Don’t call me “entrepreneur in residence”

I am not an entrepreneur. One of the worst moments of my career was when one of our clients decided to buy sugar to take advantage of a drop in prices instead of paying the monthly retainer – it meant I didn’t have enough cash for the salaries of 100 people. I can’t imagine living with the possibility of that feeling every month! I don’t think I have what it takes: bravery, vision, insanity, arrogance – and I’m saying it with all my love.

I know what I’m talking about – some of my dearest and closest are entrepreneurs. And one of them, with a lot of start-ups under his belt, some of them spectacular failures, others decent exits, almost bit my head off when I suggested he becomes “an entrepreneur in residence”.

“It’s not my idea and I don’t own the risk – so why the hell would you call me an entrepreneur?”

Obviously, both of us being Romanian, had a heated debate around the terms. Went away, checked different definitions. Debated a bit more. And I have to give it to him, he’s right. EIR is another abused term that’s quite far away from its initial definition.

“Entrepreneur in residence” used to mean an entrepreneur, “usually in the process of starting or expanding his/her new company“, taking residence in an institution, normally a VC, sometimes a university or an accelerator. These days is just a fancy name for a consultant. A marketing gimmick to sell a specific structure to corporates. Interchangeable with “in-house entrepreneur” (which makes me think of very sad companies where only few selected ones are allowed to be entrepreneurial…). No wonder my friend was upset.

The table below is the summary of my research into the differences between “entrepreneurs” and “entrepreneurs in residence”. Anything I’ve missed?

Entrepreneur Entrepreneur in residence
Owns or co-owns the idea, which he loves / obsesses over.  It’s all they can talk about. Doesn’t own the idea. Shows enough enthusiasm to go through an interview with a VC / accelerator / corporate innovation lab.
Has failed before and doesn’t hide it. Hasn’t had a job in 15-20 years and considers himself / herself “unemployable”. “Between jobs”. Tries to explain failed start-up ideas by using “exit” or “moved on”.
Speaks plain English. Swears a lot. Uses buzzwords like “growth hacking”, “agile”, “full stack”, “investor ready”. A lot.
Will do whatever it takes to get the idea off the ground. Codes. Or learns how to. Packs online orders. Answers comments on Facebook. Doesn’t really “do work”. They “drive”, “coordinate”, “build the team”. And leave the office early because there is an event they need to attend.
Obsessed with where the money will come from. They feel responsibile for people. Even though more often than not they are not good at building “corporate emotions”. Interested in the exit value / bonus size.  Shares no or minimum risk.  Typical smooth operator, perfect 3-minute pitch at every tech event in town. Always looking for the next “gig”.



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