Biggest Difference Between Corporate Intrapreneur and Startup Entrepreneur

Recently I was talking to an entrepreneur that had previously done several stints as a corporate intrapreneur building new business units for large companies. Now that he’d been out on his own as the CEO of a startup with no big company behind it, I wanted to find out what was most different. Simple, he said, “Recruiting is 100x harder in a startup.” At the big company, people are lining up out the door to get a big company salary and the perceived stability of a corporate job. In the startup world, recruiting talented people requires more selling of the vision, convincing people to take salaries well below the big company salaries, and helping with the mental shift required to jump into startup life.

Here are a few more thoughts on the recruiting challenge between corporate intrapreneur and startup entrepreneur:

  • HR teams, existing recruiting pipelines, and more are taken for granted at big companies where in a startup none of that exists
  • Most cities don’t have a strong startup community making startups seem more risky because of a lack of local lore, and if the startup fails, it’ll be harder to find another job
  • Places like the Atlanta Tech Village are especially helpful for recruiting talent

Being a startup entrepreneur is very different from a corporate intrapreneur and recruiting talent is especially challenging as a startup entrepreneur.

What else? What are some more thoughts on the recruiting challenge difference between corporate intrapreneur and startup entrepreneur?

6 thoughts on “Biggest Difference Between Corporate Intrapreneur and Startup Entrepreneur

  1. And, a VC funded one is much easier than bootstrapped! This is a key reason why the CEO has to know how to sell but not only to customers, but to vendors, employees, etc! Was that Paul Iaffaldano you were taking to? He is the man!!!

  2. Though provoking post. There could be a whole book written about the differences of being an intrapreneur vs. entrepreneur. A few other differences I experienced:

    1. SPEED. You can move much faster outside the big company. You don’t have to ask for permission to make things happen. You just do it.

    2. DISRUPTION. You can do drive innovation that is truly disruptive without fear of channel conflict or political retribution

    3. FUNDING. Often funding is easier to come by if you have a proven track record inside a big Company.

  3. I love this idea of an intrapreneur, I think businesses today need to have a few in every company…let these people be the disruptive ones and create something new from there….nice one.

  4. Having worked as both I think the biggest difference is the incentivization and motivation for the two roles.

    As a startup founder, the pressure to achieve genuine Product/Market Fit is acute. Everything you do should be prioritized based on really building a great product that a lot of people genuinely want. I emphasize the truth in this, as otherwise you are building a company you will later see fail. And you need to do this as quickly as possible, before your runway expires. Your ego and reputation is insignificant compared to this.

    As a corporate intrapreneur, you are typically more insulated, protected from the expiring runway. You don’t feel the urgency as acutely. Also, many corporate “players” advance their careers by creating illusions of success that either make them look good, or please the HIPPO or budget holder. The success of the individual intrapreneur’s career is all too often separated from the success of the product with the customers.

    To change this, I think that enterprises need to act more like investors when engaging with their internal innovation teams. Reviews, decisions and motivations should be based less on ego, reputation and illusion of success, and more on the real traction and learnings that an astute investor would look for.

  5. David I have always wished you would do a post on how to hire and motivate people without giving away equity. Young people take a lot to train, and leave after a year or two. Older people want too much money or equity. You managed to make it work with Pardot without giving away equity. What worked for you in making that happen?

  6. Hiya David, I agree with your views. I was recently in Copenhagen, researching the tech startup ecosystem there. The culture is very entrepreneurial and the following extract from the LinkedIn profile of one of the people I met truly sums up the difference between entrepreneurs and intrapreneurs. It says “Currently part of a crazy journey at 23, getting companies to do cool stuff with video marketing and live”

    To me this comment is a great example of an entrepreneur who will go places 🙂

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