On Recreational Entrepreneurship

From So you want to launch a business…., the blog for entrepreneurs, by Jim Flowers, executive director of VT KnowledgeWorks. A version of this post first appeared as A new option – recreational entrepreneurship.

They are everywhere – in dorm rooms, coffee houses, family rooms, basements, and even corporate cubicles. They enjoy regular meals and have a pleasant place to sleep, courtesy of a paying job or loving parents. But they read TechCrunch and dream of financial independence. Have laptop, can code.

They are the recreational entrepreneurs, and they are all participating in the web/mobile app lottery.

Recreational? Lottery?

Let's examine this phenomenon more closely. The cost of entry is low. The range of payoff is broad, from nothing to millions. Hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions, of people are playing. That really does sound like a lottery, doesn't it? And most of the players are not being paid for the time they spend camped in front of the computers with which they have a passionate relationship.That sounds like recreation.

Hobby farmers have no delusions about making any money, except perhaps on the appreciation of their land. It's a way to re-connect with the earth. Beach-combers with metal detectors don't really expect to turn up any pirate treasures. It's a pleasant way to stay "in the moment." But part-time app developers tend to harbor the strong belief that their brain-child will be the next multi-million dollar acquisition announced by Google. They are inventing something of presumed value, in anticipation of a significant financial payoff. In that sense, they are definitely behaving in an entrepreneurial manner.

Before the 21st century and the internet, the closest thing we had to this form of behavior was exhibited by writers, poets, and graphic artists, all passionate, most toiling at some other profession in order to eat regularly while they waited to be discovered and published. But even when they did "make it," the payoff was relatively modest by comparison to those we see today. The "reach" was simply insufficient to generate millions of dollars in value; and they all knew it. They were working for their own satisfaction, not with dreams of financial independence.

My, how times have changed.


VT KnowledgeWorks encourages and enables creative entrepreneurship world-wide, through innovative curriculum, local business resource centers, and a global network of cooperating regions, all focused on three essential contributors to success: clear understanding of fundamental business principles; access to timely, relevant information; and meaningful personal and corporate relationships. It is a self-sustaining not-for-profit subsidiary of the Virginia Tech Foundation, funded through the continuing confidence and enthusiasm of its clients, sponsors and friends, both corporate and individual. Its world headquarters is in the Virginia Tech Corporate Research Center in Blacksburg, Virginia, USA.

VT KnowledgeWorks sponsors include Attaain, Inc., BB&T, The Branch Group, Handshake 2.0, Harris Office Furniture, Hodges, Jones & Mabry, P.C., Hutchison Law Group, LeClairRyan, New River Valley Intellectual Property Law, Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC) and The Becher Agency (TBA).

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