Most Commonly Misused Words in Entrepreneurship

Since I live and breathe entrepreneurship, I have the privilege of meeting all kinds of entrepreneurs.What I find sometimes amusing and oftentimes perplexing is that they all use fancy words with so much panache that it leaves me speechless! Here’s a tongue-in-cheek look ata few examples:

Entrepreneur: (How I love this animal!)

Dictionary definition:‘a person who organizes and manages any enterprise, especially a business, usually with considerable initiative and risk’.

Entrepreneur’s definition: ‘a person who is running his own business, the way he chooses, without being answerable to a boss, coming to work when he pleases, making loads of money and keeping it all to himself’.

Mentor’s definition: ‘a selfish person who does not like the way the world around him is, sets out to change it into a better place and in the process leave his footprint’.

Serial entrepreneur: (Whenever I hear this word I tend to cringe as it somehow reminds me of serial killer!)

Dictionary definition: ‘a person who starts one business after another by successfully exiting the previous one’

Entrepreneur’s definition: ‘a person who starts a company, gets bored with it after a point,  sells it, shuts it or forgets it’. (Wasn’t that a Hero Honda ad many years ago except that there it said, fill it, shut it, forget it?)

Mentor’s definition: ‘a person who likes to validate how often he can keep repeating the same mistakes or how creatively he can make new mistakes’!

Customer:(He has discovered of late that he is actually king!)

Dictionary definition: ‘a person who buys goods and services’

Entrepreneur’s definition: ‘any sensible person who buys my product because I know better than he, what is good for him’

Mentor’s definition: ‘a person who makes or breaks an entrepreneur’.

VC:  (Never since the dreaded SS have two alphabets sounded more ominous and sinister!)

Dictionary definition: ‘Private equity investment in a business which does not have access to capital market’

Entrepreneur’s definition: ‘capital which announces that I have arrived to the rest of the world’.

Mentor’s definition: ‘capital that you will raise when you don’t need it, not when you’re desperate for it’.

Profit: (Used to be an ugly word with all failed capitalists also known as communists!)

Dictionary definition: ‘monetary gain resulting from employment of capital in any transaction’.

Entrepreneur’s definition: ‘the difference between over invoicing and under booking of costs’.

Mentor’s definition: ‘the meeting point between your vision and execution’.

Mentor: (A new species which is troubling Darwin in his grave! )

Dictionary definition: ‘a person who is a ‘wise guide, adviser, preceptor’.

Entrepreneur’s definition: ‘not sure who he is or what he is supposed to do, but he is expected to wave his magic wand and make the negative effect of all my mistakes go away’.

Mentor’s definition: ‘a person who will neverclaim he knows it all, who is willing to share what he knows and learn what he doesn’t along with you, who will open doors for you, and if he has to choose between your good and the good of the organization, will choose the latter’.

I could go on and on but I’m stopping here, hoping I have made my point. The words I have chosen are those that define an entrepreneur’s existence, yet there seems to be such serious disconnect in perception. The more disconnect I see, the more I’m convinced that what India badly needs today is entrepreneurship education. Our colleges have to take it seriously to include it in the regular curriculum so that when we become entrepreneurs, not only do we have the right reason for becoming one but we also have the right wherewithal to become successful.

If you have more to add to this list or if you have any questions on entrepreneurship, please mail me on

Prof. NandiniVaidyanathan teaches entrepreneurship in several ivy-league business schools across the world. The company she founded, CARMa (<, mentors start-ups, family businesses and mature enterprises from across domains and geographies. She is also the author of the bestseller, ‘Entrepedia – A Step by Step Guide to Becoming an Entrepreneur in India.


Prof. Nandini Vaidyanathan

Founder & Mentor
Carma Venture Services Pvt. Ltd.

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