In today’s episode of The Startup Chat, Steli and Hiten talk about whether entrepreneurs are made or born.

Is being an entrepreneur something that comes naturally to some people and not to others, or can they can anyone, through education, experience and mentorship, develop the skills needed to become an entrepreneur? This is a question that comes up all the time and one that is not easy to answer.

So in this episode, Steli and Hiten talk about how entrepreneurs and founders come from all works of life, the intent behind this question, why no one is born to be an entrepreneur and much more.

Time Stamped Show Notes:

00:00 About the topic of today’s episode

00:17 Why this topic was chosen.

01:14 How entrepreneurs and founders come from all works of life.

01:14 How It’s the hard work that comes after you’ve started that matters.

02:43 The intent behind this question

03:47 How hard work plays a big role in being successful. 

04:45 Why this question might matter to some people.

05:57 Why no one is born to be an entrepreneur.

06:31 The biggest fear people have about starting their own business.

07:32 How there’s always an issue to solve when you own your own business.

3 Key Points:

  • Entrepreneurs and founders come from all works of life.
  • Everybody wants answers, but nobody knows anything
  • It’s the hard work that comes after you’ve started that matters


Steli Efti: Hey everybody, this is Steli Efti.


Hiten Shah: And this is Hiten Shah.


Steli Efti: And today on the Startup Show we’re going to talk about and debate the age old question, entrepreneurs, are they born or are they made? I don’t know if you’ve ever been asked this question, but I definitely have. So let me ask you right out of the bat, Hiten, and we’ve never talked about this before, I think. Entrepreneurs, what do you think, are they made or are they born?


Hiten Shah: What if I said neither?


Steli Efti: Yeah, if you said neither, I wouldn’t be surprised. That’s what would happen.


Hiten Shah: I don’t think this question needs to exist. And I think this question doesn’t need to exist because entrepreneurs, founders, people who start companies come from all walks of life and they come from all kinds of backgrounds. And there is no predictor of success. That’s bottom line. There’s no predictor of success. There’s no high likelihood that this founder, that founder is going to build $1 billion business or even a profitable business. There is no predictor of success. This stuff is hard. And so I think my response to the question of are they born or are they made, is that they are who they are and most are accidental to some extent. Right? They build something and it just works. And in some way, right? After 10 years of nothing working for example, or the first thing that they decide to do, they just get it so right. But that doesn’t make them a genius. It’s the hard work that comes after you start that matters, not necessarily the fact that you started. And this whole born or made almost basically suggests that it’s already taken care of before you start in some way. Even made, it’s like, “Oh, before you start, these are the things you need to do.” Your mate, a founder or an entrepreneur. Or if you’re born with it, it’s like, “Oh, your family comes from a family of entrepreneurs,” or, “you grew up in the Bay Area and you’ve been around it,” or whatever. That’s just not how it works. They come from all walks of life. There’s no real strong pattern. There are things that you can do once you start, there are a lot of things, but I don’t think that means that you’re made or you’re born. I think that just means that you’re in this current existing situation that you’ve got yourself into, whatever it may be. And it’s how you react to what happens. It’s how you react to the world.


Steli Efti: So before I give my two sense on this, what do you think is behind the… What’s the intent behind the question? Why do you think [crosstalk 00:02:42]-


Hiten Shah: Everybody wants answers, but nobody knows anything. Everybody just want to answer. They want to make it. They just want to answer. They want to know that there’s an answer. They want to know that it’s easy. Easy meaning easy, at least to have an answer of one or the other. That some people want a reason why they’re not being successful yet or they haven’t been, right? These are the reasons.


Steli Efti: Yeah.


Hiten Shah: People are just curious. Right? Curiosity killed the cat is kind of the saying that comes to mind and it’s true. It’s like, the more curious you are about these things that are unanswerable, the more you’re wasting your time. Why waste your time with a debate? That would be my response. Like, who cares? Literally, if I was in a one-on-one with somebody in a meeting and they asked me this, I’d be like, “Who cares?” My answer wouldn’t be neither. It would be, “Who cares? What are you trying to figure out when you ask that question? Are we in some philosophical land about something that’s not philosophical?” Because look, at the end of the day it’s hard work. Even if you get lucky, it’s still hard work, because it’s not that your luck runs out, I’m not trying to say anything like that. It’s just that even if you get lucky, you still have to make it work beyond whatever you got lucky with.


Steli Efti: Well, let me play devil’s advocate. I think why it matters is that if they are born and not made, before going into entrepreneurship, I should figure out what are the characteristics of somebody that becomes successful in entrepreneurship. And if I don’t have these characteristic, I should not entertain the idea of doing that. Right? I mean, I think a lot of motivation behind this question is to go, “Is there a art type of person that will succeed as an entrepreneur, so it’s kind of part of their DNA? Because if there is, then I could look for that in myself or in others to determine if they should be entrepreneurs or not.” Right? Or if I’m going to be successful in it or not, or if I’m made for it or not versus I made it work. I think that a lot of the why this question matters to people is because they want to figure out if this is a talent, like being a good singer or being a good athlete. Obviously not every human being on planet earth could become a NBA basketball player just by our height. Right? Or some other kind of physical attributes. Not everybody could become a world-class singer because not all of our voices are equally good. So is entrepreneurship a type of talent that I have and can develop further or is it not a type of talent at all so anyone could do it? I think that that’s really what’s behind that question because people fear becoming entrepreneurs and failing because they never had a chance to becoming good at this. Or maybe they fear helping others or investing in others. They could never succeed because they were not born to be entrepreneurs.


Hiten Shah: Yeah, I mean I just don’t agree. I don’t think there is a born-to-be entrepreneur because there’s just so much variation as to what an entrepreneur is. And so there is no born. To anybody that’s worried about that, there is no born and the made part is like, I don’t even know what that means. I think the biggest fear, biggest issue that people have is, “I can’t do this.” And another one that’s related to that is, “I’m not right for this.” But entrepreneurship, starting a business, there’s no, “I can’t do this,” or, “I’m not right for this.” It’s just more like, “Do I want to put myself through what it’s going to take to make something that successful?” And we don’t know what it’s going to take. You don’t know when you start, what it’s going to take for you to make your business successful. You just don’t know. And so you just have to have some belief that you want to be in the scenario where, or the situation or job, if you want to call it a job, although I don’t, or career, although it’s not a career either, but in this sort of situation where you put yourself in a place where you’re getting knocked around all the time with new things, new challenges. And you just have to figure them out. And it doesn’t matter how successful your business is, there’s still a new challenge waiting for you the next day, if not the next hour. And the bigger the company gets, the bigger the organization is, the more of those challenges are there. And so there’s a lot of potential self-work and personal development that comes into play that you can never think about it logically and rationally like, “Oh, they are born.” There’s no reality. That’s an unreality. It’s not like that. Just look at all the variation of founders. There’s no way that it’s like, you’re born with it. It’s more like it’s Maybelline.


Steli Efti: Yeah.


Hiten Shah: Exactly.


Steli Efti: I think that people want to identify certain characteristics that they think would lead to somebody being an entrepreneur, like, “Oh, they have a higher propensity for risk. They’re more risk-takers or they’re more…”


Hiten Shah: Yeah, but still, most of the characteristics can be learned.


Steli Efti: That’s true.


Hiten Shah: Least not all of them. All of them. I mean, look at you dude. You’re the one that tells people they can learn sales, right?


Steli Efti: Yeah.


Hiten Shah: There’s no characteristics, you just learn it. And the thing is, and this is my point, right? Is you have to do what you have to do in order to be successful. The reason people fail is they just weren’t willing to do what they had to do in order to be successful. I’m not even being harsh. They just weren’t willing to do it. They didn’t know they could do it even or that they should do it. That’s a different thing. But most of the time the success and failure is a very thin line. There’s a very thin line in the difference and it just has to do with what are you willing to do what was required of you in order to be successful?


Steli Efti: Yeah. So you know what I love, because I took the devil’s advocate role, you got a lot more passionate pushing your position, as if I’m not on your side. So here’s my take on this-


Hiten Shah: No, I don’t think there are sides. Yes, what’s your take?


Steli Efti: But my take is, I mean, I agree with your general sentiment of this is irrelevant. We’re circle-jerking. This is a philosophical question in a field that is very practical and pragmatic. It doesn’t really matter. Pondering this will not help the world or make you better in anything. But if I was forced to give an answer, I think they’re more made than born because I don’t think entrepreneurship is a talent. It’s not height, it’s not weight, it’s not your muscular structure. I mean, to some degree, entrepreneurs made sure if you’re… It’s complicated because your personality or your health or where in the world you were born or your family circumstances or your environment or whatever, your DNA, maybe you have a markup that’s more aggressive dominant and that will lead you to entrepreneurship. But it’s never that because as you said, there’s a million different people that have been successful entrepreneurs that are completely different personality types, completely different upbringings, completely different DNAs from… Some people got really sick and that made them become entrepreneurs. All right? Find a solution to their sickness. Some people are very shy and that helped them. In hindsight, they’re like, “Oh, I was a really shy boy. That made me read a lot. That made me be really interested in science and that made me step into entrepreneurship to invent this thing.” When the other person would be like, “I always loved people and I was always a salesperson and always like a super public, and that’s why it was natural for me to become an entrepreneur and lead a group of people and be the messenger.” And so I think that people can look at their life and go, “I’ve heard this before. People were like, ‘I could never work with somebody. Since I was a little child, I knew I was born to be an entrepreneur because I can never work for somebody else.'” I think that you can look at your life and come up with a narrative that says, “I was born to do this,” but I don’t think there is a naturally born type of person that is more predicated to become successful as an entrepreneur than another type of person. There’s all kinds of types of people and types of backgrounds that can succeed or can fail at being an entrepreneur. So if I had to choose, I would say you made yourself a successful entrepreneur more than you’re born to be one. But I do think people are born with certain natural talents or tendencies that they could utilize in entrepreneurship, but it doesn’t mean that only the people with those tendencies and talents can be successful as entrepreneurs. I don’t think that that really exists. And I think it’s one of these questions that’s fun to entertain, but at the same time, it points to trying to get an answer, as you said at the beginning of the episode, to tie it in as we wrap this up, trying to answer a question that really is irrelevant and maybe points out more to your insecurities and your doubts and you never find an answer to those than to what really will help you succeed or fail at this game we call entrepreneurship.


Hiten Shah: Yep. I couldn’t agree more. Don’t try to find an answer to this question. I don’t think there is one.


Steli Efti: Just go and do the work.


Hiten Shah: That’s right. That’s right.


Steli Efti: That’s it from us for this episode. We’ll hear you very soon.


Hiten Shah: Cheers.