What Is The Difference Between Entrepreneur and Innovator?

startup innovation entrepreneurship

What makes one an entrepreneur? Do entrepreneurs innovate? Are startups built by entrepreneurs or innovators? I pondered these questions as I was reading Alexandre Lazarow’s new book Out-Innovate: How Global Entrepreneurs--from Delhi to Detroit--Are Rewriting the Rules of Silicon Valley.

Lazarow describes a new innovation playbook that is emerging from the area that he is calling the Frontier. The Frontier refers to the urban and rural startup ecosystems outside of the regions we typically associate with startups – Silicon Valley, New York, London, and Tel Aviv. The Frontier spans the entire world, demonstrating that entrepreneurs can start companies in a variety of cities, such as Bangalore, Buenos Aires, Nairobi, and Winnipeg.

Lazarow observes that while most startups in Silicon Valley are trying to disrupt industries, the startups at the Frontier are creators as they operate in places where many of the industries do not yet exist. This means that creators do not just build companies; they also create industries.

All of this takes a lot of hard work with no guarantee of success. So then why do it? Lazarow’s response to this question is what gives me hope, especially in the time of the COVID-19 pandemic, that the world will successfully find its way out of this crisis.

“The reality is that building a startup, any startup, is extremely hard and takes a long time. If you’re going to work that hard, for a large portion of your life, you might as well build something meaningful.”

Turning back to my questions about entrepreneurs, innovators, and startups, how do those terms relate to each other? Entrepreneurship and innovation sometimes overlap, but according to Steve Blank, a professor at Stanford University and co-founder of eight Silicon Valley startups, it is rare for the smartest technical innovators to be the most successful entrepreneurs. The best-known examples of this observation are Steve Jobs and Bill Gates. Jobs did not invent the iPhone, and Gates did not invent the personal computer operating system.

Innovation is achieved through the development of new knowledge or new products that address the customers’ changing preferences. It is sequential, often building on inventions and innovations of others. In contrast, entrepreneurship is “the pursuit of opportunity beyond resources controlled,” as defined by a Harvard professor Howard Stevenson.

In practical terms, entrepreneurs start or assume control of a business, typically employing innovation and more than an ordinary degree of risk. They focus on building a company that scales, growing a customer base, securing financing, hiring great employees, establishing distribution channels, etc. The difference between an entrepreneur and a small-business owner is that a small-business owner is usually content with just owning a business while an entrepreneur is focused on building and growing an enterprise.

Steve Blank believes that entrepreneurship is a calling, not a job. As I discussed in the previous article, when you have a calling, your key reason for working is not simply financial rewards and advancement. You are working for fulfillment. Steve Blank says that a calling gives you direction and purpose with which you wake up every morning. For a person with a calling, work is one of the most critical functions of life. The person loves the work and thinks it makes the world a better place.

While startups can be launched by either an innovator or an entrepreneur, history has shown that it is often a partnership of the two that results in the biggest success. Ultimately, both are looking to build something meaningful.


  1. Ayesha Khalid on October 11, 2022 at 11:51 am

    innovation is something to introduce new idea new products in market and entrepreneur use these idea and make their new great business models and opportunities

  2. Roha Mansha on October 11, 2022 at 11:51 am

    The main difference between innovation and entrepreneurship is that innovation introducing something new.This can be a new business model,product,ideas,or service.On the other hand ,entrepreneurship involves turning a great idea into a business opportunity.

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