December 5, 2022

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An intrapreneur shares many of the same qualities as an entrepreneur, which path is the best fit for your new business idea?
No matter your industry or job title, chances are you’ve looked at how things are done and thought, “I’ve got a great idea for improving that.” Perhaps you secretly long to turn that idea into a startup. Before you quit your job, take a line of credit and launch a “coming soon” website, you should ask yourself, “Would I be better off as an intrapreneur?”
An intrapreneur shares many of the same qualities as an entrepreneur, but instead of turning their ideas into startups, they work within their employer’s company. With a focus on , an intrapreneur can do much to drive the company’s success. For instance, gamers everywhere can thank an intrapreneur at Sony — Ken Kutaragi — for the invention of the PlayStation. Some companies actively encourage by establishing “skunk works” teams that operate independently from the day-to-day . Other companies prefer to acquire innovations once they’ve shown product-market fit. Most leading companies do a bit of both.
Related: Big Companies That Embrace Intrapreneurship Will Thrive
Before deciding which path to take, examine the benefits and drawbacks of intrapreneurship. As an intrapreneur, you will not own your idea — your company will. You may not be chosen to turn that idea into a product. Furthermore, you may not even get credit for the idea. As the saying goes, “success has many parents.” And just as your financial downside is limited, so is your financial upside.
On the other hand, intrapreneurship has many compelling benefits: You will not need to spend excessive time procuring funding, setting up legal entities or deciding which health plans to offer for employees you haven’t even hired yet. Instead, you will benefit from a brand, a client list and access to colleagues who will return your calls and offer help. You’ll continue to get a cash salary that’s significantly above what typical startups provide, as will your team. And if you have a family, you won’t have to take them on a daily rollercoaster ride.
Related: Why You Should Become an Intrapreneur
It takes a while to decide whether, at heart, you are an intrapreneur or an entrepreneur. But that’s only part of the question: You must decide which path your idea fits best.
For me, the choice was relatively straightforward. When I was the CEO of International Channels, I wanted to pursue a project centered on creating podcasts that replicated the emotional experience of leading character-driven TV shows. Fox actively encouraged intrapreneurship, but the podcast industry in 2015 was tiny and not of interest to Fox. This meant if I wanted to start what became Wondery, I would have to do it on my own. However, if your idea could feasibly be launched within your current company, the question, “Should I stay or should I go?” becomes harder to answer. Consider these four questions:
If, after answering the above questions, you are gravitating toward intrapreneurship, there are other factors to consider before chatting with your boss.
Related: How to Sell an Idea to Your Boss (Infographic)
Perhaps neither intrapreneurship nor entrepreneurship is the right choice for you. There are other ways to get involved in the startup world while building equity for yourself. Some of these may be available to you depending on where you are in your career and may better prepare you to become an entrepreneur in the future.
About 20% of employees engage in entrepreneurial-like activities within their company. Some of them would indeed be better off launching their own startups, but many could find intrapreneurial success within their established organizations. The intrapreneurial path, at a minimum, can serve as a proving ground.
Great ideas are what drive organizations forward. Those that fail to embrace innovation and change may lose more than a missed opportunity. If you have a great idea, regardless of whether you gravitate toward intrapreneurialism or entrepreneurialism, the worst path to take is allowing self-doubt to prevent you from taking any action whatsoever.
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