The term INTRAPRENEUR was coined by Gifford Pinchot 3rd in his book1 Intrapreneuring: Why you don’t have to leave the corporation to become an entrepreneur. He defines intrapreneurs as dreamers who figure out how to turn an idea into a profitable business reality within the context of their employer’s organisation. Unlike the entrepreneur who creates a new company, the intrapreneur works within an existing organisation, looking for new opportunities that could lead to the development of new products, services, and business opportunities.
Researchers have agreed that both entrepreneurs and intrapreneurs share many similar capabilities or characteristics, such as opportunity recognition, proactiveness, creativity, enthusiasm, intuition and insight2and that they also share similar intrinsic motivators based on interest, passion, enjoyment of work, control and the desire to add value3. Both are inherently motivated by a willingness to take on new challenges and achieve success through discovering new opportunities3.
While there are many similarities, there are also several key differences between intrapreneurs and entrepreneurs.
- Entrepreneurs are self-employed and run their own ventures, whereas intrapreneurs are company employees who are given an opportunity to take responsibility for initiating and developing a particular aspect of the company such as a new idea for a new product/service, a new business or even a subsidiary4.
- The intrapreneur innovates within the ﬁrm when the organisational culture is conducive to pursue opportunities, whereas the entrepreneur deﬁnes his or her own environment and organisational culture to achieve success3.
- A tendency for ﬁnancial risk-taking and the approach towards ﬁnancial security has also been highlighted as key differences between the entrepreneur and intrapreneur. As intrapreneurs value the security and benefits of being an employee in an established firm, risking their own personal assets for higher financial gains is not necessary3.
- Today, intrapreneurs have been identified as one of the strongest outcomes of developing human capital in the workplace6. Intrapreneurs acquire specific human capital from experiences, learning processes and training programs, and marshal their specific human capital with their employer’s other forms of capital (such as financial capital, other human capital/co-workers and material capital/physical resources) to commercialise unique opportunities7 for the benefit of the employer within organisations that encourage and support an entrepreneurial mindset (i.e., a proactive, innovative, and risk-taking orientation) of employees.
In conclusion, the intrapreneur can be defined as the entrepreneurially-thinking employee who is actively involved in idea development for a new value creation activity, as well as the implementation of a new activity for the employer, regardless of whether it is part of their job. The new activity could be the formation of a new venture, new business, new product, new service, or a new process. They may pursue such opportunities for their employer with or without an equity stake. But one thing is common to intrapreneurial activity no matter what form it takes – it adds value to the organisation. This is why intrapreneurs should be actively nurtured especially in the post-Covid world as organisations and businesses need to rise to unprecedented challenges.
1. Pinchot , G. (1985). Intrapreneuring: Why you don’t have to leave the corporation to become an entrepreneur. University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign’s Academy for Entrepreneurial Leadership Historical Research Reference in Entrepreneurship. https://ssrn.com/abstract=1496196
2. Shah, R., Gao, Z., & Mittal, H. (2014). Innovation, entrepreneurship, and the economy in the US, China, and India: Historical perspectives and future trends. Academic Press.
3. Smith, L., Rees, P., & Murray, N. (2016). Turning entrepreneurs into intrapreneurs: Thomas Cook, a case-study. Tourism Management, 56, 191-204.
4. Franco, M., & Pinto, J. (2017). Intrapreneurship practices in municipal archives: A practice-oriented study. Journal of Librarianship and Information Science, 49(2), 165-179.
5. Kuratko, D.F., Morris, M. H., & Schindehutte, M. (2015). Understanding the dynamics of entrepreneurship through framework approaches. Small Business Economics, 45(1), 1-13.
6. Orchard, S. (2015). Entrepreneurship and the human capital of organizational innovation: The intrapreneur. In S. Sindakis & C. Walter (Eds.), The Entrepreneurial Rise in Southeast Asia (pp. 111-138). Springer International Publishing.
7. Adachi, T., & Hisada, T. (2017). Gender differences in entrepreneurship and intrapreneurship: An empirical analysis. Small Business Economics, 48(3), 447-486.