In the start-up world, the term “serial entrepreneur” is thrown around frequently. You’ve probably heard it, and you might even use it as part of your day-to-day vernacular. It’s accepted terminology in the business world, even utilized by leading publications like Forbes, to describe an entrepreneur who generates an idea, transforms that idea into a company, launches the company, passes the reins and then moves on to the next idea or venture.
But have you ever considered the implications of this title? As fellow entrepreneurs, let’s ask ourselves this: Does the term “serial entrepreneur” accurately reflect our level of professionalism or does it undermine our chosen careers, skills and talents?
At MeetAdvisors, we argue the latter. Here’s why:
“Serial” refers to acts occurring one after the next in a series. Not only does the word serial generate unsavory associations to Ted Bundy and Jeffrey Dahmer, the term also implies transient tendencies, a lack of focus or repeated failure. When we talk about serial entrepreneurs, those negative connotations are inevitably attached and don’t paint the most professional picture.
Serial behavior is seen across the board in multiple professions, whether it’s explicitly stated in a title or not. Examples: Georgia O’Keefe produced painting after painting. Ansel Adams took photograph after photograph. Danny Meyer launched restaurant after restaurant. Adding serial to any of these professions—painter, photographer, restaurateur—would be superfluous and redundant. The same is so for an entrepreneur who starts business after business.
Shakespeare, a serial poet and playwright, wrote the famed words, “What’s in a name?” Well, in this case, there’s a heck of a lot in a name, and semantics can be a double-edged sword. Certain words, despite good intentions, carry negative connotations, creating unjust and even polarizing associations. Serial, when paired with entrepreneur, is one of those words.
We already defined the word serial, but let’s take a closer look at entrepreneur: Entrepreneurs are leaders, visionaries and continuous creators. Entrepreneurs are professionals who make a career of starting multiple businesses, often learning the nuances of different industries quickly and expertly. Above all, entrepreneurs are professionals who earn the title after years of hard work, sleepless nights and dedication.
So, here’s a challenge for the entrepreneurial community: Ditch this underwhelming title, stop selling ourselves short and give credit where credit is due. When differentiating between a traditional entrepreneur from a so-called serial entrepreneur, let’s instead adopt the term Professional Entrepreneur to adequately reflect our merit.