Monday, October 18, 2010

Angry, Exhausted, Frustrated and Wrong!

by Jean Brittingham

I didn’t even know where to start when my new-media maven asked me to respond to this post by Penelope Trunk.  I get the power of a hyperbolic title, but really? Women Don’t Want to Run Start-Ups Because They’d Rather Have Children?

There’s so much wrong here it’s hard to set your sights.
At the same time I completely feel for her.

And before I say anything else, congratulations Penelope on leading (what one can hope) will be a great success in your third start-up. It’s clearly been a struggle that lasted too long with too little reward. That in itself is dismaying, but it’s much more distressing when women with talent who have begun to carve a spot for themselves succumb to the models that make entrepreneurship exhausting, silly, and impossible to love.

Let’s begin with the premise behind Trunk’s (and Jeff Steibel’s) definition of entrepreneurism as a disease.  This particular definition suggests that these two (and a few other business writers with this view of entrepreneurship) think they “own” the definition.  Entrepreneurs to them are men (and the OCCASSIONAL woman) who take on VC capital against an unlikely bet and work horrific and thankless hours (the thanklessness comes mostly from the VC partners but also from the team you are driving and the family you are deserting) to breakthrough the probability factor and post an amazing win
Or at least get a buy-out so that you break even.

This isn’t THE Entrepreneur typology; it’s ONE Entrepreneur typology.

The state of the planet, the state of the economy, the state of our lives and the incredible number of human beings who have GREAT ideas they are turning into GREAT businesses means that this is a limited and limiting view of entrepreneurs.

Most importantly--it’s not going to help us construct the next economy.

Instead, I see a future (and many join me here) where both the investment community and consumers take note of and then begin to actively foment support for some different breeds of entrepreneurs. 

While I am not at all sure about the role Solopreneur’s will play in the next economy, it is clear that the reemergence of a craft economy plays a significant role in the future. These individual contributors, who are often working in complex networks and loose affiliations with others, are crazy, all right—crazy smart.
More interestingly (at least to me) are the new breed of social entrepreneur—where a much higher proportion of women are striking out and making a difference while making a living. These social entrepreneurs are developing businesses that offer solutions and hope because they see themselves and their business ideas as an integral part of a better world.

And finally, there are the women who are breaking through and making businesses work well and also work with their lives—businesses that create financial success for founders and a growing contingency of employees. These women believe that you can, and should, have a life and a business, a financial goal and an nonnegotiable ethos, a current reality that works and a future that works better.

Suggesting that women don’t want to be entrepreneurs because you have burned yourself out by “manning-up and buying-in” to a set of investor and personal standards that leave no space for anything but profit, is not the future of entrepreneurs.

It’s not the future of anything.
Life is too short, the planet is too fragile and frankly, Penelope is right—there are children to raise.  The part she got wrong is giving up one to get the other. I believe we can change the rules instead!

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