First steps in innovation and entrepreneurship
First steps in innovation and entrepreneurship

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First steps in innovation and entrepreneurship

3.1 Different types of entrepreneurship

In the following activity, you will listen to some real-life entrepreneurs and consider the types of entrepreneurship they represent.

Activity 7

Timing: Allow about 1 hour 30 minutes for this activity
  1. To begin this activity, try to list as many different types of entrepreneur as you can. We are looking for modifications which usually involve inserting another word in front of the original word. For example, a ‘social entrepreneur’. Don’t attempt any internet searches. Simply record the terms below so that you can refer back to them later:
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  1. Listen to this audio, which features four entrepreneurs talking about their contrasting ventures. It lasts about six minutes

Download this audio clip.Audio player: b205_2016j_aud001.mp3
Skip transcript


My name’s Danny Quinn from the Black Sheep Collective Community Interest Company.
My name is Julia Charles from Julia Charles Event Management.
I’m Dan Wright. I am the founder the Heliex Power Ltd.
I’m Catherine Bottrill. I’m CEO of Pilio.
The Black Sheep Collective is a social enterprise working primarily in arts and culture and performance-based work and participatory community arts. We train new and emerging artists and we provide opportunities for real-time experience in the creative industries working alongside professionals both in the corporate realm and the public realm as well as devising our own projects.
We operate within the corporate sector and the private sector. So an example of a corporate event, we do a product launch for Audi for their new car. And that would involve project management and we could then work on an amazing private event where we could organise a large festival for a private client for their 50th birthday party.
The company that I formed in 2010 is called Heliex Power Ltd and it’s a company specialising in the development of equipment to recover energy that would otherwise go to waste in industrial processes. The customers for this equipment are major energy users like the steel industry, the food industry, biomass companies, petrochemical companies and what we do is to recover energy that would otherwise go to waste, basically, up the chimney.
Pilio is a software business that works with other businesses to help them understand their energy use to identify opportunities where they can reduce their energy bills and their environmental impacts.
We came up with the idea for the Black Sheep Collective really by just connecting with other artists and creative types that were kind of operating in silos and on their own and looking to connect with others really.
I met with my now business partner, Georgia, who graduated from the Liverpool Institute of Performing Arts and also returned to Milton Keynes. And we both felt the same, that there was a lack of opportunity for people like ourselves that had gone out, got some experience and returned to Milton Keynes to really engage and follow what we want to do not only as a career but as a passion. It wasn’t constituted for the first kind of few months, we were just artists in our own right doing our own thing but operating under a banner. And then when we felt that we had more strength in being an alliance of such, we decided to constitute in to a company.
I came up with the idea for my business when I was incredibly young. I was 18 years old and I just came in to work on the Monday morning and was looking around the office and realised that IT just wasn’t for me.I had a passion for entertainment and I wanted to pursue it. And then I realised that actually a company I was currently working for in the entertainment sector wasn’t open to suggestions about moving their brand forward. So I decided to give it a go myself and here I am.
I worked in the compressor industry and there was a particular type of technology in the compressor industry used worldwide and it’s called a screw compressor. City University in London for about 40 years has been a major source of innovative technology to the compressor industry. And that’s partly because of two professors, one world famous thermodynamicist and the other a very good mechanical professor. So over a period of about ten years we kept each other posted on our thoughts on how this new technology might be worth something one day.
And eventually when the costs of energy, the need to reduce carbon dioxide and so on became important to politicians and to governments, the time for this technology to go into the marketplace had come. I decided to have a go at forming my own company. And that worked.
The first one I formed I sold twice and bought back once. I used that money to do some other things.
I was a researcher at Oxford University in a group called the Environmental Change Institute. Researchers need data to do good policy analysis and understand the world that we live in. And what we found is there was really poor energy data and therefore we couldn’t do good analysis.
So Russell Layberry, my colleague, and I, over cups of tea, lunches, conversation, thought, how could we create some tools to gather that data, and we didn’t want just to gather the data. We wanted to be able to give feedback to the people that had contributed the data. And it was through that exploration that I started designing an online tool for building energy management.
And that collaboration and exploration turned in to my company, Pilio.
I’ve also been involved with a business called Julie’s Bicycle which is an organisation which is helping the arts embed sustainability across the supply chain from everything from a theatre venue, to a record label, to a music studio, to a festival, and helping all the organisations there understand what their environmental impacts are and what they can do to reduce those environmental impacts.
End transcript
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  1. Now study the following definitions and try to match the entrepreneurs (and types of entrepreneurial activity) that you heard about in the audio to one or more of the highlighted terms. You can also insert your own terms by copying them from the list you produced in part 1. Record your comments in the box below, then refer to the discussion.

Corporate entrepreneur / intrapreneur

These terms are both used to describe someone who acts entrepreneurially inside an existing organisation, which may range from a medium-sized firm to a large corporation, government agency or charity. The constraint of operating from within an organisational hierarchy, rather than being free to act independently, is the key feature that distinguishes corporate entrepreneurs / intrapreneurs from other entrepreneurs. Some organisations actively encourage corporate entrepreneurship / intrapreneurship as a way of promoting innovation and adaptability. There are strong parallels between this role and that of ‘product champion’ which is a term sometimes used by innovation researchers.


This term has been derived from the wider use of the letter ‘e’ to refer to ‘electronic’ (as in ‘email’ and ‘e-commerce.’). It is used to refer to the growing number of people who run businesses that depend entirely on the internet. With the proliferation of internet-based businesses, it now represents a very broad category, and could include anyone from the owner of a large online retailing empire to a self-employed person using an online shopping platform (such as or to sell specialist products from home.


This term has become popular as a way of describing entrepreneurs who establish ventures, or introduce new initiatives with the aim of tackling specific environmental problems. In practice, this can mean a wide variety of activities, ranging from a small, community-based enterprise selling organic fresh produce to a large commercial business operating in a low-carbon industry sector, such as the manufacture or installation of solar photovoltaic (PV) panels.

Lifestyle entrepreneur

This term is normally used to describe a person who has set up a small business in order to pursue a personal interest such as a craft (e.g. a pottery studio) or a sporting activity (e.g. horse-riding holidays). It is sometimes seen as a negative term, with the same kind of implied criticism as for ‘hobby’ farmers. The term refers to the idea that this type of entrepreneur prioritises quality of life over other common motivations for running a business. They might want to achieve a reasonable level of income from the venture, but are not actively pursuing purely commercial goals such as growing it into a much larger business, or securing large (or short-term) financial returns.

Portfolio entrepreneur

This term refers to someone who operates several different ventures at the same time. There are different types of portfolio entrepreneur. They can range from extremely wealthy owners of multiple businesses to much less prosperous people, often based in remote rural areas, who engage in several different small enterprises in order to reduce risks and to maintain an income when local markets, or economic conditions more generally, are depressed or uncertain (note the distinction between this term and the ‘serial entrepreneur’).

Rural entrepreneur

This term refers to people who create or operate businesses in the countryside. It is sometimes used in a more restricted way to focus on the traditional rural industries, such as agriculture, forestry, food manufacturing and rural crafts. However, the term is also used to refer to those running a variety of businesses that happen to be located in a rural area. It can also be difficult to define the geographic boundaries of rural businesses (e.g. does it include an entrepreneur whose business is located in a village that is on the fringes of a large city, or someone based in a remote rural location who spends much of their time doing business internationally).

Serial entrepreneur

This term refers to someone who sets up several different ventures over a period of time, often reinvesting profits from the sale of an existing business in order to finance a new one, sometimes in an entirely different field of activity. This pattern may reflect the entrepreneur’s preference for creating new ventures rather than managing larger established businesses (note the distinction between this term and the ‘portfolio entrepreneur’).

Social entrepreneur

This term is normally used to identify the founder(s) of a social venture, or someone who initiates a larger programme of social change. The distinctive feature of this type of entrepreneurship is that the primary purpose is to address social or environmental problems rather than simply to achieve commercial goals. This suggests a number of differences, including the values involved, how people understand concepts such as entrepreneurial ‘opportunity’, and the way that organisations are run. There has been a lot of interest in social entrepreneurship in recent years and this has generated many competing definitions.

Technology entrepreneur

This term typically describes a person who has founded a new venture in order to develop some form of advanced technology, most commonly in industry sectors such as information and communications technology (ICT), biotechnology, nanotechnology and other applied sciences. One of the distinctive features of this kind of entrepreneurial activity is that it is often very fast-moving, as a result of new scientific discoveries and often intensive international competition – there are also particularly strong links to innovation. Governments around the world see this kind of entrepreneurial activity as a particularly important source of economic growth as well as offering possible solutions to major societal challenges such as poverty and climate change.

Identifying types of entrepreneur and entrepreneurial venture

IntervieweeType of entrepreneur / entrepreneurial venture

Danny Quinn

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Julia Charles

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Dan Wright

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Catherine Bottrill

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We suggest that our interviewees fall into the following categories:

Danny Quinnsocial entrepreneur. He describes his business, Black Sheep, as a social enterprise working in arts and culture undertaking performance-based work and participatory community arts projects. They train new and emerging artists and provide opportunities for real experience in the creative industries working alongside professionals.

Julia Charleslifestyle entrepreneur. Julia is following her passion for staging entertainment events. Whilst the term lifestyle entrepreneurs is sometimes used for individuals who have limited growth aspirations for their ventures, Julia has no such limited aspirations.

Dan Wrightecopreneur and technology entrepreneur. Heliex Power helps industrial companies recover wasted energy with an inventive engineering product that is protected by patents. If you listen carefully Dan also mentions that he has started and sold companies in the past – also making him a serial entrepreneur.

Catherine Bottrillecopreneur, e-preneur and portfolio entrepreneur. Her company, Pilio, helps organisations reduce their use of energy. Their product is software, accessed online in a ‘software as a service’ model. Catherine also mentions that she is involved with another organisation, Julie’s Bicycle, indicating she is a portfolio entrepreneur.

This shows that the entrepreneur types often overlap, rather like different types of innovation. The exercise also highlights how difficult it can be to produce a single definition for these varied types of activity. It is important to bear these points in mind as you start to use this terminology, and to avoid jumping to conclusions when you see a reference to a particular ‘type’ of entrepreneur or entrepreneurial activity.

Entrepreneurship has generated more than its fair share of new terms (or ‘neologisms’). We have concentrated on those that are most commonly used, and that are (in most cases) reasonably well-defined. However, there are many other terms, most of which are simply passing fads and fashions. We have also tried to avoid a few terms that are either inappropriate or slightly offensive. Examples of these more dubious terms include ‘Alterpreneur’ (referring to an older person, possibly beyond the normal retirement age, who establishes a new business venture), ‘Kidpreneur’ (an ugly term, typically used to describe a young person who has become wealthy by creating a commercially-successful app or computer game), and ‘Mompreneur’ (a particularly dubious term, occasionally used to refer to a woman who sets up a business while, or possibly after, having a family).

While the interviewees are different types of entrepreneur, they also demonstrate common themes. For example, both Danny and Catherine talk about identifying a gap in the market that provided an opportunity for their business.


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