What Exactly Is An Intrapreneur?

If you search “intrapreneur,” on Google, you’ll be asked if you meant to look up  “entrepreneur.” But the idea of an intrapreneur is becoming more well-known as companies use this position to drive innovation internally to keep pace with startup counterparts.

An intrapreneur by definition works at a large company but behaves more like the head of a startup. They usually manage a small team and have complete ownership over a product or initiative that’s separate from their organization’s core business. Conversely,  an entrepreneur runs their own company. They have complete creative control, freedom, and responsibility. While intrapreneurship is inherently less risky, the “in-organization” role means less autonomy, and that the pay-off from a successful product or idea is usually smaller.

Being an intrapreneur holds a lot of appeal to many. Intrapreneurs get some of the same benefits entrepreneurs do: visibility, money, power, learning opportunities, network connections, and maybe most importantly, the chance to innovate and change the game, without most of the risks entrepreneurs can face: bankruptcy, major failure, etc.

Successful intrapreneurs are incredibly valuable to their employers, so usually they receive high salaries, increased instances of benefits and perks, and a ton of leverage in the company.

Thinking about becoming an intrapreneur? Ask yourself these questions:

  • Does having the resources and support of a large company outweigh the potential benefits of running my own company?
  • How tolerant of risk can I be and how important to me is job security?
  • Does having the responsibilities attributed to managing my own business scare me or excite me?
  • Do I prefer to work within an existing culture, or would I prefer to develop my own?

Intrapreneurship Examples

  • Gmail was developed by intrapreneurship. Paul Buchheit worked independently to build the first version of the tool.
  • Facebook hosts hackathons for employees to work on projects they’re passionate about, outside of their normal work. A “Like” button prototype was developed at one of these hackathons.
  • Apple’s original Mac was also created via intrapreneurship. Steve Jobs put together a group of intrapreneurs to work independently to develop the original Macintosh computer.
  • Sony employee Ken Kutaragi spent hours trying to make his daughter’s Nintendo console more powerful and user-friendly but his idea for a Sony console was rebuffed by many higher-ups at Sony that were hesitant to join the gaming industry. A senior employee spotted value in Kutaragi’s innovative product and Sony went on to develop this product into the PlayStation.

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