Entrepreneurship is an Art Not a Job – Steve Blank

by | Jul 2, 2015

The more I’m digging into the similarities between artists and entrepreneurs the more I see many successful tech leaders that think on the same line: that there is a strong connection between art and entrepreneurship. In the past, I wrote about Paul Graham’s (Ycombinator’s founder and painter by training) essay that discusses the similarities between hackers and painters, about Marissa Mayer, Yahoo’s CEO, conversation about art and engineering, and I also tried to highlight the similarities between artist and entrepreneurs by analyzing the characteristics of the two.

So when I encountered Steve Blank’s post, I wasn’t surprised. Blank is a serial entrepreneur based in Silicon Valley and has more than 30 years of experience in launching, working, and starting tech companies. He is well known in the tech scene for developing the Customer Development methodology which he teaches at Stanford, Columbia University, Berkeley, and others. His methodology is said to have launched the Lean Startup movement, which everyone that starts a company is probably familiar with.

As you can see from his experience, Blank knows one or two things about entrepreneurs and entrepreneurship. Thus when he said that “entrepreneurs are artists” and that “Entrepreneurship is an art, not a job” he knew what he was talking about. But why does Blank claim that entrepreneurs are artists?

Entrepreneurs are founders, like artists; and when you talk about founders you can’t ignore the word “vision”. Every great company started with its founder’s vision to change something in our world; as visionaries, founders see the future and are willing to get there with the tools that are available for them today – Blank’s quote of George Bernard Shaw in his post describes it perfectly:

Some men see things as they are and ask why.
Others dream things that never were and ask why not.

Creating something that does not exist and something others probably never thought of, is the core of entrepreneurship – creating new products, services, ways of doing things – changing our lives in ways we didn’t think were possible before.

I believe we’re living in exciting times. Technology made it accessible for the majority of people to become entrepreneurs – self-learning coding, e-commerce, marketing, using freelancers to start our own business (and at this point, I will recommend you to listen to James Altucher’s Podcast with Matt Barrie, the founder of Freelancer.com) – so many disciplines, systems, and tools are out there for everyone to use and start their own company – so the question is, why we don’t see more entrepreneurs?
Now, that’s a hard question. The answers can vary from one to another; yet, maybe there is something that an entrepreneur has that can’t be taught?

Blank summarized this better: “It may be we can increase the number of founders and entrepreneurial employees, with better tools, more money, and greater education. But it’s more likely that until we truly understand how to teach creativity, their numbers are limited.”

Therefore, according to Blank, creativity is the key. But if we can’t teach creativity, at least not in the familiar ways of teaching, how are we going to overcome this challenge? I guess you will hear different solutions to this suggested challenge.
Creativity is intangible, something that relates to our emotions, perceptions, and feelings – therefore, we should think about creativity as something that we develop through experiences and experiments. How can we “teach” ourselves creativity? I would claim that one way is to engage with art. Seeing arts, talking to artists, learning about artworks [and for that matter, arts in general – music, theater, poetry, design, etc.]. Learning from the great minds of history, of old master artists – these figures and their works, are inspirational. Art for me is simultaneity a place where I feel comfortable and insecure…and between this tension, between what I know and what I think I know, to the reality – I experience a lot.

If you are interested to read more about creativity, I highly encourage you to visit Creativida.org where you can find interviews with leading and successful figures.


Have your own suggestions about how to boost creativity? Share it with me by sending an email to [email protected]

Read Steve Blank’s article on his blog.

What can we create together?