Motivation for Entrepreneurs

Entrepreneurs choose an entrepreneurial path in order to achieve certain goals, all of which are compelling reasons to keep “bicycling in to the headwind”, solving important problems in innovative ways.


The conventional view of why people become entrepreneurs is typically dead wrong. A lot of folks think that people become entrepreneurs because they want to make money. And you know what, if you look at studies at entrepreneurs, that’s rarely the case. There are three big drivers that lead people to go out on their own as entrepreneurs. One of them is they see something out there that’s wrong, that’s broken, there’s a problem, and they know how to fix it. You know what, they know how to fix it better than anybody else and it’s a little bit irritating that no one’s bothered to fix it yet. The second thing is a sense of autonomy, a sense of having some control over what you do in your life. And the other one is actually quite interesting. I think there’s a degree of authenticity that entrepreneurs want.

When you’re working for a large institution, you sometimes have to kind of check who you are at the door to conform to what’s going on inside. When you’re running your own operation, the company can be a reflection of your values, of your personality, of who you are as a human being. And I think all of those forces, which have very little to do with money, are what really drive entrepreneurs.

And I think where people get confused is that they see some entrepreneurs make money and they think because that entrepreneur made money, that’s what she was trying to do in the first place. When in fact, it’s actually a consequence of a sense of autonomy, a sense of having a problem you want to fix, and a desire to be authentically who you are. Entrepreneurs see something that needs to get done, a problem that must be solved, a product that must be offered, a service that must be delivered. And they feel so deeply about the need to deliver that, that they’re willing to bicycle into the headwinds in the face of all this opposition, in the face of all of these naysayers. And I happen to think that as citizens we should be actually quite thankful that they’re willing to do that. 

Suggested Readings

Founders School || Leadership and Motivation || Motivation for Entrepreneurs || Impact Guide (PDF).

Wasserman, Noam. 2011. The Founder’s Dilemmas: Anticipating and Avoiding the Pitfalls that Can Sink a Startup. Princeton: Princeton University Press. Chapter 2 “Career Dilemmas”.

Buchanen, Leigh. “What Drives Entrepreneurs?” February 28, 2012.

Why You’re on a Startup Roller Coaster by Dan Shipper. PandoDaily, June 19, 2013.

Questions for You

What motivated me to be an entrepreneur?

What are the biggest challenges for me?

How can I maintain my motivation?

Tools and exercises

Are you ready to found? What is motivating you? What do you hope to achieve?

Identify resources that can help you overcome some of the challenges you face. For example: can you connect with other entrepreneurs?