When I set up my first business doing window cleaning when I was 17 years of age, I remember leaving Barclays Bank in East London and fist punching the air because I had a loan approved for £1600.
That’s how much I needed to buy an existing small business; £1400 and £200 for a van. When I purchased the business, I celebrated again with a lunch time drinking session with a friend. The next celebration was when I sold the business one year later for £6,000 (a 3.75x return).
My next businesses were a little more significant; a car sales showroom that I closed-down before going bankrupt in 2000, a debt collection company that I sold the majority of for £24.5m and a FinTech business that I sold in 2017 for £9.2m.
Celebrating success is good and everyone should do it. The problem these days however is the definition of success and the misunderstanding of the definition of the title Entrepreneur.
Entrepreneur used to be a title earned. Today it seems to be a title given and mostly by individuals to themselves. Let’s take one of the people I have meet in the past month that pitched to me for investment as an example. I have named this person, person 1 to protect his self-worth.
Person 1 presented me a slide deck on a technology solution that was going to change the way people communicate online. Yep, the next Twitter but for certain groups of people i.e. females, gay people or people that own dogs.
He was around 23 years of age; had clearly developed great power-point skills and spoke like he was presenting his Thesis to a University professor. His email signature was misleading, however.
It read: Person 1, Founder and Entrepreneur. Even more misleading was his slide deck and, slide number 9, with the heading ‘Our Success to Date’. The content was minimal: Raised £50,000 a further £950,000 is available, EIS qualifying.
So, sat in front of me was a successful entrepreneur in his opinion. He had left University, came up with an unethical equality missing business idea, drafted a fancy power-point presentation and convinced his parents to invest £50,000 in his search for entrepreneurship.
The truth is however, he was unemployed and a chancer. He was expecting someone like me to give him £1million to try his chances at becoming an entrepreneur. What his email signature should have read was Wannabe Entrepreneur or Fundraiser.
Look don’t get me wrong I am not saying that we don’t all start somewhere and that believing in yourself and having confidence is not a good thing. What I am saying however is respect the process.
The definition of an Entrepreneur is a person who sets up a business or businesses, taking on financial risks in the hope of profit.
Person 1 was not an Entrepreneur because he was 1. only a person with an idea and not a business, 2. taking financial risk with someone else’s money and 3. probably the most important point was planning on providing the service for free and not making a profit. His view was that one day it would sell and thus make a profit. Sorry mate, not often in the real world.
Save the title Entrepreneur for those that really deserve it. Some people have put everything on the line, their home, their relationship or their life savings.