(1853–1918), at the steering wheel of his Phoenix Double-Phaeton
, was a European entrepreneur who helped design the first modern car.
i/), is a
French. First used in 1723, today the term entrepreneur implies qualities of leadership, initiative, and innovation in new venture design. Economist
Robert Reich has called team-building, leadership, and management ability essential qualities for the entrepreneur.
 Historically the study of entrepreneurship reaches back to the work in the late 17th and early 18th centuries of
Richard Cantillon and
Adam Smith, which was foundational to
In the 20th century, entrepreneurship was studied by
Joseph Schumpeter in the 1930s and other
Austrian economists such as
Ludwig von Mises and
Friedrich von Hayek. The term "entrepreneurship" was coined around the 1920s, while the loan from French of the word entrepreneur dates to the 1850s. According to Schumpeter, an entrepreneur is willing and able to convert a new idea or
invention into a successful innovation.
 Entrepreneurship employs what Schumpeter called "the gale of
creative destruction" to replace in whole or in part inferior offerings across markets and industries, simultaneously creating new products and new
business models. Thus, creative destruction is largely responsible for long-term
economic growth. The idea that entrepreneurship leads to economic growth is an interpretation of the residual in
endogenous growth theory and as such continues to be debated in academic economics. An alternate description by
Israel Kirzner suggests that the majority of innovations may be incremental improvements such as the replacement of paper with plastic in the construction of a drinking straw that require no special qualities.
For Schumpeter, entrepreneurship resulted in new industries and in new combinations of currently existing inputs. Schumpeter's initial example of this was the combination of a steam engine and then current wagon making technologies to produce the horseless carriage. In this case the innovation, the car, was transformational, but did not require the development of dramatic new technology. It did not immediately replace the horse-drawn carriage, but in time, incremental improvements reduced the cost and improved the technology, leading to the modern auto industry. Despite Schumpeter's early 20th-century contributions, traditional
microeconomic theory did not formally consider the entrepreneur in its theoretical frameworks (instead assuming that resources would find each other through a price system). In this treatment, the entrepreneur was an implied but unspecified actor, consistent with the concept of the entrepreneur being the agent of
For Schumpeter, the entrepreneur did not bear risk: the capitalist did. Schumpeter believed that the equilibrium ideal was imperfect Schumpeter (1934) demonstrated that changing environment continuously provides new information about the optimum allocation of resources to enhance profitability some individuals acquire the new information before others, recombine the resources to gain an entrepreneurial profit. Schumpeter was of the opinion that entrepreneurs shift the
Production Possibility Curve to a higher level using innovations.
Initially, economists made the first attempt to study the entrepreneurship concept in depth
Richard Cantillon (1680-1734) considered the entrepreneur to be a risk taker who deliberately allocates resources to exploit opportunities in order to maximize the financial return.
 Cantillon emphasized the willingness of the entrepreneur to assume risk and to deal with uncertainty. Thus, he draws attention to the function of the entrepreneur, and distinguishes clearly between the function of the entrepreneur and the owner who provides the money.
 Alfred Marshall viewed the entrepreneur as a multi-tasking capitalist. He observed that in the equilibrium of a completely competitive market, there was no spot for "entrepreneurs" as an economic activity creator.
Dating back to the time of the medieval
guilds in Germany, a
craftsperson required special permission to operate as an entrepreneur was the small proof of competence (Kleiner Befähigungsnachweis), which restricted training of apprentices to craftspeople who held a
Meister certificate. This institution was introduced in 1908 after a period of so-called freedom of trade (Gewerbefreiheit, introduced in 1871) in the
German Reich. However, proof of competence was not required to start a business. In 1935 and in 1953, greater proof of competence was reintroduced (Großer Befähigungsnachweis Kuhlenbeck), which required craftspeople to obtain a
Meister apprentice-training certificate before being permitted to set up a new business.
In 2012, Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women's Issues
greets participants in an African Women's Entrepreneurship Program at the
in Washington, D.C.
In the 2000s, "entrepreneurship" has been extended from its origins in for-profit businesses to include
social entrepreneurship, in which business goals are sought alongside social, environmental or humanitarian goals, and even the concept of the
political entrepreneur. Entrepreneurship within an existing firm or large organization has been referred to as
intrapreneurship and may include corporate ventures where large entities "spin off" subsidiary organizations.
Entrepreneurs are leaders willing to take risk and exercise initiative, taking advantage of market opportunities by planning, organizing, and deploying resources, often by innovating to create new or improving existing products or services.
 In the 2000s, the term "entrepreneurship" has been extended to include a specific
mindset (see also
entrepreneurial mindset) resulting in entrepreneurial initiatives, e.g. in the form of
political entrepreneurship, or
According to Paul Reynolds, founder of the
Global Entrepreneurship Monitor, "by the time they reach their retirement years, half of all working men in the United States probably have a period of self-employment of one or more years; one in four may have engaged in self-employment for six or more years. Participating in a new business creation is a common activity among U.S. workers over the course of their careers."
 In recent years, entrepreneurship has been claimed as a major driver of
economic growth in both the United States and Western Europe.
Entrepreneurial activities differ substantially depending on the type of organization and creativity involved. Entrepreneurship ranges in scale from solo, part-time projects to large-scale undertakings that involve a team and which may create many jobs. Many "high value" entrepreneurial ventures seek
venture capital or
angel funding (
seed money) in order to raise
capital for building and expanding the business.
 Many organizations exist to support would-be entrepreneurs, including specialized government agencies,
business incubators (which may be for-profit, non-profit, or operated by a college or university),
science parks, and
Non-governmental organizations, which include a range of organizations including not-for-profits, charities, foundations and business advocacy groups (e.g.,
Chambers of Commerce). Beginning in 2008, an annual "
Global Entrepreneurship Week" event aimed at "exposing people to the benefits of entrepreneurship" and getting them to "participate in entrepreneurial-related activities" was launched.