MIT Sloan Ideas Made to Matter—The 5 types of entrepreneur: Which one does your firm need most?

If you want to take advantage of the different types of entrepreneurial minds in your organization, you first have to know what they are.
Photo Credit: Babich Alexander / Shutterstock


by Meredith Somers
Feb 15, 2022

Fight or flight responses have kept humans alive for millions of years, but another trait that’s ensured our existence is entrepreneurship.

Work smart with our Thinking Forward newsletterInsights from MIT experts, delivered every Tuesday morning. “All humans are born entrepreneurs; we wouldn’t survive if we weren’t,” said Bill Aulet, managing director of the Martin Trust Center for MIT Entrepreneurship. From their earliest days, “People made things, traded things, or provided services to survive.”

That instinct to make, trade, and provide is at the heart of the Trust center’s mission of advancing knowledge and innovation, and is reflected in the center’s 2021 annual report “Impactful and Pervasive Entrepreneurship.”

Among the report’s contents are a look at the teams that made up the 2021 delta v accelerator cohort, a roundup of Trust center alumni startups, and a breakdown of the five entrepreneurial personas represented in the student body.

While the personas help the center tailor courses and programs to meet the needs of the different student-entrepreneur identities, they also exist in the business world, Aulet said.

Whether you’re a founder, investor, or other kind of business leader, it’s important to find the right match of entrepreneur for what you’re trying to accomplish in your company, and to provide an environment in which a particular entrepreneurial type will thrive, he said.

For example, if a portion of your business tends to be more agile and iterative, consider startup-minded entrepreneurs for that work. Meanwhile a legacy company might want to hire someone with a more intrapreneurial mindset.

The five personas are:

  • The curious entrepreneur — Interested in learning what entrepreneurship is all about. This can be a starting point for future exploration, or for a totally different career path.
  • The ready-to-go entrepreneur — Has the idea, the team, or the technology, but needs help getting started.
  • The joiner — Might not have a business idea, but knows their strengths and wants to work in a startup environment.
  • The amplifier — Promotes entrepreneurship but is not necessarily creating a venture themselves.
  • The corporate entrepreneur — Does not work in a startup environment but understands how entrepreneurship and innovative thinking can help a larger company.

“’Entrepreneur’ is a general term,” Aulet said. “You have to segment it down and determine which type of entrepreneur do you want, which type of entrepreneur is sitting in front of you, and can you convert that person in front of you to be the entrepreneur that you need.”