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Entrepreneur vs. Intrapreneur: What's The Difference? A Primer for Business School Students

May 15, 2018 6:45:29 PM / by Geneva Business School

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Businesses are increasingly seeking an edge by infusing their corporate culture with entrepreneurialism. The result is the ‘intrapreneur’ – an employee that adopts entrepreneurial innovation and ambition within a defined corporate setting. Whereas entrepreneurs launch new ventures, innovating from the ground up, intrapreneurs make strategic contributions to existing businesses, innovating to secure or improve industry standing. 

Entrepreneurs built Apple, Google and Sony, but intrapreneurs are behind the iPhone, Gmail and the Playstation.  Both roles are equally important to modern business, presenting important opportunities for professionals with different business and creativity styles.

Are curious about the entrepreneur-intrapreneur distinction? Read on to find out more.

Entrepreneurs and Intrapreneurs have Distinct Roles

The fruits of business innovation will vary greatly from one environment to another – especially in defined corporate cultures. Entrepreneurs build new businesses around their innovation, gathering staff and resources to realize a vision.

Learn how entrepreneurs Anvar Batalov and Mahmoud Hagrass used their GBS connections to launch the Sana Vida Start-up:

Intrapreneurs, by contrast, are often called upon to restore an innovative drive that has waned since a business’s early days. Whereas entrepreneurs bring a vision into existence, intrapreneurs project this vision into the future.  

While both approaches require creativity and tenacity, entrepreneurs often have a blank canvas where intrapreneurs work within a company framework. Entrepreneurs are at the centre of a flexible business model designed around their creative output. Conversely, intrapreneurs are an integral part of a larger structure, improving company products and services. 

Business School Graduates Should Expect Two Different Work Cultures

Around the world, entrepreneur and intrapreneur approaches translate to drastically different work cultures. Graduates of business programs should be mindful of these differences while pursuing their careers.

Given their central role in company success, entrepreneurs are largely responsible for shaping business culture, with a hand in everything from day-to-day operations to long-term strategy. Entrepreneurial business culture tends to prize creativity as the primary source of success.

Intrapreneurs, on the other hand, operate within an established corporate structure, often advocating for innovation amid engrained business practices. With senior authority on their side, intrapreneurs learn to justify innovative measures over established business practices. Embracing intrapreneurial culture means prizing innovation over ego and tradition, fostering the internal creativity that led Apple and others to the top of their industries.

Find out how GBS student Azimati Muhetaer honed his intrapreneurial skills as an intern with Richemont:

Risks and Rewards are Different for Entrepreneurs and Intrapreneurs 

Business school students should note that the risk-reward dynamic is very different for entrepreneurs and intrapreneurs. Entrepreneurs typically invest personal capital in their businesses, devoting great time and effort to ensure its continued success. At lower personal risk, intrapreneurs are instead provided company resources, and innovate chiefly to improve existing models.

bachelor in international managementRisk vs. Reward helps students determine whether they are natural entrepreneurs or intrapreneurs

While entrepreneur risks can translate to great personal rewards, intrapreneurs are seldom the personal beneficiaries of their innovation. Rather, intrapreneur efforts lead to larger company success, with industry leaders growing through employee initiative. Meanwhile, entrepreneurs should incentivize employee creativity within established business structures, aiming for a productive combination of entrepreneurialism and intrapreneurialism.

Are you hoping to gain crucial business skills for a career as an entrepreneur or intrapreneur?

Contact Geneva Business School to learn more about our business courses.

Topics: business courses, business programs, business school

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