Why the Term “Entrepreneur” Should be Replaced

Having built five startups from scratch and invested in or advised around 100 others, you could say I’m in the business of “entrepreneurship.” But I don’t think that’s the right term anymore. At all.

The word entrepreneur was borrowed from the French language and implies an aristocratic polish. It conjures up images of backroom deals with white men in three-piece suits, perhaps even wearing top hats or donning pocket watches. Visions of the neatly-manicured and highly-coddled elite issuing orders from afar to sweaty and tattered workers round out this proper old-world ideal. But that just ain’t the way you win today.

Successful company-builders today don’t ring a silver bell to have their afternoon tea delivered by white-gloved attendants. Instead, they wake up at 5am and eat a bowl of nails for breakfast.

Both the term and the notion of entrepreneurship are outdated. If you believe that your idea to conquer Facebook is so good that eager investors will whisk you away in a limo to riches and stardom, you may want to consider playing the lotto or buying a bridge instead.

Truth is, building – or growing – a company is hard work. To me, a more fitting metaphor is that of a Streetfighter. The implications here are much more closely matched to what it actually takes to win. Here are eight lessons you can learn from the Streetfighter:

1. Rely on grit and determination – Be willing to get your hands dirty and do whatever it takes to succeed.
2. Get scrappy – Adapt in real-time and figure out how to do more with less.
3. Ignore tradition – Find fresh new ways to achieve instead of being weighted down by dogma.
4. Use what you’ve got – Lacking formal training or fancy tools, Streetfighters must use whatever is at their disposal. Often, these are internal tools (heart, passion, courage) instead of external ones (fancy tech, formal degrees, country-club connections).
5. Prepare to engage on a moment’s notice – Make sure you’re ready for battle and prepared for competitive attacks from any direction.
6. Have a chip on your shoulder – Embrace a healthy disregard for the status quo and a willingness to stick your finger in the eye of the current territorial leaders.
7. Learn and grow from adversity – Realize that your most important areas of growth are just outside your comfort zone.
8. Fight from behind – Have an underdog sense of urgency. Be ready to outwork your competition ten-to-one.

It’s probably time we returned the word “entrepreneur” to the European upper class and give a new term to the adventurous journey of building something out of nothing. Defying the odds, daring greatly, and leaving your fingerprints on the world are too big and too important to give them a label that is so soft and refined.

If you’re planning to win in today’s intensely competitive and complex world, it’s time to ditch the polish and get scrappy. It’s time to let your inner-Streetfighter out of the cage.