What is the difference between a entrepreneur and a social entrepreneur?


What is the different between a entrepreneur and a social entrepreneur? Are all social entrepreneur also entrepreneur? Are social entrepreneurs not real entrepreneurs?

How much "mission" does there have to be in a company for it to be considered a social enterprise?

Entrepreneurs Social Entrepreneur

asked Mar 30 '11 at 07:02
Joseph Barisonzi
12,141 points
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5 Answers


EDIT: I've really misunderstood what the question was about. So my answer applies to the so-called "social media entrepreneurs", or anything social that's related to latest fad of "social networks" as Jesper pointed out. Not exactly what the question was about.

You realize it's just hype right? Marketing or lazy hype. It's title bonanza. "Oh I'm a social media entertainment marketing communication and sales expert".
If it's for real, they're all founders. People that start stuff, and create companies. That is when somebody's not playing Buzzword Bingo.

answered Mar 30 '11 at 07:08
Mircea Grelus
782 points
  • Could you perhaps have mistaken "social media entrepreneur" for "social entrepreneur"? "Social media" and "social networks" are of course very much buzzwords, but "social entrepreneur" IMHO has a well defined meaning -- entrepreneurs who place benefit to the common good just as high as or higher than making a profit. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Social_entrepreneurshipJesper Mortensen 13 years ago
  • Yes I have. Based on Matt's very good answer, I see the difference. Wasn't familiar with the term so I assumed the former. – Mircea Grelus 13 years ago


Well the difference is simple; a social entrepreneur is one who sets up a venture to achieve some greater good aside from just the product and making profit. The drives I suspect are identical as for most entrepreneurs the money isn't the primary driver.

One of the aims is to solve some social problem, be that actual projects in the community or simply funding them.

It's a new name for something that has gone on for many years. see for example, Joseph Rowntree .. https://secure.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/wiki/Joseph_Rowntree_%28philanthropist%29 In one sense social entrepreneurship can be an attempt to lessen the imbalance created by legislation on both sides of the Atlantic that a company exists to maximise returns for shareholders. If you're required to maximise profits above all else then you're lessening your opportunity to do good, or may look favourably on cutting corners on, for example, environmental responsibility. (If it's legal, it's good enough). If the articles of the company and the mission build this in from the start, then more can be done.

I don't think it can be said social entrepreneurs aren't real entrepreneurs - the requirements are the same. The business has to succeed on the level of profit and customers or it cannot be self sustaining and achieve the social aims it also has. There's many cases of entrepreneurs trying to achieve something worthy with the money they've made, but I doubt the majority would see themselves as social entrepreneurs.

As to where you draw the line, I have no idea. There's a lot of shades of grey in between the extremes of profit at all costs, and all profits to social good.

answered Mar 30 '11 at 08:33
2,552 points


There's no fixed definition of social enterprise, but it's certainly the case that

  • All social entrepreneurs are entrepreneurs
  • Many entrepreneurs are not social entrepreneurs
  • Many organisations that start out as social enterprises in some meaningful sense lose that distinction in time

If you'd like a book stuffed with examples of social entrepreneurs in action, I recommend Martin Clark's "The Social Entrepreneur Revolution." I use its subtitle as the best working definition of social enterprise:

Doing Good by Making Money, Making Money by Doing Good

To my mind, any business that embeds positive social purposes into its organisation and operations is at least on the edge of social enterprise, and any business that refers you to its Corporate Social Responsibility statement and a few acts of philanthropy almost certainly isn't.

My present experience of social enterprise is that it's largely a bridge category, occupied by third sector-background people trying to access commercial thinking, and by business people getting in touch with purposes beyond financial success. At the moment, the oil and vinegar mix only locally - but ultimately a full blend is possible!

Another great resource is the Skoll Centre for Social Entrepreneurship, Saïd Business School, University of Oxford, founded in 2003, and co-producer (with the Skoll Foundation of Palo Alto, CA) of the Skoll World Forum on Social Entrepreneurship.

answered Mar 30 '11 at 19:35
Jeremy Parsons
5,197 points


One of the very best reasons would be because you do not have the ability to focus 100% of your time on it's launch and success.

Things like kids, marriage, taking care of elderly parents -- all get in the way of focusing 100% of your time on your start-up.

Start-ups are hard enough without trying to multi-task its success. And it is very difficult for those other things to not feel competitive for your time -- and end up feeling resentful of your "other baby"

Not saying it can't be done -- but it is a darn good reason to not do a start-up

answered Apr 6 '11 at 05:35
Craig Robertson
311 points


social entrepreneurs have a sex life. But seriously, it's a marketing moniker, usually self marketing. This day and age it's not enough to be a mogul, you have to tell the people exactly what you're a mogul of, "media mogul", "real estate mogul". Same for entrepreneurs.

answered Mar 30 '11 at 08:38
Ron M.
4,224 points

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