Entrepreneurship is not the panacea

Entrepreneurs have been around since the beginning of time. At the core, all human beings have an entrepreneurial spirit—some more than others.

I have said this before, The Social Network, which came out in 2010, had an impact on this belief that entrepreneurship is the savior of everything. Facebook created massive wealth for many, and the movie exemplified competition, male empowerment, intellectual banter, and a winner. People began to believe that teaching others how entrepreneurship can be game-changing has become the norm.

It has been over ten years since I saw The Social Network, and a lot has changed. We now have real data that shows that entrepreneurship is not the panacea. When I was the Chairperson of Hot Bread Kitchen, we ran a program awarded to us from the EDC. It was a food incubator for entrepreneurs. People were working on consumer products, some building catering businesses, and more. We were helping underserved food founders. It felt really great. It was a big idea.

I know how difficult it is to build a business in this arena and actually pay your rent or find a time to have a life. In the tech world, you generally can raise some cash and pay everyone a decent wage, or the business never makes it, and it is generally a quick death. Food must have friends and families cash support because the money out there is minuscule at this level. Essentially everyone who went through this program was excited about the prospect of working on their dreams. Here’s the truth; the failure rate of every entrepreneur who attempted to build their business after this program that not only taught multiple skills and created a great community failed.

Andrew Yang had a big idea with Venture for America. It is a post-college two-year fellow learning and working in start-ups. Hoping that all the graduates become an entrepreneur. It worked for some but certainly not for all—a lot to be learned, just like what we learned at HBK. I, too, believed that entrepreneurship was the end all be all.

The data is now clear. We need to find better ways to help this community of underserved entrepreneurs with career programs. I believe if you have entrepreneur running through your veins, then you will figure it out. No program is going to help you get there. You get there because you can’t do anything else and how we support these founders must be rethought out. We have to stop pouring capital into a system where few succeed but one where everyone succeeds.