Do you have the irrepressible urge to be wholly, fully and totally in control of your destiny?
Are you one to seek new challenges constantly and almost despite yourself, sometimes against your best, reasonable judgement? If so, the diagnosis is unequivocal: you are a natural-born entrepreneur.
The two above-mentioned characteristics are critical insomuch as they distinguish true entrepreneurs from independent professionals, C-suite executives and gold diggers.
The former have no need for perpetual challenges and new, wider horizons. Freelancers, shop and small-business owners can happily exist with the status quo, provided they're in charge of their own castle.
Executives, on the other hand, need the sense of belonging that confers the affiliation with a corporate entity. Unlike independents and entrepreneurs, they need a group to ground their sense of place and purpose. Solitude at the top, carrying and holding onto a vision without peers to confide into, is only bearable to them so long as they can feel supported by the legitimacy granted to them by the group.
Finally, true entrepreneurs don't covet early retirement after striking it rich. Money is not much to them but a lever to pursue and achieve the challenges they endlessly give themselves.
The unbearable contradiction of VC-backed entrepreneurial projects
Failure to understand the true nature of the entrepreneur leads to the poor decisions that VC-backed companies' exit strategies are typically made of: selling as quickly as possible, either through an acquisition or merger, or through an IPO. Those scenarios are perfectly designed to serve the investors’ money game.
In either case, however, the entrepreneur loses full control over her destiny. It won't take long before she realizes her freedom to innovate is dependent upon both capital and company serving her and her vision, not the other way around. That picture definitely cannot include being a slave to the shareholders’ interests.
More often than not, she will end up leaving the company to pursue her new challenge of choice, or effectively disengaging herself while focusing on distractions like philanthropic or public service pursuits.
It is fair to state that investors’ and entrepreneurs' agendas are ultimately not aligned. Because investors are moved by money, their requirements are solely designed to boost the company's selling price, such as specialization. They're also responsible for building bureaucracies designed to protect themselves and their investments—the very same bureaucracies that entrepreneurs abhor because of the unnecessary constraints that they subject them to.
The entrepreneur, on the other hand, is hungry to "do", taking on bigger and bigger challenges. As such, entrepreneurs may do a brave job espousing their investors' agenda through the narrative that money from their company's exit will fund their next idea. Unfortunately, this view omits an essential fact: a strong team is more essential to helping them accomplish their dream than money. If anything, money is mainly a tool to build a team.
So why sell your team in the first place? Entrepreneurs' power game is about the ability to have things done the way they want to have them done. The trust, loyalty, competencies and efficiencies that have been painstakingly built with a team over time can not be easily, let alone quickly, replicated. As such, selling your company and team in order to raise money to fund your next idea is typically a terrible idea.
Here's a contrarian thought : successful companies are the best possible platforms for their founders’ next idea.