Who Is an Entrepreneur? (The Lean Startup)

This article is an excerpt from the Shortform summary of "The Lean Startup" by Eric Ries. Shortform has the world's best summaries of books you should be reading.

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Who, exactly, is an entrepreneur?

Entrepreneurs aren’t just startup founders working out of apartments.
Entrepreneurs can also be general managers in large companies charged with creating new ventures or new product lines.

The Lean Startup is a set of methods for building a successful startup. Eric Ries defines a startup as “a human institution designed to create a new product or service under conditions of extreme uncertainty.” Entrepreneurs are people who create startups.

The definition of entrepreneur and startup is purposefully broad – it can apply to a non-profit, a government agency, a big company or a small company. The key piece of this definition of entrepreneur that makes a startup unique is the condition of “extreme uncertainty.”

In situations of uncertainty, traditional management tools – like forecasts, business plans, and milestones – break down. There’s too much that’s unknown about the world to predict with high accuracy what’s going to work.

The Snaptax Story

In 2009, a startup with entrepreneurs wanted to automate W-2 form processing to streamline individual taxes. Their early users had problems had difficulty scanning in their tax forms, so instead the startup decided to switch to cell phone cameras as a way to capture W-2 forms. But the customers asked for something even more ambitious – could they complete their entire tax return on the phone?

Who Is an Entrepreneur? (The Lean Startup)

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  • How to create a winning Minimum Viable Product
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Allen Cheng

Allen Cheng is the founder of Shortform. He has a passion for non-fiction books (having read 200+ and counting) and is on a mission to make the world's best ideas more accessible to everyone. He reads broadly, covering a wide range of subjects including finance, management, health, and society. Allen graduated from Harvard University summa cum laude and attended medical training at the MD/PhD program at Harvard and MIT. Before Shortform, he co-founded PrepScholar, an online education company.

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