Entrepreneurship Is In Your Blood

And your bones, your skin, your organs…

Scott A. Shane, professor of entrepreneurial studies at Case Western, says that it’s possible that successful entrepreneurs have different DNA. They’re currently conducting a genome study to pinpoint what specific genes, if any, contribute to entrepreneurship, but other studies have already hinted at the connection.

He writes in the NYT’s You’re The Boss blog:

The tendency to be an entrepreneur is heritable. (Heritability is the proportion of difference between individuals explained by genetic factors.) We found these heritabilities were substantive regardless of what indications of entrepreneurship we measured: owning or operating a business, the number of businesses owned and operated, starting a business, the number of businesses started, having engaged in a start-up effort, the number of start-up efforts, being self-employed, or the number of years spent self-employed. The heritabilities can be seen in analysis of multiple databases and can be seen in the research of other scholars as well as our own.

In addition, the tendency to identify new business opportunities is heritable, self-employment is heritable (meaning that genetics affects not just the tendency to want to be an entrepreneur but the ability to succeed at at) and certain personality traits (extraversion, openness, etc) seem to be genetically related to entrepreneurship. This could mean that the “entrepreneurship gene” is really just a “certain type of personality gene” which sounds like common sense, really.

On the other hand, personality is just the foundation—you can’t become a world-class pianist just by being born with long fingers. You need practice, and stubby-fingered folk can become great pianists even at a physical/genetic disadvantage.