I went down to Philly yesterday and spent the afternoon with students and faculty at Wharton Entrepreneurial Programs, the entity that administers the entrepreneurship major/courses at Wharton and runs a bunch of fantastic "outreach" programs like the Venture Initiation Program.
WEP is run by Professor Raffi Amit and as we were making our way from one meeting to another, I said to Raffi that "you can't teach people to be entrepreneurs but you can teach entrepreneurs business." He replied to me that his research into the topic suggests that "there are no unique and defining characteristics of entrepreneurs" which leads him to believe that you can in fact teach people to be entrepreneurs.
That threw me and I've been ruminating on his conclusion ever since. I've been working with entrepreneurs for almost 25 years now and it is ingrained in my mind that someone is either born an entrepreneur or is not.
And I also believe that there are "unique and defining characteristics of entrepreneurs." Here are some of the ones I observe most frequently:
1) A stubborn belief in one's self
2) A confidence bordering on arrogance
3) A desire to accept risk and ambiguity, and the ability to live with them
4) An ability to construct a vision and sell it to many others
5) A magnet for talent
I accept that Raffi may be right. I will get my hands on his research and read it. And maybe it will change my mind on this topic.
Venture Capital is a lot about pattern recognition. You learn to make quick judgements based on things you've observed in the past. And judgements about people are among the most important decisions we make. So this is a very important topic to me.