Intersectional Entrepreneurship

Diversity is at the heart of innovation

Entrepreneurship, one of the most widely adopted nomenclatures over the past decade. An entrepreneur is an individual who embarks on establishing his/her/their own business (a startup) to create independent wealth, innovative products, social impact or a combination of sorts.1 An entrepreneur bears most of the risks to bring a business to life at the start, but can later reap the rewards from the hard work. Despite the stakes being so high, with the accepted fate that about 90% of startups fail within their first 3 years of business, the appeal remains.2 The entrepreneurs in the hall of fame- Steve Jobs, Gary Vaynerchuk, Sarah Blakely- have created a new class of celebrities increasing popularity and interest for others to pursue similar paths.

While the Silicon Valley interpretation of a successful entrepreneur remains the most prominent, I want to deconstruct this to show how I believe entrepreneurs truly withstand the test of time. In his book, The Medici Effect, Frans explains a relatively simple, yet powerful concept- that innovation lies in the intersection of diversity.3 In other words, the more diverse perspectives, experiences, skills and disciplines you can bring together to solve a meaningful problem, the more likely an innovative result. This makes a lot of sense, especially when you break it down to an individual level. When you gain a broader range of experiences, the greater chance you can draw from several approaches to solving a problem. Whether that is living abroad in different countries, learning new languages, trying out different careers and spending time with different groups of people, this is all building your exposure to more creative ways of thought and problem-solving. Contrary to this is remaining in the same place, having the same role, spending time with the same people- naturally, your exposure to innovative approaches will be fewer. Studies have shown the same effect for diverse teams. With more diverse people, disciplines and experiences that can work together-the more likely the business will thrive.4

This feels very reflective of my own experience as individual solving problems or applying them to my career as an entrepreneur. From travelling and living abroad to learning new languages and experimenting with different career paths-this gave me the ability to draw from this bank of knowledge to approach problems in new ways. Whether it was direct experiences, such as not being a native speaker in the country that I lived to find creative ways to communicate with people until my abilities improved, or indirect experiences in learning how other cultures approached societal or economic problems. That isn’t to say that all innovative solutions work, but it is a critical foundation to think like an entrepreneur and continuously evolve your team and business.

I’ve also seen this in friends who have had similarly diverse paths to entrepreneurship and how they build on those divergent ideas to offer innovations to the market. A good friend of mine, Anthony McGuire, and I introduced this concept of Intersectional Entrepreneurship in a series of Clubhouse discussions. We were surprised how many others related to this idea and felt a greater desire to build even more diversity into their repertoire of knowledge and experience. An entrepreneur currency is an innovation. The ecosystem rewards entrepreneurs who exchange their disruptive ideas for further growth. Whether that comes in investment from venture capitalist firms, attracts talented people to your team or builds a resilient organisational culture to withstand the challenges ahead. Successful entrepreneurs seek out diversity at all stages from building their own leadership qualities, selecting different types of team members, building innovative solutions, and fostering inclusive company culture.

While the focus of this has been entrepreneurs, it is equally important to highlight this applies to other parts of life. It is in our differences and the ability to learn from each other where our collective superpowers lie. The more we embrace diverse intersections of thought, people and communities, the more likely we will be to solve global challenges.

Challenge yourself to learn from someone different from you and observe the expansion of ideas that will come your way.