Let's Build with Shegun Otulana

Are Entrepreneurs Born or Made?

Published 7 months ago • 3 min read

Are entrepreneurs born, or can you learn to be one?

This question has resulted in a million debates and opinions. Your answer to this question is vital to your success as an entrepreneur. As an entrepreneur, you know the answer if you are in tune with yourself. And the answer can help determine how you execute as an entrepreneur.

Some are born with a personality and propensity for risk-taking and entrepreneurial endeavors. On the other hand, some people are naturally less prone to being entrepreneurial or risk-takers. Where you fall is not binary, by the way; it’s on a continuum.

One thing is certain though: no one is born a great entrepreneur.

Some of us are risk-takers, and some of us are caretakers. Both types can build great companies. The important thing is for an entrepreneur to know which one you are.

Your success is not determined by innate entrepreneurial skills outside your control but by your desire to learn and be great, your honest assessment of yourself, and what complementary skills you need to be successful. Risk-takers need caretakers, and vice versa. This is why a well-balanced co-founding team is more likely to succeed than solo-founded companies.

The worst type of entrepreneurs, most likely to return nothing to their stakeholders, are those “born entrepreneurial” who never developed resourcefulness and grit, always ready to jump to the next shiny thing or the next quick money scheme.

Unfortunately, this personality type – highly charismatic, seems like a hard-core go-getter – is the one we usually default to choosing as the baseline for founders. They just always seem like the ones to bet on. But they never quite get there.

If you want to be successful, focus on improving your knowledge and surrounding yourself with the right complementary team to what you naturally are like. Deep knowledge and determination in a diverse team of doers lead to the environment required for entrepreneurial success.

So whether born or learned, these things make a great entrepreneur: skill enhancement, complementary team, determination, and resourcefulness.


You need a crazy sense of determination to become a great entrepreneur. You’re going to get a lot of crap thrown at you. It’ll often feel like you’re just facing one failure after another. If you’re going to survive, you need a high determination threshold.

In my Zertis days, with Zertis as an idea lab, several consulting projects presented the opportunity to test customer problems as product ideas. All my product experiments didn’t feel right to me or failed until TheraNest. But people only remember TheraNest, the one that succeeded. Keep pushing through the failures and learn from them. The entrepreneurs you admire have had to do the same.

Find the thing outside of yourself and the business that grounds you so your determination doesn’t fade. The thing you’re doing this for, and the anchor that gives you sanity. Whatever that is to you – faith, family, whatever, just make sure it’s positive – you’ll need it to keep going. For some, it’s making a lot of money. That may be alright if your reason is positive; otherwise, it won’t be enough to keep you going. There are easier ways to make enough money.


Great entrepreneurs need to be resourceful. Again, you’re going to face a lot of setbacks. If all you have is grit, you’ll just apply brute force to every challenge. That won’t work. You need to find creative solutions.

Resourcefulness comes from aggregating and re-arranging experiences, data, and opportunities in a way that gives you leverage, even when you don’t have everything you need. The best thing you can do is place a high value on learning. Grab every opportunity to learn, including from other entrepreneurs. How did they handle setbacks? What strategies did they use to creatively tackle problems? Learn from your own experiences, too. And when you face failure, ask yourself what you could have done differently.

You need a combination of both. Determination keeps you going, but resourcefulness is how you’ll find paths, shortcuts, and solutions to get you where you want to be. Some people are very resourceful but don’t want to keep drinking from the firehose, especially in those early days.

It’s important to mention that nothing makes you special because you’re a founder or entrepreneur. Everyone doesn’t need to be an entrepreneur. Entrepreneurs are ineffective without all the “non-entrepreneurs” around them, so if you’re reading this and nothing is appealing about this, then it’s not for you. Still, be determined and resourceful because it generally leads to a better life, but you don’t have to apply it to building a business. Apply it to being a great caretaker with a risk-taker entrepreneur, and you’ll have a great chance of an unbelievable business outcome.

Let me know what you think here or on Twitter.

Let's Build with Shegun Otulana

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