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What is entrepreneurship?

Many people may define entrepreneurship as starting a business. From the discussion forum, you may have noticed that some people defined entrepreneurship by focusing on the entrepreneur – the individual that does the entrepreneuring (Steyaert 2007).

The term entrepreneurship is, however, quite elastic and ranges from ‘who the entrepreneur is and what they do’ (Venkataraman 1997) to ‘why they do the things they do’ (Davidsson 2008) and ‘where they do it’ (Welter 2011). These definitions stem from different perspectives – namely economic, psychological and sociological, respectively.

Economic perspectives of entrepreneurship focus on the central role of entrepreneurs in economic development, the creation of wealth and evolutionary and revolutionary change (McFarlane 2016).

Psychologists also focus on the entrepreneur but in an attempt to understand why some individuals behave entrepreneurially and others do not. Psychological perspectives of entrepreneurship therefore focus on the entrepreneurial disposition and entrepreneurial behaviour. These two perspectives have been used to create a psychological profile of the entrepreneur, but without much success (Baron et al. 2007).

The search for a single psychological profile of the entrepreneur is bound to fail; especially, when there is incomplete information. Without considering the external environmental factors within which entrepreneurship occurs, researchers, up to that point, had neglected the spatial, institutional and social contexts within which entrepreneurship is embedded.

The sociological perspective has therefore emerged to highlight the importance of the contextualised nature of entrepreneurship.


Baron, R. A., Frese, M., Baum, J. R. (2007) ‘Research Gains: Benefits of Closer Links Between I/O Psychology and Entrepreneurship’. in Baum, J. R., Frese, M., Baron, R. A. (eds.) The Psychology of Entrepreneurship. Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum, 347-373

Davidsson, P. (2008) ‘Looking Back at 20 years of Entrepreneurship Research: What Did We Learn?’ Entrepreneurship, Sustainable Growth and Performance: Frontiers in European Entrepreneurship Research, Cheltenham: Edward Elgar, 13-26

Eisenmann, T. (2013) ‘Entrepreneurship: A Working Definition’. Harvard Business Review [online] available from https://hbr.org/2013/01/what-is-entrepreneurship [10 June 2019]

McFarlane, J. (2016) ‘Economic Theories of Entrepreneurship’. in Enterprise: Concepts and Issues ed. by Arshed, N., and Danson, M. Oxford: Goodfellow Publishers

Steyaert, C. (2007) ‘“Entrepreneuring” as a Conceptual Attractor? A Review of Process Theories in 20 years of Entrepreneurship Studies’. Entrepreneurship and Regional Development 19 (6), 453-477

Venkataraman, S. (1997) ‘The Distinctive Domain of Entrepreneurship Research’. Advances in Entrepreneurship, Firm Emergence and Growth, 3 (1), 119-138

Welter, F. (2011) ‘Contextualizing Entrepreneurship – Conceptual Challenges and Ways Forward’. Entrepreneurship Theory and Practice, 35 (1), 165-184

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This article is from the free online course:

Perspectives on Entrepreneurship

Coventry University