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Are Entrepreneurs Born or Made?

It’s a longstanding debate: are entrepreneurs made or born? In other words, are certain people just naturally inclined to become entrepreneurs? Or are there particular skills and training afforded by (business) schools that can make you (to misquote Daft Punk) smarter, better, faster, stronger?

“Born or made” – that was the subject of a talk given by Jose Ferreira, founder and CEO of adaptive learning, test-prep company Knewton at the recent “Silicon Valley Comes to Cambridge” event.

Ferreira argues that it’s more complicated that simply one or the other. What drives some of us to become entrepreneurs is really a “cocktail of traits” – a blend of upbringing, culture, friends, as well as experience and education. He jokes that while “you can teach some ancillary skills,” in the end “entrepreneurship is a really a personality disorder more than anything else.”

Ferreira looks at some of the differences in personality (disordered or otherwise) between those individuals drawn to careers in banking and finance and those who are drawn to startups and entrepreneurship. According to Ferreira, the latter looks at the world and says, “This is crap and I can do better.” The former thinks “I’m going to take advantage of this.”

Ferreira’s talk addresses a number of other topics about entrepreneurship and education and about why you should (or shouldn’t) be an entrepreneur. And sure, while it doesn’t settle the question once and for all of whether or not entrepreneurs are born or made, it’s worth watching, particularly given Ferreira’s background (an MBA from Harvard, work at Goldman Sachs, and now the CEO of Knewton).

Keynote 3 – Jose Ferreira

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