Real Reason to Be an Entrepreneur


Lots of people become entrepreneurs for the wrong reasons

 Why do you need to do more? Why aren’t you just happily retired on your private island somewhere? What drives a serial entrepreneur like you to keep building even after having as much success as you’ve had?”

I wish I could tell you his answer surprised me. However, having spent nearly two decades either building startups myself or teaching entrepreneurship, his answer is exactly what the experienced entrepreneur I’ve become would expect. It’s also an answer the younger version of me as an entrepreneur — the one who was focused on becoming rich — would have never understood or appreciated. For Scott Heiferman, building companies isn’t about money at all. Instead, it’s about helping solve the world’s biggest problems. Or, as Scott put it when we spoke, the reason he’s still building startups is:

“Because the world’s messed up and because there’s an opportunity to help. I mean, if the world was going swimmingly and people’s lives were fully solved for and they had opportunity and they felt powerful, I wouldn’t keep doing it, but it’s what I’m good at. Some people are good chefs, so they should make people happy by making good food. Some people are good teachers or nurses, or whatever the heck they do that helps people, and that’s a good way to spend their lives. I’m not good at most things, but I’m good at building companies, so that’s how I contribute… And, it’s not like there are many people who have built platforms that have been used by tens of millions of people. So it would be a shame if I didn’t put some of that experience to good use.”

Scott’s answer underscores something I’ve written before and something I’ll keep writing over and over and over again because I want to make sure every aspiring entrepreneur understands it in a way I didn’t when I first began my startup journey. The thing I didn’t understand was this:

Entrepreneurship isn’t about building companies or making money or becoming famous. Entrepreneurship is about solving problems.

Yes, sometimes solving problems in entrepreneurial ways can lead to big companies and money and fame, but that’s a byproduct, not a purpose, which is why it’s not the thing the best entrepreneurs are focused on. The best entrepreneurs are focused on solving problems and helping improve the world. When they do that successfully, great things happen. For proof, just ask an entrepreneur like Scott Heiferman. Or, better yet, find an important problem to solve so you can discover the real purpose of entrepreneurship for yourself.

Courtesy of Entrepreneur’s Handbook by Duke’s Aaron Dinin Ph.D.

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