Why You Would Rather Be an Intrapreneur

Author: Notre Dame ESTEEM

For a company like Google, who is more valuable: an intrapreneur, or an entrepreneur?  

An intrapreneur has more value because, assuming both innovators have stumbled upon the same rare discovery, a salaried professional costs much less than the acquisition of a startup, which can sell to the highest bidder.

Moreover, he or she is already familiar with and loyal to the corporation. This means that if a discovery is made, the company not only owns the intellectual property without additional cost; it also has the human resources to push the idea to the next stage of commercialization, seamlessly.

And even if you think about it from a systemic perspective - of the total value generated - then the intrapreneurs might have the entrepreneurs beat. Think about Apple. Think about the team at Sun Microsystems that invented the Java Programming Language (Patrick Naughton, James Gosling, Bill Joy). Think about Lockheed Martin.

Now consider the fact that Google was founded from the safe haven of Stanford University. What these examples tell you is that entrepreneurs benefit from supportive systems when they have the flexibility and funding to act on their imagination.

So it is no wonder that companies across the globe are trying to recruit professionals with talent and construct an environment in which those creative talents can flourish.

Easier said than done.


The sticking point is not in acquiring intrapreneurs but in retaining them. Writing for Harvard Business Review last September, Vijay Govindarajan and Jatin Desai claimed: “70% of entrepreneurs got their business idea while working for a previous employer. These talented individuals left because the environment did not have an intrapreneurial process to pitch their ideas–and their bosses were unbearable.”


The statistic has interesting connotations. It not only suggests that many corporations lack the environment in which a great entrepreneur can thrive; it also means that most entrepreneurs first attempt to join the business world before they strike off on their own.

For a True Entrepreneur, Entrepreneurialism Is the Last Resort

The Silicon Valley places the entrepreneur on a pedestal - much like many people will regard a starving artist with more “respect” than a Calvin Klein designer. Sure, they see the CK designer as respectable, but the artist is seen as heroic.

The fact of the matter is that entrepreneurs do not start out with a desire to max out their credit cards and being served with eviction notices. They resort to that lifestyle only when there is no other choice.