Two Types of Entrepreneurs: Risk Takers vs. Small Bettors

By Spicer Matthews

Risk Taking Over the course of my career I have had the good fortune of working with many innovative business partners. Regrettably, some partnerships ended poorly because my temper got the best of me. For years I was convinced that I did not get along well with others. But recently, upon deeper reflection, I concluded that something else was to blame because I have many great business relationships that have endured the test of time. So what sets me off? What makes a partnership toxic for me? In a nutshell: risk takers. I do not like taking risks. It’s not my style, and I can’t relate to it.

A scan of the entrepreneurial landscape suggests two fundamental types: risk takers and small bettors. Apple (under Steve Jobs), for example, took large risks—betting the company many times over. In contrast, Twitter has few big bets in its history (heck, it started as a side project), growing instead through iteration—one small bet at a time. Because both forms of entrepreneurship can lead to success, the question of which is better is settled by your tolerance for risk. I prefer to make a small bet, analyze the results, and build on that effort because it is the more risk-averse approach to growing a company.

When forming a business partnership make sure your entrepreneurial styles align. Compatibility with respect to risk can help you avoid painful and costly conflict down the road. Maybe take a trip to Vegas together: if your partner is sitting at the blackjack table the entire time while you sip fancy drinks by the pool, maybe you're not a good match.