As Amy Katz and I ramp up After Nines Inc., quite a few folks have asked us a simple question: "What makes you click as business partners and entrepreneurs?" I could write a few thousand words on the topic. But perhaps the most succinct answer involves the four new breeds of entrepreneurs: Diamond, Star, Transformer, Rocket Ship. Let me explain.
I came across the "four breeds" while reading the Wall Street Journal. (Sorry, we don't link to paid content.) The WSJ definitions go something like this:
- Diamonds are charismatic evangelists who aim to revolutionize people's lives. When they succeed, they are game-changers. But when they fail, the Journal says, it can be messy and dramatic. Noted Examples: Mark Zuckerberg, Ted Turner and Steve Jobs.
- Stars are trendsetters with big personalities who know what's coming next. But they're often one-person shows, the Journal asserted. Noted Examples: Richard Branson, Martha Stewart and Jay Z.
- Transformers are catalysts for social change; they typically take old-line industries and modernize them, the Journal said. Noted Examples: Roxanne Quimby and Burt Shavitz, inventors of lip balm made from leftover beeswax.
- Rocket Ships are brilliant tinkerers who strive to deliver cheaper, faster and more efficient market solutions. The succeed with analytics but sometimes fail to get creative, the Journal stated. Noted Examples: Jeff Bezos, Bill Gates and Michael Dell.
Which Category Are We?
As I weigh the list above, I don't think Amy and I fit into any single category.
I never really achieved "diamond" status as an IT evangelist -- but I had just enough clout to attract a loyal following during multiple media career stops.
I think Amy is more of a transformer -- she has a knack for modernizing the IT media market with new programs. Plus she's like a rocket ship, delivering more cost-effective, more efficient marketing solutions. But unlike some rocket ship counterparts, Amy is very creative -- so her ideas don't get stale.
Which Category Are You?
On the one hand, I wouldn't dwell too long on the categories above. On the other hand, by taking a real look at your strengths you may also discover -- and potentially mitigate -- some of your weaknesses.
In Michael Dell's case, he spent the 1990s delivering a far more efficient global distribution system. But he was always knocked for lack of creativity. Likewise, Dell has never been known for big-time R&D breakthroughs.
Overall, I suspect most IT entrepreneurs in the small business market are local stars in their own right -- well-known handshakers who look customers in the eye every step of the way. The challenge: As a star in your own business, you run the risk of being a one-woman or one-man show. That certainly won't scale over the long haul.
I wonder: Which of today's tech startups, if any, have entrepreneurs who fit all four categories? And if such a business exists, is that entrepreneurial diversity a good thing or a bad thing in the boardroom?
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