Entrepreneur vs “intrapreneur”: which one would you like to be?

Written by Veronique Rapetti, JCCFB President and NEF Learning Director, for the New Entrepreneurs Foundation Blog.

In my previous blog, I talked about “entrepreneurship” becoming the new leadership and how large organisations were developing incubators or creating more links with entrepreneurs, as they could see the benefits for their innovation, growth and ultimately gaining a competitive advantage in their industry.

So, what about becoming an “intrapreneur”?

The term is often used for people who are working in an established company, who come up with an idea, launch it with the organisation’s support, and are creating something new for their company. For example, At Lockheed Martin, intrapreneurs developed a number of famous aircraft designs and at 3M, they came up with Post-It Notes and at Google, they came up with Google News, AdSense and Gmail.

In a 2013 study , developed in partnership with American Express for Dan Schawbel’s book Promote Yourself: The New Rules For Career Success, they found that 58% of managers were either very willing or extremely willing to support employees who wanted to capitalize on a new business opportunity within their company. In addition, they found that 40% of millennial employees were either very interested or extremely interested in doing this. That is why Intrapreneurship programmes seem to become more and more popular.

As more millennials are coming onto the job market and are looking at entrepreneurship as a viable career option, many companies have programmes already in place to cater to this rising demographic that will become 36% of the American workforce by end of 2014 and 46% by 2020. Closer to home, in the UK, the New Entrepreneurs Foundation is proud to talk about similar intrapreneurial success stories. The first one we are proud to share with you has been achieved by one of our Class of 2012 NEFer: Hamish Grierson. After a successful placement at Travelex, and demonstrating his innovation and entrepreneurial flair, Hamish has launched Travelex’s own incubator.

So, as you are looking to embark in your entrepreneurial journey, there is room for some of you to consider intrapreneurship. But you need to find the right organisation with the right culture, and come up with the most relevant innovation for your organisation.

In my early career, I too became an intrapreneur: after working for 3 years for a large conference and exhibition organisation, I launched a new Training Business Unit within the company. This was possible because of my knowledge of the sector I was working in, the entrepreneurial culture of the organisation and my capability of identifying a gap in the market.

Nowadays, Intrapreneurship is recognized as a key to dynamic growth and change and for millennial like you, it’s an opportunity to develop your leadership skills at an early stage of your career and bring innovation to an organisation. In addition, if you are a millennial looking to launch a business, but are still paying back student loans, may not have access to mentors or capital, intrapreneurship could be the perfect solution. By leveraging internal resources and a corporate brand, you can make a big impact even at the start of your careers. When intrapreneurs are successful, companies reap the benefits too.

That is why the NEF Learning & Development programme is focusing on developing the entrepreneurial and leadership skills needed to be successful in any new business creation scenarios: be it as a stand-alone start-up or be it within an organisation. Ultimately it is about wealth and growth creation!

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