Entrepreneur vs. Intrapreneur: What's the Difference?

12/09/19 | 7 MIN READ

Entrepreneurs & intrapreneurs have similar but also different traits, objectives, & risks.

If you have great ideas for businesses or products and want to convert this ideas into something tangible, you may find yourself wanting to know the difference between entrepreneurs and intrapreneurs.

An entrepreneur is someone who designs and launches a new business, which means that they will take on all of the rewards and risks that come with running a business. On the other hand, an intrapreneur is an individual who uses their entrepreneurial skills to create and develop a new project in the company that they already work at, which eliminates many of the risks that come with running a business as an entrepreneur.

While there are many similarities between entrepreneurs and intrapreneurs, understanding the differences between these two types of professionals should help you determine which role you wish to pursue. There are distinct benefits for each role that may be of interest to you when you're mapping out what your next business move is going to be. The following guide provides an in-depth look at the differences between entrepreneurs and intrapreneurs as well as the shared traits between these two roles.

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Female entrepreneur

What is an Entrepreneur?

An entrepreneur is an individual who designs, launches, and manages a new business, which almost always starts out as a small business. Individuals who create and launch a business take on the majority of the risks associated with developing a business. However, they will also reap most of the rewards. Entrepreneurs who can successfully bring a business to the market are considered to be innovators. These individuals will regularly develop new ideas, services, goods, and businesses.

Entrepreneurs are a key component of the greater economy because their skills are necessary for anticipating the needs of customers and bringing their new ideas onto the market. While it can be very risky to be an entrepreneur when one of your ideas fail, the rewards that entrepreneurs have access to include possible fame, high profits, and numerous growth opportunities throughout their careers. The word entrepreneur was first coined by a French economist named Jean-Baptiste Say. Entrepreneur was taken from the French word entreprenerd, which specifically means adventurer or undertaker.

Entrepreneurship is a resource that is considered to be paramount for production and exists alongside labor, capital, and land/natural resources. The entrepreneurial process usually begins with the creation of a business plan, which is a document that goes into detail about how a newly-formed company is going to accomplish the goals that have been set for it. Once a business plan has been created, entrepreneurs will usually obtain financing and resources, hire employees, and create a leadership team that can run the business. The main obstacles that entrepreneurs encounter when building a company include finding the right hires and obtaining the necessary resources.

🔬 Find out: 11 Characteristics of Successful Entrepreneurs & Brilliant Innovators

What is an Intrapreneur?

An intrapreneur is an individual who works on developing new ideas and products within the confines of the business that they already work at. Intrapreneurs include any person within the company that applies entrepreneurial skills, vision, and forward thinking into the role that they have in the company. One of the more appealing reasons to be an intrapreneur is that it allows you to form new ideas, products, and business goals without taking on the risks that come with starting a new business as an entrepreneur.

An intrapreneur can be anyone from an intern to the vice president of the company in question. Successful intrapreneurs will foster innovation in the company that they work for. In most cases, an intrapreneur will be given full control over the project that they are working on even though the project is usually designed to have a significant impact on the company itself. Many individuals who begin as intrapreneurs will eventually develop into entrepreneurs once they decide to leave the company that they work at and form their own business.

When working on a project, intrapreneurs will have company resources at their disposal to ensure that the project can be effectively completed. The vision that an intrapreneur has when working with a company will typically involve substantial changes to the company, which can include product changes as well as changes to the traditions that a company holds. The intrapreneur word is considered to be a spin on entrepreneur and was coined from the "intra" term, which means "within" or "on the inside". While entrepreneurs and intrapreneurs work in vastly different environments, many of their skills and job roles are the same.

Leader lecturing his employees in office

Shared Traits Between Entrepreneur and Intrapreneur

Both entrepreneurs and intrapreneurs have a drive to innovate whenever possible, which is why there are many shared traits between them.

These shared traits include:

  • Leadership
  • Adaptability
  • Intelligence

When it comes to leadership, both entrepreneurs and intrapreneurs must have strong and effective leadership skills if they want to turn their idea into a successful product, business, or company change. In order to obtain any kind of success as an entrepreneur or intrapreneur, both of these types of individuals should be able to motivate other people to work towards the same goal. Whether you work as an entrepreneur or intrapreneur, the unknown is a large component of developing an idea or a business.

If you want to be able to get others on board with your approach, your management and leadership skills must be top notch. Positive feedback, communication, motivation, and creativity are all essential traits if you want your ideas to be successful. Even intrapreneurs will need to work with other individuals to develop a new product or idea.

As for adaptability, this is a critical element of being successful as an entrepreneur or intrapreneur. No matter how great your idea is or how effective you are at managing a team, the life of an entrepreneur or intrapreneur is filled with challenges and roadblocks that can threaten to derail all of your business goals and objectives. Even the best strategies encounter problems, which is why entrepreneurs and intrapreneurs will need to know how to adapt.

If you want to garner lasting success, it's imperative that you know how to shift direction and account for any situation that might arise. In these situations, you will need to make quick decisions that could alter your idea or business forever. The best entrepreneurs and intrapreneurs seemingly thrive in these environments and are at their most creative when they are being presented with a problem.

The other primary shared trait between entrepreneurs and intrapreneurs is intelligence. In many cases, having intelligence means understanding which skills and tools are needed to complete a project. Whether you are in the midst of starting a new business or changing the way that the company you work with operates, you will almost certainly need to be intelligent if you want to reach success with your main business goal. One aspect of intelligence is knowing what to expect from the wider market.

In order for intelligence to be effective and to be properly applied, it should be paired with vision, which refers to being able to recognize market trends and capitalize on some of the emerging opportunities in the market. Bill Gates wouldn't be where he is today if he didn't understand that personal computers and the internet would eventually become mainstay in practically every home in the country. While it's not easy to anticipate the needs of any market, entrepreneurs and intrapreneurs should be able to do so if they want to remain ahead of the competition.

Difference Between Entrepreneur and Intrapreneur Entrepreneur

Meaning: An entrepreneur develops their own business with a new concept or idea that they've cultivated.

Objective: To bring something new to the market.

Primary Motives: Financial gain, independence, and innovation.

Risk: Every type of risk applies to the entrepreneur.

Capital and Resources: Any resources and capital are raised entirely by the entrepreneur. Raising these funds usually involves seeking financing from angel investors and venture capital firms.

Works For: Operates entirely separately from an organization in order to become a leader in the market. Entrepreneurs primarily serve their customers.


Meaning: An intrapreneur is an employee of a company who uses their entrepreneurial skills within the business to innovate in company processes, services, and products.

Objective: To directly enhance the sustainability and strength of the company that they work for.

Primary Motives: To bolster the revenues and profits of the company they work for by making substantial changes to the company and how they operate.

Risk: Most of the risk is taken on by the company. However, poor ideas and changes for the business may cause intrapreneurs to be fired.

Capital and Resources: All capital and resources that are needed for the project at hand are provided by the company.

Works For: An intrapreneur works for an organization. However, they will have some of the freedoms that entrepreneurs have. For instance, intrapreneurs typically have complete control over a specific project.

These differences are notable but are mainly brought about by the different settings that entrepreneurs and intrapreneurs work in. While entrepreneurs have complete control over the business that they build and the products they create, they must also account for all of the capital and resources that are needed to build a successful business. Even though it's considerably easier to be an intrapreneur you won't have as much freedom as entrepreneurs have.

The risk involved in being an entrepreneur or intrapreneur is also completely different. Entrepreneurs are required to take on all of the risk that's involved in developing a business, which means that the losses can be significant if failure occurs. However, the rewards can also be practically incalculable. As for intrapreneurs, the risks are minimal, which is also true of the rewards. While intrapreneurs will usually be provided with a high salary, any success born from their ideas and projects is mainly attributed to the company as a whole. With these differences in mind, you should have a good idea of which role would best suit you.

🔬 Learn: What is the Difference Between an Inventor, Entrepreneur and Innovator?

Should I Be An Entrepreneur or Intrapreneur?

If you're trying to decide whether you want to be an entrepreneur or intrapreneur, both of these roles have their advantages. If you are great at networking, know how to solve problems, and have the time needed to run a company, you may find it more interesting to be an entrepreneur. This role should provide you with freedom to create any product or business that comes to mind. However, it's important that you know a lot about the market that you want to enter if you wish to become an entrepreneur.

If you have the skills that come with being an entrepreneur and want to be able to form new ideas and products, it may be easier for you to become an intrapreneur. People who have ideas on how to make the company that they work for run more efficiently and be more successful may be suited to being an intrapreneur. Keep in mind that you won't get complete credit for your ideas when working as an intrapreneur. The previous guide should help you know the difference between these two roles, which should assist you in categorizing yourself as one or the other.

If you wish to be an entrepreneur and have a great idea for a medtech or life sciences startup, you might want to consider using a wet-lab incubator to help build a strong foundation for your startup with all the necessary equipment and resources you may need to reach business success.

Here at University Lab Partners, our incubator offers extensive shared resources and all the space that you would need to conduct research or develop a new product. Apply today!


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