The Mind-Numbing Evolution of the Term “Entrepreneur”

I’ve found that nearly everyone nowadays calls themselves an entrepreneur, is interested in other entrepreneurs, and strives to be considered a successful entrepreneur.

Photo from

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I must admit that when I hear the word (which inundates conversation and — more interestingly– the personal summaries of seemingly everyone over the age of twenty on my two favorite social networks), a little voice in my head channels Inigo Montoya in The Princess Bride, and I say to myself in a nerdy accent to the entrepreneur in cyberspace, “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”

After tweeting about the loss of affect that the word has on me as a user of social media, I had eight new twitter followers within two minutes. I think it was because I’d just used the word entrepreneur (and consultant– another word that I admitted was losing its awe-factor to me). The interesting part about my twitter follower story? About four of those eight followers have become great resources for me. In fact, we share similar goals and have the same kind of ambition and willingness to take charge and create change. With the rapid onset of social media, does the word entrepreneur mean less because we are all entrepreneurs? Is generation Y an entire generation of entrepreneurs? We certainly seem to be.  The generalization is that a Gen Yer’s ideal job is a self-building job, which explains why we may have a strong desire to classify ourselves as entrepreneurs on social networks.

With every other professional describing themselves as an entrepreneur, the word has changed its meaning. I suggest is that we acknowledge the widespread use of the word, and adapt to it’s changing meaning.

I’d argue that sometimes young professionals call themselves entrepreneurs when they mean to call themselves entrepreneurial. Perhaps this is because the word has come to represent an ambitious mindset, instead of a person who has founded venture XYZ.

The power of personal branding has played a large role in our ability to classify ourselves as entrepreneurs. We value the branding of ourselves as a move for professional advancement. While I agree that personal branding is a worthwhile venture, I’ve seen blogs of several young professionals touting the label just because (from what I can tell) they set up directions on how to contact them for consulting purposes. This is not to say there aren’t great 23 year old consultants. This is simply to say that there sure are a lot of them, and regardless of whether they are good consultants or not, how do we know who is the real thing?

The title of entrepreneur– especially when said in description of oneself– is losing its meaning to me and I wonder how long it will be until the word has virtually no meaning at all.  Perhaps my scope is skewed, and this is an issue among all social network users, regardless of generation.  When I read entrepreneur in a person’s description, I think, “I need to learn more.” Do you find yourself thinking something similar? Please share your own associations with the word. I most certainly cannot speak for everyone when I say that the word is a lot like eating only peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for a month: at first bite, it’s lovely- but after a while, it’s just a thing to eat.

Posted on by colleendilen in Blogging, Generation Y, Leadership, Lessons Learned 6 Comments

About the author


MPA. Chief Market Engagement Officer at IMPACTS Research & Development. Nonprofit marketer, Generation Y museum, zoo & aquarium writer/speaker, web engagement geek, data nerd, marathoner, nomad, herbivore

6 Responses to The Mind-Numbing Evolution of the Term “Entrepreneur”

  1. Tim Berry

    Really interesting post, this is a great take on how words in general lose their meaning, and I think you’re right on about the word entrepreneur. We’ve seen the same thing happen many times before. Believe it or not (I’m assuming because of your gen Y thing that this was before your time) the phrase “user friendly,” referring to software, actually meant something once. And there was a time when “expert” or “guru” was something nobody ever said about themselves, only about others. I’ve been teaching occasionally at the local university for years, and I was relieved when they changed the name of my class from “Introduction to Entrepreneurship” to “Starting a Business.”

  2. jonathan

    Entrepreneur is a wide word, with wide abilities and opportunities. I know, people and media just keep using a word they don’t really know. Sometimes they call one as expert, etc, and the society just don;t realize.

  3. Navneet

    Good Article.

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