Intrapreneur – What you need to know about an intrapreneur || YIEE

Who is an intrapreneur.
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What is an Intrapreneur?

An intrapreneur is an employee who works at developing innovative and creative ideas into new products or improves the existing product of a company in other to keep the company ahead of the competition.

Different from an entrepreneur who takes all the financial risk involved, an intrapreneur does not take up all financial risk because they are working under a company.

The company bears the financial risk if the project or innovation ends up not bring in any profit and it also gains a lot if the innovation does.

An intrapreneur identifies great opportunities in the marketplace and works on them within the company they are employed in and in return they are being promoted in the organization.

All resources needed by the intrapreneur are provided by the organization and they are given the freedom to work on their project or innovative idea independently.

The one thing common with the majority of the intrapreneurs we have is that; they end up leaving the company and starting a business of their own but this is not the case for all intrapreneurs.

Intrapreneurs that end up becoming an entrepreneur have a higher chance of success because they have gained experience from the previous projects they handled while working under an organization.

Many use the time of being an intrapreneur as a time to learn and test theories and find out what works.

Now let’s take a look at the history of the term “Intrapreneur”. Where it all started from…

Background Check of the term Intrapreneur

“The History of Intrapreneur”

The term Intrapreneur is a blend of the prefix “intra” and the word “entrepreneur” and intra means inside or within. Then with this analysis, an Intrapreneur is an entrepreneur who works from the inside.

This word was coined by a couple, Gifford Pinchot and Elizabeth S. Pinchot in the year 1978 paper titled “intra Corporate Entrepreneurship”. Gifford Pinchot described an intrapreneur as “dreamers who do”.

He wrote that those who drive the creation of innovations within a business are called the Internal Corporate Entrepreneurs.

In the year 1985, the TIME magazine published an article title “Here Come the Intrapreneurs” which was one thing that promoted the popularity of the term Intrapreneur.

In the same year, Steve Jobs in an interview said and I quote “The Macintosh team was what is commonly known as intrapreneurship; only a few years before the term was coined, a group of people going in essence back to the garage but in a large company.”

And this quote was published by the Newsweek in September 1985 and many academic studies have also been able to look into this term ever since then.

The first University in Africa to look into intrapreneurship education was the University of Cape Town in the early 1990s and then the University of Pretoria followed.

Importance of Intrapreneurs

According to a study made by Forbes, some of the most successful innovations in history are those made by employees within a company and not entrepreneurs.

This conclusion is one that shows how important an intrapreneur is to a company or business.

They assist in pointing out opportunities, bringing up creative ideas and work to improve the growth of the company.

The World Economic Forum’s 2020 future of jobs reports predicts that by the year 2025, innovation and analytical thinking will become skills recruiters in a companies will sought-after.

This is because the value of which they add to an organization is one that is needed to get ahead of the competition in the marketplace.

Intrapreneurs help in identifying lapses in the way things are done in the company and make creative adjustments to improve the company’s growth.

They make suggestions on how the effectiveness of the existing products can be improved and are given the responsibility to test their theories.

Intrapreneurs can also diversify a company by working at developing a new product that solves a particular problem in the society different from what the company has been solving from its early stage.

Companies that encourage the intrapreneurial spirit stand to gain a lot from doing so but this is not all about the company alone; It also about the intrapreneurs themselves.

These employees want to feel in control of their works in the organization, they want to be creative and work on their ideas and have a feel of how it works.

They want to spend more of their time exploring new ideas and working processes and see which is more productive.

And by doing all these, they develop their entrepreneurial skill and talent and also find the essence in what they are doing.

And this is why companies should do all they can to support Intrapreneurs that they find under them and also recognize and reward those who make a positive impact on the overall working of the organization.

If these intrapreneurs are not well supported or recognized, they end up leaving the company and starting up theirs and the company ends up losing their impact.

But what are the traits found in an employee that would make them to be called an intrapreneur?

How can we identify an intrapreneur in an organization?

5 Characteristics of Intrapreneurs

All Intrapreneurs have some unique characters, or should I say qualities, which they have in common and some of these characteristics are similar to those found in an entrepreneur.

Here are the 5 characteristics of an intrapreneur.

  1. They are innovative.
  2. They risk their time and energy.
  3. They are leaders.
  4. They are Optimistic.
  5. They are creative thinkers.
  1. They are innovative:

Intrapreneurs are employees who are innovative and can come up with creative ideas that improves the organization they work in.

They have the ability to use their creativity to build new processes or products which can add to the company’s income.

They understand the company’s mission and work with it to improve the value that the company has to offer to the market.

An intrapreneur can either work on existing products in the company and seek out creative ways of improving the effectiveness of the products or they work on new innovative ideas and develop them into products.

They also make changes to the way things are done within the organization so as to develop a fully working system the enhances growth.

  1. They risk their time and energy:

An intrapreneur also takes risks in other to get projects accomplished even though they are working under the umbrella of the company.

Different from an entrepreneur who takes financial risks, an intrapreneur does not take financial risks but even at that, they take other risks involved.

Intrapreneurs risk their time and energy just to make sure that the innovative ideas of theirs become a reality and also become a successful product.

They take up additional tasks which are most times more than what their colleagues are handling and are will to go through the process.

Intrapreneurs work harder than every other employees in the organization and this is what drives their impact in the organization.

Even though they know that they could fail and end up wasting their time and the company’s resources, they still are motivated to carry on and do all they can to reduce their chances of failure.

  1. They are leaders:

Another common characteristic of intrapreneurs is that they are all leaders. They value teamwork so much and have the capacity to lead a team.

Intrapreneurs, while working on projects, have to gather fellow employees in the organization and build a team that will assist them in working on their innovative ideas.

But they won’t be able to handle a team if they can’t lead one and that is why successful intrapreneurs are also good leaders and have the qualities of a good leader.

They know how well to delegates tasks to their team members to get good results and can also spot people with specific talents that would make their project a success and bring them together.

Leadership is a very important for an intrapreneur because without this, they won’t be able to convince any of their fellow employees to join them in achieving their dream.

Intrapreneurs are to be able to confidently communicate the idea to their fellow employees and know how to get them on board.

  1. They are optimistic:

Being optimistic is something that is found in all intrapreneurs. They are optimistic enough to see the brighter picture or let me call it “The Bigger Picture” of the company and are motivated to work at achieving it.

Intrapreneurs believe they are capable of making the change that is needed in the company they work in and this is something that drives them into taking the needed risks involved.

They have a strong belief that any change they make will have its way of affecting the company positively in one way or the other.

When other employees are happy working comfortably in the organization, they are not comfortable and so they strive to attain that which they want for themselves and are ready to take up more responsibilities.

In every problem the company faces, they check for opportunities in it and do the hard work to get things solved.

  1. They are creative thinkers:

All intrapreneurs are creative in their thinking and this is why they can come up with innovative ideas that are helpful to the company they work in.

They can identify things that are not working well in the way things are operated within the company and with the help of creative thinking, they are able to solve these problems.

Creativity is what they are always working with and they are often found questioning ideas and seeking better ways of getting things done for a more productive result.

And this is something they achieve most times and that is why they are called intrapreneurs – an employee working as an entrepreneur within a company.

5 Examples of Successful Intrapreneurs

Now let’s take a look at 5 successful intrapreneurs and intrapreneurial groups in history and check out their achievement within the company they worked for.

  1. Mr. Sivakumar Surampudi at ITC:
Sivakumar Surampudi is an intrapreneur.
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Sivakumar Surampudi, the manager in the ITC Group’s agribusiness unit in India, was the one that brought the idea of e-Choupal into ITC limited.

He was not happy with the way farmers in the rural villages were all working hard and had no wealth creation to show for it.

So, Sivakumar decided to approach the chairman of ITC and made a request for Rs 50 lakh – which is about 66,549.10 US dollars – to work on the e-Choupal idea and help farmers eliminate the middlemen making it easier for the farmers to have access to the market in distance areas.

His initiative also helped the farmers to compete in the international market and export their products to countries around India.

E-Choupal provides farmers with valuable information like climate changes, the price of commodities both local and international, corp management systems that are effective in various parts of the country and more.

The productivity of thousands of farmers in India has been greatly affected positively by the e-Choupal.

Check out Sivakumar Surampudi’ LinkedIn profile.

  1. Healey Cypher at eBay:
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Healey Cypher worked at eBay as the chief of staff of global product management and he was always communicating with clients often and he noticed something.

eBay operated an e-commerce store as a service to its clients but Cypher noticed that majority of eBay’s retailers were always asking for a physical store.

The physical store, as at that time, where about 15miles away from the customers’ home and the majority of purchases came from them.

Cypher approached the CEO of eBay to discuss the issue and was allowed to work on the idea of bringing eBay’s presence into physical stores.

With the team of engineers Cypher was able to put together at eBay, an interactive storefront was made and installed.

Years after, companies like Rebecca Minkoff, Sony, and TOMS gave contracts to the engineers to do the same for them.

Check out Healey Cypher’s LinkedIn profile.

  1. Paul Buchheit at Google:
Paul Buchheit is an intrapreneur
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Paul Buchheit who is a worker at Google was the creator of Gmail which we all use today.

He started work on this project in the year 2001 and after much hard work, it was finally launched in the year 2004.

Gmail came out as the very first electronic mail to have an effective search feature and a more larger storage capacity and has been a success ever since.

  1. Larry Hornbeck at Texas Instruments:
Larry Hornbeck is an intrapreneur
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Larry Hornbeck who was a researcher at TI (Texas Instruments) has been working on some experiments using technology to redirect photons on tiny mirrors.

Hornbeck and his team, in the year 1987, came up with a device called D.M.D. (Digital Micromirror Device) which was used in printing airline tickets at first.

But after a while, Hornbeck realized that this technology had the potential to decrease the cost and size of digital projectors and work on developing the technology with his team.

His works were what brought the Emmy award to him for his outstanding achievement in Engineering Development.

  1. InnVent at SAP:

InnVent is an SAP program that encourages employees to be innovative and think out the box away.

The word InnVent is an abbreviation of Innovation and Venture and this program has birthed many Intrapreneurs over the years.

One of the significant ones is Hemant Rachh who was a product expert in SAP Labs based in Bengaluru, India.

Hemant Rachh and three of his colleagues developed an idea they had and came up with an AI (Artificial Intelligence) software.

the software as capable of converting leads into sales and they pitched the idea at the annual SAP Labs India program.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What is an Intrapreneur?

An intrapreneur is an employee who works at developing innovative and creative ideas into new products or improves the existing product of a company in other to keep the company ahead of the competition.

Are Intrapreneurs and Entrepreneurs the same?

Different from an entrepreneur who takes all the financial risk involved, an intrapreneur does not take up all the risk because they are working under a company.

What is the full meaning of Intrapreneurs?

The term Intrapreneur is a blend of the two words the prefix “intra” and “entrepreneur” while intra means inside or within. (Intra Corporate Entrepreneurs).

What is the Intrapreneurial role?

An intrapreneur identifies great opportunities in the marketplace and works on them with the company they are employed in and in return they are being promoted in the organization.

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