What Is Serial Entrepreneur? – Characteristics & Examples

We hear the term “entrepreneur” a lot every day. But not many know what it means and even if they do, they usually confuse it with businessperson.

An entrepreneur can be defined as an individual who takes the initiative to act upon the opportunities available to them and convert them into commercially viable and successful projects and businesses. In doing so, entrepreneurs bear most, if not all, of the risks and uncertainties that arise from the venture or opportunity.

But not all entrepreneurs are the same. While most entrepreneurs usually start only one or two businesses in their lifetime, there is a category of people who are a bit different from the 580 million entrepreneurs all over the world.

Meet serial entrepreneurs.

What Is Serial Entrepreneur?

A serial entrepreneur is an individual who continuously takes initiatives to convert opportunities into multiple new businesses and ventures throughout his/her career, taking on greater than normal financial risks in order to do so.

In simple terms, a serial entrepreneur acts upon more than one opportunity and takes the responsibility to translate these ideas into commercially viable innovation, entities, or businesses while taking on more than normal risks.

What Makes An Entrepreneur A Serial Entrepreneur?

You might ask –

“How many companies should I have started to be called a serial entrepreneur?”

You do not become a serial entrepreneur by creating an X or Y number of ventures. If you’ve started more than one venture taking more than normal financial risks, you’re a serial entrepreneur. It can be one after the other or simultaneously.

Serial entrepreneurship is an individual’s mentality and drive to start new ventures, independent of whether they succeeded in the past or will succeed in the future.

While a typical entrepreneur might start a company and stick with it until the end, a serial entrepreneur does the same but does not stop at a single startup or venture. They instead look to start something else after that – sometimes selling the existing company at the first opportunity and starting a new one using the obtained capital.

How they handle the different ventures depends and varies upon the individual and their ability to handle operations of entirely different businesses at the same time. They may or may run it individually by themselves or appoint someone to take care of the businesses’ operations – the latter frees them to focus on starting a new business – but serial entrepreneurs are always on the lookout to start new startups and businesses and that is what defines them as one.

Here’s a serial entrepreneurship example to help form a better understanding of who a serial entrepreneur is.

Ash owns and runs a construction company and soon after, he uses the profits of this company to start an HVAC company that operates independently but also helps his construction company by providing heating and cooling equipment. After a few years, Ash looks to bring his idea of connecting freelancers and employers and launches an app. The app is a success and shortly afterwards, Ash sells the app company to another company. He is now looking to start a “budget-oriented” smartphone brand.

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Ash had created three companies of which he still owns and runs two. But that is not what makes him a serial entrepreneur. It is the fact that Ash looks to start a new business and takes more than normal financial risks, even though he has no obligations to do so, is what makes him a good example of a serial entrepreneur.

“The drive to start something new”

This is one of the few defining characteristics that “most” serial entrepreneurs exhibit.

Characteristics of Serial Entrepreneurs

Serial entrepreneurs stand out, be it personally or professionally. They love to take risks, are highly optimist, and have a long-term vision. Here are a few characteristics a serial entrepreneur possesses.

Risk Takers

Serial entrepreneurs are mega risk-takers. They face a larger risk of losing financially by starting multiple ventures. In some cases, existing projects might interfere with the new ones too.

Great Managers

Serial entrepreneurs usually avoid the risk of handling multiple ventures by setting concrete goals and having good time management. They take time to prioritize and work on the important bits first and then onto the less important ones.

Visionaries

Serial entrepreneurs can be seen as walking think tanks. They usually are at the bleeding edge of things, helping churn out successful ideas and projects one after the other. Serial entrepreneurs usually do not delve on the past but instead, look forward to what they can do in the coming future. They are constantly on the lookout for ways to start their new venture and ideas that might help them find the next new thing to work on.

Multi-Taskers

Most serial entrepreneurs are creative multi-taskers who can juggle between many different operations, projects and goals at the same time or in short notice. Apart from that, serial entrepreneurs have good discipline to not let their multitasking affect the state of affairs negatively. They look to get their ideas off the whiteboards and onto the real world and hence are willing to do everything that is required.

Team Players

Many serial entrepreneurs work solo or in tandem with one other person. But, in general, end they all are good at bringing together and managing people (if not at the beginning, they become good leaders soon after). You cannot grow multiple businesses if you are not able to lead and manage yourself as well as a group of people. Serial entrepreneurs can effectively find, lead and assign the right roles to right people in every new venture that they create. Not doing so directly means the downfall of the company that they built.

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Disinterested In Making Money

Serial entrepreneurs tend to focus more on developing newer ideas and bringing it to fruition rather than on the monetary goals. While financial success is necessary for any company, serial entrepreneurs do not make it their main goal. Instead, they are more interested in putting together a working team and make their ideas and projects come to life. Serial entrepreneurs are driven by the thrill induced by starting new businesses and making it work.

Serial Entrepreneur Example

Elon Musk – Real-life Serial Entrepreneur

Elon Musk launched his first company, Zip2 Corporation in 1995. Zip2 was to function as a city guide and was soon bought by Compaq Computer Corporation in 1999 for $341 million (stock and cash).

But Elon did not stop there.

With the acquired capital, Elon founded X.com – an online financial service and payments company. X.com took off quite well and went onto to become PayPal that we know today. In 2002, eBay acquired PayPal for $1.5 billion in stocks, which made Elon’s net worth increase to $1 billion since he held 11% of PayPal stocks at the time. Also, a few months earlier to the PayPal purchase, Musk had already started a new company – Space Exploration Technologies Company (SpaceX). The very next year, in 2003, Elon started Tesla Motors, which has gone to become the most valuable automobile manufacturers in the world in 2020. In 2017, Elon Musk launched The Boring Company, a company devoted to tunnelling and boring.

In short, Elon Musk has helped co-found the companies PayPal, Tesla, SpaceX and The Boring Company one after the other while also working on bringing other projects and ideas such as – Starlink the low latency satellite-based internet service and Hyperloop the fast transportation system – to life. While Elon still manages most of the companies he helped launch, he also sold a few and most importantly, he has always been starting new companies and businesses one after the other, making him a serial entrepreneur in the truest sense.

Bottom-Line?

Serial entrepreneurship is the act of coming up with new ideas and launching businesses, one after the other. Serial entrepreneurship can be generally observed in small scale business environments since starting companies related to the previous one allows for vertical integration of the said companies – it helps complement their previous businesses and ventures.

Serial entrepreneurs may or may not – stick till the end or remain in charge of their startups but one thing is for sure – serial entrepreneurs are always on the lookout for new ideas and opportunities to launch a new company or startup.

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