Is Intrapreneurship Riskier than Entrepreneurship?

Published March 22, 2022

Is Intrapreneurship riskier than Entrepreneurship? Yes and no. Having a relatively stable job within a large organization, established revenue streams, and organizational resources would lead to an obvious answer… until the risks are examined more closely.

The answer is… it depends. Explaining the risks of Intrapreneurship to Entrepreneur, is like explaining the world of an introvert through an extroverts lens. The experience of realities and what's important are equal in value and yet starkly different.

Entrepreneurship, or starting a business from the ground up, comes with it its own set of risks, rewards, and challenges. There's the abyss of bankruptcy, the unlimited revenue potential, the challenge of creating a market for a potential disruptive and unfamiliar product. There's raising capital, convincing investors to trust you to grow their cash, and the specter of incumbent competitors and market entrants. You could, literally, lose the shirt off your back. The risks and rewards of Entrepreneurship are well documented. Why would Intrapreneurship be even riskier?

Let's a point a picture. You're in a company for 5, 10 years. Working alongside colleagues that you've known longer than you've been married, with the prospect of working with these same colleagues for another 10 years. They're close friends, long term rivals, competing for the same bonuses and career opportunities. You're convincing people who believe that they know you better then your own mother. And making the wrong move could cost your decades of friendships, a reputation built over decades, that could go down the drain in minutes and follow you out the door.

Which loss is greater? It will depend on what you value most. For the Intrapreneur, this loss is worse than bankruptcy. Money, you can always make. Years of friendship? There's no recovering that.

Is this a real risk? No more risk than going bankrupt when starting a new business. This is where the similarities start to emerge. Starting a business, you'll need capital, a product or service, a market and customers to sell it to, and team members to sell and run the company. Creating change in your existing requires political and social capital, and idea or solution to a organizational challenge, end users willing to adopt the change, and a core group of change champions to operationalize your idea.

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