Reinventing entrepreneurship: My multipreneurship experiment

I’ve tried intrapreneurship. I’ve tried entrepreneurship. I’ve played around with the idea extrapreneurship as well. All have their merits as well as their drawbacks. It has been over a month since my last blog. The longest period without publishing something since I’ve started. My Multipreneurship experiment is part of the reason for that.

Depends what you are looking for

Collaborative economy BelgiumWhen I was an intrepreneur, I had a nice little salary and fairly stable environment within which I could try new things. I worked on partnerships, joint ventures, business model innovation etc… It was all intellectually stimulating but ultimately, the big drawback for me was that it felt a little like trying to do contemporary art with a straight-jacket on. Each time I tried to do something new, I had to fit it into the existing, old rules which were the very reason I was doing intrapreneurship to begin with. The salary was good, the colleagues were nice but the end result and lack of creative space forced me to rethink what I wanted to do.

Over the past 2 years, I’ve loved being an entrepreneur despite the drawback that I don’t have a nice little salary and stable environment. However, I’ve had to acknowledge a number of things about myself and about entrepreneurship which have also forced me to rethink and reflect on this choice. Firstly, I’m not comfortable putting all of my eggs in one basket. Investors spread their risk around multiple projects. Employee’s mitigate their risks by getting someone else to pay them for what they do. Entrepreneurs on the other hand tend to focus on one project and take huge risks to make it successful. At times, this focus leads to blindness and many of them cannot see anything other than the idea they originally started with. I spent 15 years as an employee and many as a manager and learnt that multi-tasking is a skill as is the ability to prioritise. Why would I just focus all of my energy on one project if I can manage multiple in parallel.

Lots of people have told me that this simply won’t work. That my lack of focus on one particular project will cause problems with my business partners and ultimately lead to failure across the board. I simply had to live it to understand wether they were right or wrong.

Multipreneurship as the future of entrepreneurship

There are a couple of fundamental beliefs which are behind the experiment. Time will tell if they turn out to be right or wrong:

  • In the future, we will all have more than one source of revenue. The days of having a job for life died out in the 1990’s and was replaced by having multiple jobs but in sequence, rather than in parallel. Of course some people have been working multiple jobs but that tends to be as an employee and on 60-70hr weeks. Little by little, we are seeing the emergence of a new model where people are starting mini-enterprises in parallel with their jobs. Driving cars for Uber. Renting rooms with Airbnb. Home cooking with Menu Next Door etc… Many have the security of a salary and the possibility to experiment with something else in parallel. I believe that rather than being a trend, this is a shift in our attitude towards work and money which will result in a rise in multipreneurship.
  • Time to revisit how we start businesses. Yes, time to reinvent entrepreneurship. I have met close to 60 start-ups over the last 18 months and am starting to understand why many do not succeed. In reality, I find it hard to understand why many of them start at all. They are all great people, without exception. In the vast majority of cases, the ideas are also very good. I simply believe that too many entrepreneurs head down a tunnel and invest all of their time, energy and money on one idea with the knowledge that many start-ups fail. It is almost counter-intuitive but we seem to have been doing this the same way for decades. I realise that many argue that high failure rates is important in a start-up environment as it applies the darwinian “survival of the fittest” approach. However, think about all of the wasted effort, energy and money. It’s not the most productive way of creating economic value or as a minimum, it is worth considering ways of improving it.
  • As human beings, the necessity to multi-task is on the rise. Our kids spend more and more time connected to their smartphone, listening to music and trying to do their homework at the same time. Some may call it attention deficit, others will simply say that when these kids get through the education system, simply having one job will not be enough to keep them engaged. Add to that the risk of having one source of income from which you can more easily get fired and I believe that they will turn more and more towards the multipreneurship model.

How I spend my week

Over the course of the last few months, I’ve been dividing my time between 4 different businesses. I’ve co-founded, started working with & and continued coaching start-ups with Economy2Dot0. There are lots of challenges in terms of time management, short-term v medium/long-term benefits, managing multiple partnerships and relationships etc… My conclusion so far is that as time progresses, synergies start to emerge between these very different businesses and that some of the effort and energy I spend is beneficial to all of them. This, I would not have known had I simply focused on just one of them. From the point of view of an entrepreneur, I also sense that I am managing risk better. Perhaps not all will succeed in the same way but rather than trying to determine that at the start of the journey, I will see over time if I can continue to invest time and energy into all of them, whether 4 will become 3 or one will be replaced by something else.

The point of this blog is simple. More and more people I am working with are moving towards a model where they work on more than one start-up in parallel. They are multipreneurs. It won’t work for everyone but if you are the type of person that enjoys multi-tasking and can build relationships with others who can help you, then this may be the route for you.



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