Academic journal article Academy of Entrepreneurship Journal

Entrepreneurship Mix and Classifying Emerging Sub-Fields

Academic journal article Academy of Entrepreneurship Journal

Entrepreneurship Mix and Classifying Emerging Sub-Fields

Article excerpt


What is an entrepreneur? Like virtually all culturally constructed concepts, the term has been defined incongruently in different contexts and time periods. The word entered English as a cognate from French (Hebert & Link, 2009). Throughout history its significance shifted greatly between concepts as varied as a cleric in charge of public architecture projects during the Middle Ages to referring to governmental contractors throughout the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries (Hebert & Link, 2009). Such wide variations continued until Cantillon, a French businessman and financer, articulated a new definition of entrepreneur in the early eighteenth century (Hebert & Link, 2009). His work outlined how the interdependency of array of agents, including entrepreneurs who take risks in order to make exchanges for a profit, forms the basics of a market economy (Hebert & Link, 2009). This influential work effectively launched the modern concept of an entrepreneur.

Since this time the defining attributes of an entrepreneur have continued to evolve. Is it a risk-taking profit-seeker, an innovator, or an exploiter of opportunity? The answer has been routinely debated by individuals from various disciplines such as marketing, psychology, management and other social sciences. However, the creation of an academic discipline to study and teach entrepreneurship, the act of being an entrepreneur, in 1947 spurred an array of work to define an entrepreneur and the acts which constitute entrepreneurship (Volkmann, 2004).


Individuals have developed different approaches to the challenge of defining entrepreneurship. Some merely highlight key characteristics of entrepreneurs while others focus on what are perceived as their primary actions, such as new venture creation. For example, Gartner (1988) has explored traits and behavioral approaches to entrepreneurship, linking the act of entrepreneurship to the individual--or entrepreneur. In his opinion, the defining phenomenon of entrepreneurship is the creation of organizations and the process by which new organizations come into existence. He believes that organization creation separates entrepreneurship from other disciplines because:

"studies of psychological characteristics of entrepreneurs, sociological explanations of entrepreneurial cultures, economic and demographic explanations of entrepreneurial locations, etc., all such investigations in the entrepreneurship field actually begin with the creation of new organizations."

To Gartner (1988) entrepreneurship is a narrowly defined role which individuals undertake to create organizations; frameworks like Gartner's which are specific and accurate are also exclusive, failing to provide a sufficient description of all acts of entrepreneurship. To capture the entrepreneur's work environs; vis a vis, a start-up company start-up or an existing company, Easton (1977) defined entrepreneurship as including, "new venture initiation, acquisitions, and new major developments by either large or small firms." He further noted that "'enterprise' development is intended to emphasize the development, revitalization, and growth of the smaller enterprise, rather than just 'management' of such firm" (Easton, 1977, p. 41). This definition broadens the scope of entrepreneurship by establishing that an entrepreneur does not have to create a new organization.

In order to clearly define an entrepreneur one must account for and redefine the entrepreneurial phenomenon to include innovative development within already existing organizations. Firms that launch new products as an attempt to exploit a business opportunity for profit are labeled entrepreneurial firms. While this could lead to the creation of a separate spinoff organization, it is often characterized by an existing firm's attempt at product or service diversification through strategies such as increased investment in research and development, horizontal integration, and/or conglomerate diversification. …

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