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Entrepreneurship vs Intrapreneurship

Written by:

Victoria is a business writer with a mission to help guide new entrepreneurs through starting and running their successful businesses.

Edited by:

David has been writing and learning about business, finance and globalization for a quarter-century, starting with a small New York consulting firm in the 1990s.

Entrepreneurship vs Intrapreneurship

You’re probably familiar with entrepreneurship: it’s the process of developing an idea into a business and, hopefully, achieving success. From the near-mythic stories of Bill Gates to the hopeful startup founders on Shark Tank, entrepreneurial ventures permeate our society.

But what is intrapreneurship? And if entrepreneurship is so popular, how come we have so few examples of intrapreneurship? These are good questions, and this handy guide will show you how closely the two terms are related, as well as what separates them. 



According to Investopedia, entrepreneurship is when an entrepreneur “starts and runs a business with limited resources and planning and is responsible for all the risks and rewards of their business venture.” 

From this, we can see that the key points of entrepreneurship are:

  1. Starting and running a business
  2. Limited resources and plans
  3. Assumption of all risks and rewards

As previously mentioned, Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates is an example of an entrepreneur. Software engineering was an emerging market in the 1970s, so he faced considerable risks and uncertainties. Yet with determination and programming skills, he grew Microsoft into the tech titan it is today.


On the other hand, intrapreneurship is “a system that allows an employee to act like an entrepreneur within a company or other organization.” Stanford University also adds that  intrapreneurs “constantly find ways to innovate and improve their roles, the quality of work, and sometimes their entire entity.” 

Essentially, intrapreneurs work within a company for the benefit of their company. Intrapreneurs can be anyone within an organization and their contributions can take the form of everything from structural change or new policies to a new product line. The key is that they’re trying to improve the company.

Once again, the key points from this definition are that intrapreneurship:

  1. Is a system that creates and encourages intrapreneurs
  2. Empowers employees within an existing business or organization
  3. Focuses on innovating within by creating or changing products, processes, or culture

An example of an intrapreneur is Ramzi Haidamus, president of Nokia Corporation in 2014. In his first 90 days at Nokia, he abolished individual offices to make the office environment more egalitarian and open-minded. He personally interviewed over 100 engineers on their projects to see if each one could match current market timing. 

With these actions, Haidamus became an intrapreneur focused on changing Nokia’s work culture and created an intrapreneurship system that encouraged workers to be intrapreneurs themselves and develop products that could be useful to the company. 

With these key points in mind, let’s compare the similarities and differences between entrepreneurship and intrapreneurship.


If intrapreneurs are defined by their entrepreneurial traits, then the two must be fairly similar. 


Intrapreneurs and entrepreneurs look for shortcomings in their environment and try to fix them – intrapreneurs by finding things that will improve their company; entrepreneurs by addressing opportunities in the market.


Both find creative ways to achieve their goals by designing new products (entrepreneurs) or new organizational processes and projects (intrapreneurs).

Comfortable With Change

An entrepreneur must face new and shifting challenges that arise when starting a new business. An intrapreneur must likewise be comfortable shaking up the familiarity of their company as they know it and implementing something new.


Though they might share similar traits, there are some key structural differences between intrapreneurs and entrepreneurs, such as:


While an entrepreneur creates a whole new business and sells to the public, an intrapreneur works within the company for the company’s sake; either their innovation only affects the company, or their product will be attributed to the company itself.


An entrepreneur only has as much capital as they can provide by themselves or obtain from loans. Meanwhile, an intrapreneur’s company provides them with the resources they need.


Entrepreneurs face considerably more risk than intrapreneurs – if their venture fails, an entrepreneur personally bears the loss. On the other hand, an intrapreneur’s resources come from their company, which absorbs the loss if the intrapreneur’s project fails. 


Entrepreneurship is the process of starting a new business, and usually involves ambition, innovation, and flexibility. Intrapreneurship is the encouragement of those same traits in a company’s employees by providing opportunities to improve the company’s culture and operations. 

An entrepreneur often lacks the resources and security of an intrapreneur, but could also receive greater personal satisfaction and rewards should their venture succeed. And though they might not receive the same fame as entrepreneurs, intrapreneurs and their contributions are an integral part of a company’s growth and innovation. 

And who knows? If an intrapreneur ever finds themselves with an amazing business idea, they’ll have all of the motivation and skills it takes to become an entrepreneur and make it on their own.


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Entrepreneurship vs Intrapreneurship