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It’s Time to Reclaim the Meaning of the Word ‘Entrepreneur’

Silicon Valley hijacked the concept for the privileged few. A more inclusive definition would benefit everyone.

relates to It’s Time to Reclaim the Meaning of the Word ‘Entrepreneur’
Illustration: Charlotte Pollet for Bloomberg Businessweek

Two hundred and ninety years ago, when the French-Irish economist Richard Cantillon first defined an entrepreneur as anyone who worked for unfixed wages, he noted that the one thing that linked all entrepreneurs—from wealthy merchants to beggars—was the risk they shouldered as the price of independence.

That cost is clearly visible on the faces of entrepreneurs everywhere today. Shut down by necessity and starved of customers, many small businesses are bleeding money and fighting to stave off failure. Forty-four percent reported a decline in revenue during the second week in June because of the pandemic, according to data released by the U.S. Census Bureau on June 18. As the boarded-up shops, restaurants, and stores around our neighborhoods already hint at, many won’t survive the crisis.