The "E" Word…

I really don’t like using the word “entrepreneur”. But I can’t think of any other words that accurately sum up what I do. I’m currently working on a handful of projects, across several fields, and I don’t have a “day job”. And so when someone asks me what I do I have choice of either boring them rigid with a lengthy overview of all the different things I’m working on, or I just take the short cut and tell them I’m an entrepreneur.

And the reason I hate using the word? In the UK we have such a negative connotations of it. In the United States, for example, entrepreneurship is almost a badge of honour. It’s seen as something to be proud of. Something to aspire to. In the UK if you say you’re an entrepreneur it’s normally greeted with looks of derision, snorts of disbelief and people making the “Nescafe” hand gesture behind your back. You know. The one from the adverts in the nineties….

Nobody here really takes “entrepreneur” seriously as a tag, and yet we don’t really have anything better to describe what we do. I have friends in other parts of the world that have attracted very substantial private funding for ideas that would be laughed out of town in the UK. And I have other friends in biotech that have been offered irresistible packages to work the other side of the world because their considerable skills seem to be more valued there.

So do we have a risk-averse culture in the UK? Should a “salaryman” in a multi-national on a “safe” 50k be granted more respect than those out there pushing the boundaries, flying by the seat of their pants, and living on a meagre wage?

I’d be interested to hear your experiences of the public perception of entrepreneurs.

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