, my readers, maybe thinking, why someone would work as an entrepreneur if at the end of the day, when the company gets bigger their bosses will make millions while they will be still making 5 figures? Well, this is a complicated topic.
There are examples of intrapreneurs who after their grinding experience have ended up becoming billionaires. Just take a look at Sheryl Sandberg, COO at Facebook, whose net worth is over USD 1.7 or Marissa Mayer, former CEO at Yahoo, who has a net worth of USD 625 million.
Yes, I know there are counted examples who can make it to this list, however, although not everybody can become a billionaire or have a huge fortune by just being an intrapreneur, there are countless examples of people who believed in a project, got some equity at the beginning, and when the time of a huge buyout came to the door, cashed out millions of dollars. That my friends are one of the best things about working at a startup.
Moving out the money talk, which is necessary, it’s now time to talk about all the things you can learn by being an intrapreneur. I see it this way, working at a startup, especially from the very beginning, is like going to grad school to get an MBA on what not to do as a founder, and the best part of it is that you actually get paid for it. (You don’t have to break the bank to get a piece of paper). In my experience, I have developed an extremely careful eye to analyze the errors my bosses made, and the good solutions they came up with, to apply those learnings in my own projects.
Moreover, when you are in a small company, you are forced by the reality of it to do things you never thought of doing. For example, you studied computer science and never thought of facing customer service challenges, guess what? you may have to answer a couple of messages. Also, you get to hang out with people from different fields of expertise, which builds a huge mix of knowledge around you. (I became familiar with how an API worked, or the importance of QA, just to name a few).
Just before finishing, I would like to point something out. I always wanted to have my own business, but it wasn’t until I worked at a startup that I realized my mindset had to change, and all it encompassed. Intrapreneurship made me aware of my real passions, and also it made me value the effort of those who are taking the risks of their lives to make their dreams come true.
So yes, intrapreneurship is real. It has opened me many doors, and it has awakened the entrepreneurial bug on me. If you wonder how working on a startup feels like, here you have my own description of it.
As always, fight for your dreams.