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Intrapreneurs and Extrapreneurs Are Redefining What It Means to Be an Entrepreneur

Traditional entrepreneurship has become much less of an exception in today’s jobs market and much more of a career choice – the “old” ideas of a job for life and climbing the career ladder no longer exist as the only option available.
We all know what an entrepreneur is, right? Of course you do, you probably are one (or are thinking of taking steps towards becoming and entrepreneur) and that’s why you’re reading this website. There’s no doubt that being an entrepreneur can be riskier and more challenging than working for someone else, but that’s exactly what makes it more exciting, interesting and gives more control to you. But have you heard of the new breeds of entrepreneurship that combine traditional employment with entrepreneurship?


Entrepreneurship Without the Personal Risks

The first one is a hybrid of entrepreneur and a more traditional employment arrangement. Being an “intrapreneur” combines the best of both situations – as an “entrepreneur on the inside”, you’re still employed by a business and have take home a salary (and in all likelihood, some bonuses in addition to this) in the same way as you would have as any other type of employee. So there’s more security and stability than straight up entrepreneurship.

Intrapreneurs take risks in the same way as an entrepreneur would…only using someone else’s budget and financial backing rather than their own. In the same vein, an intrapreneur may have been more commercially successful if they worked for themselves but of course, they would also be taking more personal risks and increasing their liability. This isn’t always the case, however, studies have shown that as intrapreneurs aren’t gambling from their own pocket, there can be an added level of detachment which could therefore actually encourage riskier strategies and a more confident decision-making process.

An intrapreneur’s natural habitat is within the confines of an organization – sometimes dealing with internal politics and conflicts within an organization that an entrepreneur wouldn’t have to deal with. They are usually highly skilled and specialized, whereas an entrepreneur may have more general ideas and understanding of the specific business they’re based in (and employ others to fill in the gaps).

Another consideration is ownership – an entrepreneur will likely have a clear ownership of their concept and business, indeed they may feel that their business is part of them. An intrapreneur is unlikely to feel as strongly, and their ideas exist and are likely owned by, the company that they are based at as an intrapreneur. This can lead to less recognition or less equity in a venture, but wholly this depends on the business an intrapreneur is based at and how they want to recognize the contribution to their business.

Many innovative companies are working to encourage intrapreneurship and different ways of thinking among their employees to foster the passion and drive seen in an intrapreneur throughout a business. They have all the drive of an entrepreneur but the relative safety of an employee and the benefits of economies of scale and gaining resources.

Whereas an entrepreneur might start the fire, an intrapreneur keeps it going. The stakes aren’t as high but it can provide a balance that doesn’t always come with entrepreneurship – they’re not afraid of risks, and are more likely than the average employee to take them. But their risks are lower than an entrepreneur’s as is the independence in decision making. Rather than being intuitive in nature, an intrapreneur is usually restorative – helping a business to regenerate and grow.

Intrapreneurs have been key in the development of Sony, Google, Shutterstock, Java, Kodak, Toyota, Walmart, Facebook, Dreamworks, Intel and one of the most well-known office products across the globe – Post-it Notes. Spencer Silver, an employee of 3M, took advantage of the companies “bootlegging” policy which allowed employees to spend 15% of their time at work developing ideas.

Using this time, Spencer designed a light adhesive but was unsure how to use it. 5 years later, one of Silver’s colleagues Art Frey noticed bookmarks falling out of his hymnals during choir practice and remembered the product. Nothing happened with this until a marketing manager named Bill Shoonenberg spent 15% of his time driving sales. And therefore, a combined intrapreneurship approach helped to get this product onto the market.


Extrapreneurship and The Art of Filling in the Gaps

Intrapreneurs and Extrapreneurs Are Redefining What It Means to Be an Entrepreneur

Another type of entrepreneurship that is currently on the rise is the “extrapreneur”, a combination of the intrapreneur and entrepreneur. They aren’t employed by a company, nor do they work completely for themselves. They act almost as a contractor that is outsourced to. Both sides guarantee a minimum level of trade and ways of working but there isn’t that tie as with being and intrapreneur or an employee. In our freelance and “side hustle” flexible economy where millennials no longer want to be tied to one company or work within the constraints of the typical employer/employee relationship, this fits in perfectly.

Again, it all comes down to a safety net. The business needs may change, the company may merge or get smaller but the likelihood is that this “extrapreneurship” partnership will be a long-term relationship. The company benefits as they don’t have to employ someone but they still guarantee a level of expertise, delivery and ownership.

While, in all likelihood, they don’t pay what they would to bring in a contractor from the free market as they have an in house agreement – the extrapreneur still receives the added security and both sides have the advantage of being able to approach projects more flexibly.

Extrapreneurs work to facilitate collaboration and act as change agents – across companies, organizations, sectors and event markets. They take their innovative ideas and solutions and share them with others to benefit more widely. By approaching their role in business in this way they’re able to work on the bigger picture and help to solve large scale problems.

Extrapreneurs can also be excellent in supporting social change, working for non-profits and coming up with solutions to problems, collaboratively, that are too big for one person or organization to solve.

The working world, and running a successful business, is constantly fluid and changes all the time. Being able to develop skills that match the needs of a business needs, and a flexible workforce that are able to move with the business could be a winning formula to drive entrepreneurship – in all forms – in the future.

More than ever before, businesses are operating in a global market that needs new ways of thinking and implementation to work through the challenges and opportunities that arise as a result. Entrepreneurship and innovation offer an ideal solution to meet the changing needs of business owners, customers and the way that services are used.

It also ensures that entrepreneurs of the future have the right opportunities and environment to continue to innovate and drive change in.
Have you been waiting for the perfect opportunity to step into entrepreneurship? Has intrapreneurship or extrapreneurship benefited your business or helped you to take your first steps into entrepreneurship?

Lucy Thorpe
Lucy Thorpe is a StartUp Mindset staff writer, digital strategist, blogger and content creator with a passion for entrepreneurship and tech. Based in the UK, she’s passionate reader, old school gamer, happy pug owner and slightly reluctant hiker. Follow her on Twitter or Pinterest @LucyBATB

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Lucy Thorpe is a StartUp Mindset staff writer, digital strategist, blogger and content creator with a passion for entrepreneurship and tech. Based in the UK, she’s passionate reader, old school gamer, happy pug owner and slightly reluctant hiker. Follow her on Twitter or Pinterest @LucyBATB

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