In 2004, Vlad Magdalin had an idea. Little did he know that the idea would push him to spend the next 10 years trying to make it a reality. His idea? A no-code website builder.
After three failed attempts to launch Webflow, Vlad went through Y Combinator. He raised $2.9M after leaving the program, and the rest is history. Or the beginning. Webflow now has more than 45,000 customers and recently raised a $72M Series A.
But Vlad isn’t the only entrepreneur going to extreme measures before seeing results.
Take Ryan Smith, one of the founders of Qualtrics, for example. Ryan worked, alongside his father, in their Provo basement for two years to launch Qualtrics (2002–2003). Their vision of what the small survey company would become led them to build an $8B company. But it took years before Qualtrics became the name that it is today.
So what drives these entrepreneurs? What makes an entrepreneur tick?
The answer: entrepreneurial spirit.
What is Entrepreneurial Spirit?
Entrepreneurial spirit is an attitude. It’s a mindset that the world hasn’t yet reached its full potential. Entrepreneurial spirit is often mistaken for enthusiasm or luck. Hiten Shah, co-founder of FYI, clarifies that thinking.
You make your own luck. Every single minute of every single day. ―Hiten Shah
An individual’s entrepreneurial spirit level can vary. One day they can be full of it and the next day empty. Like a muscle, a person’s entrepreneurial spirit can grow and flex. For a budding entrepreneur, this might look like having an idea or two that you can’t stop thinking about.
Experienced entrepreneurs learn over time to exercise their entrepreneurial spirit. They channel their passion into creating rather than thinking. This is a key differentiator between a wantapreneur and an entrepreneur.
Wantapreneur’s think; entrepreneurs do.
Busting a wantapreneur’s myth: You cannot build a #startup without first embracing a “startup" mindset. Ain’t everyone’s cup of tea!— Jeevan Betigeri (@FathomJeevan) May 28, 2015
Jack Ma, the founder of Alibaba, stands out as a great example of entrepreneurial spirit. When studying to become a teacher, Jack learned he had ambitions outside of the classroom. He transformed dreams into actions by starting his first company, Hope.
When Jack’s plans didn’t work and the company died, his entrepreneurial spirit lived on. He continued to execute until he founded one of the world’s largest companies.
But where did Jack’s entrepreneurial spirit come from? Was he born with it, or did it come over time?
Is Entrepreneurial Spirit Born or Made?
Entrepreneurial spirit can be either innate or created. Some founders have a natural desire to build businesses. Others obtain entrepreneurial spirit over years of work. And neither way is wrong.
What’s sad is that many people with entrepreneurial spirit decide not to act on it at all. It’s far too common to hear a person say, “Hey, I had that idea!” As if announcing it to the public will build their credibility. An idea is not owned, but a well-executed idea has merit.
When Steve Jobs first showed off the prototype of the iPhone, he was mocked. It’s hard to find anyone who will mock Steve’s accomplishments today.
These principles hold true for companies as well. A culture of entrepreneurial spirit can push a company forward and help it innovate.
How to Cultivate An Entrepreneurial Spirit
A common misconception is that entrepreneurs never work for others. This is false. Companies are full of entrepreneurs, often called intrapreneurs.
Intrapreneurs are people with entrepreneurial spirit that choose to work inside companies.
Andrew Homeyer, founder of Waffle.io, is a perfect example. Andrew worked at Rally Software and started Waffle within Rally’s internal startup incubator. Waffle received funding and support from the company, but Andrew’s entrepreneurial spirit pushed the idea forward.
When CA acquired Rally Software in 2015, Waffle was also acquired. Waffle blossomed at CA, boasting more than 140,000 users. A simple idea powered by entrepreneurial spirit can create something miraculous.
But how can other companies follow in these footsteps? Follow these 3 steps to increase entrepreneurial spirit in your business:
1. Let Passion Drive
Passion creates more business value than skills do. Hands down.
Team members that are encouraged to follow their passions at work are happier and more engaged. Rather than being a job, team members’ work becomes a part of who they are. This passion welcomes entrepreneurial spirit and drives teams to be far superior.
2. Encourage Creativity
Many business problems are solved when one looks at them with a new perspective. When you encourage creative thinking in your business, it opens up opportunities for team members to do exactly that. Rather than worry about the way a task used to be done, they will pioneer unique solutions and ideas.
3. Minimize the Rules
A small number of rules can foster creativity, but if you create too much structure then it will be hard for team members to think outside of the box. A common recommendation here is to empower your team so they have full control of the work that they are doing. This can be difficult because you have to remove tendencies to micromanage, but it pays to uplift employees. In that environment of few rules, you allow your colleagues to feel entrepreneurial spirit themselves.
As an employee, you’ll want to push to be part of a company that allows you to bring your best self to work. This means that the company and position are ones that broaden your skillsets and allow you to grow. Over time, growth results in greater entrepreneurial spirit. And more entrepreneurial spirit means a better you.
Do You Have Entrepreneurial Spirit?
Yes, you do. A better question is, “How much entrepreneurial spirit do you have?”
To answer that question, write down your answer to The Entrepreneur Test. Be honest with yourself.
The Entrepreneur Test
List the business activities you completed in the past year that contributed toward your entrepreneurial goals. Now, score your list of activities by assigning them all a single number between 1 and 10 based on how well you demonstrated entrepreneurial spirit. Then use the scorecard below to measure where you are at.
|What It Means
|You’re low on entrepreneurial spirit. If you thought that you were an entrepreneur, you hanging out in wantapreneur territory. Try challenging yourself to do more activities that will push you toward your goals. One small step at a time.
|You have some entrepreneurial spirit, but need to act on it more. Set up a plan for how you can improve this month and get to work.
|You’re full of entrepreneurial spirit. Keep it up! The best is yet to come.
If your entrepreneurial spirit is low, don’t worry about it. An entrepreneur’s journey is long and goes through many ups and downs. What is important is that you set clear expectations with yourself and work to achieve them.
Ben Tossell, founder of Makerpad, is a great example of entrepreneurial spirit. Ben was working at Product Hunt when he noticed that you no longer need to know how to code to build products. He began building tutorials for how to make Instagram clones using no-code tools like Glide and Google Sheets. Product Hunt encouraged him as he continued to build this small project on the side.
In 2019—one year since beginning the project—Ben left his full-time work so that he could keep up with his scaling company. Makerpad made more than $200k in gross revenue its first year of business, a feat for any startup. And it was Ben’s entrepreneurial spirit that made Makerpad a success story.