The Two Sides of Entrepreneurship

Welcome to the world of entrepreneurship. Since you’re here, I’m guessing you’re thinking of starting your own business. If that’s the case, I truly commend you for doing some research on this subject, because understanding the basic principles of entrepreneurship is the first step down the road of setting up your own business properly for success. 

So let’s cut to the chase and look at the two main types of entrepreneurship: SME (Small and Medium Enterprise) and Innovation-Driven Enterprise. 

These two types may seem similar at first, but they are fundamentally different in their approach, growth potential, and impact on the economy.


This blog post delves into the differences between SME entrepreneurship and innovation-driven enterprise entrepreneurship. SMEs focus on local markets, exhibit linear growth, and require limited cash flow, making them crucial to local economies. On the other hand, innovation-driven enterprises target global markets, experience exponential growth, and necessitate external funding, resulting in higher risks but potentially greater rewards. Understanding these distinctions can help aspiring entrepreneurs choose the right path for their business ventures.

SME Entrepreneurship: The Backbone of the Local Economy 

SMEs are small businesses that cater to local markets, often providing services to meet specific community needs. These businesses might be your friendly neighborhood dry cleaner, nail salon, or pizza joint. 

While these types of businesses are crucial to the local economy, and provide essential services, they’re not looking to expand globally or create significant innovations.

Let’s look at some aspects of businesses that are classified as SMEs.

The Importance of SMEs in the Local Economy

SMEs play a critical role in the local economy, as they create jobs, contribute to the local tax base, and serve the needs of the community. They also contribute to the diversity and vibrancy of neighborhoods, offering unique products and services that help to create a sense of place and identity. 

The small and medium sized businesses act as a support network between themselves, within the local business landscape, fostering connections and collaborations that can lead to further economic development.

Adapting to the Local Market and Community Needs

One of the key factors that contribute to the success of SMEs is their ability to adapt to the local market and community needs. 

This often involves recognizing and filling need gaps within the local market, offering personalized customer service, and building strong relationships with the locals and other businesses in the community. 

SME entrepreneurs are often deeply ingrained in their communities and have a keen understanding of local preferences, which allows them to create a tailored product or service offering that resonates with their target audience.

Challenges Faced by SME Entrepreneurs

Despite their importance in the local economy, SME entrepreneurs often face a range of challenges, including limited resources, increased competition, and the need to navigate complex regulations. 

These challenges can make it difficult for SMEs to compete with larger companies that, very often, have significantly bigger financial and human resource pools at their disposal.

To top it off, many SMEs may struggle to access funding or credit, since banks and other financial institutions often perceive them as higher-risk investments due to their smaller size and lack of collateral.

The Role of Local Government and Support Organizations

To help overcome these challenges, local governments and support organizations play a vital role in providing assistance to SME entrepreneurs. 

Governments and other local institutions help by offering training and mentoring programs, providing access to funding and credit, tax incentives, and creating a favorable regulatory environment that encourages SME growth. 

By supporting SMEs, local governments can help create a thriving business ecosystem that benefits the entire community.

Limited Business Growth and Cash Flow 

SMEs typically exhibit linear growth, as opposed to the exponential growth that some global companies see. This is because as SMEs reach the limits of their local market, their growth slows down or stagnates. 

These limits can be attributed to several factors, including increased competition, market saturation, and changing consumer preferences. 

So, SME entrepreneurs must constantly adapt and innovate their offering to maintain their competitive edge and keep their businesses relevant in the face of these challenges.

Another issue that SMEs face is their modest cash flow. SME entrepreneurs usually maintain control of their businesses, and external funding is rarely required. This can be both an advantage and a disadvantage for them. 

On the one hand, maintaining full control of the business allows the entrepreneur to make decisions without external pressures and aligns the business’s direction with their personal values and vision. On the other hand, the lack of external funding may limit the business’s ability to invest in new equipment, marketing, or other growth initiatives.

As you can see, while the SME entrepreneur is a vital part of the local economy, they often face challenges that can quickly bring their businesses to an end. By understanding the dynamics of SME entrepreneurship, as a business owner, you can better navigate the challenges and opportunities that come with operating a small, locally focused business.

Innovation-Driven Enterprise Entrepreneurship: The Game Changers 

In contrast to SMEs, innovation-driven enterprises are businesses that develop unique products or services with the potential to reach global markets. 

The concept of innovation-driven strategy was originally proposed by the economist Michael Porter.

These ventures are much riskier, but they can grow exponentially if they succeed, often disrupting established industries and creating entirely new markets.

Characteristics of Innovation-Driven Enterprises

Innovation-driven enterprises (IDEs) share several key characteristics that set them apart from SMEs. 

Some of these characteristics include:

A focus on innovation: These businesses are built around a unique product or service offering, often leveraging cutting-edge technology or novel business models to create value for customers.

Scalability: Innovation-driven enterprises are designed to grow rapidly and efficiently, often with the potential to reach global markets. This scalability is a critical factor in their ability to achieve exponential growth.

High-growth potential: Due to their innovative offerings and scalability, innovation-driven enterprises have the potential to achieve rapid growth very quickly, and generate significant returns for their investors.

Higher risk: Innovation-driven enterprises often face a higher level of risk compared to SMEs, as they navigate the challenges of bringing a new product or service to market and scaling their operations.

Exponential Growth and External Funding 

Innovation-driven enterprises often experience an initial period of negative cash flow, until they get their product into the market. This is then followed by exponential growth. Assuming they are successful. 

This growth trajectory is a result of their ability to scale rapidly and tap into large, global markets, however, achieving this growth often requires significant investments in product development, research, marketing, and infrastructure.

To fuel this growth, IDEs typically need external funding from investors and shareholders. This funding may come in various forms, including angel investment, venture capital, and crowdfunding. 

The influx of external capital enables these businesses to invest in their growth and overcome the initial period of negative cash flow.

Managing Multiple Stakeholders and Scaling Challenges

Since they rely almost completely on external funding, innovation-driven entrepreneurs must manage multiple stakeholders, including investors, employees, customers, and suppliers. This can be a complex and challenging task because each group of stakeholders usually have different expectations and priorities.

In addition to setting up a strategy for managing multiple stakeholders, innovation-driven entrepreneurs must navigate the challenges of scaling a business rapidly. Some of these challenges include:

Hiring and retaining top talent: As the business grows, entrepreneurs must attract and retain skilled employees to support their growth ambitions. Employer branding becomes a crucial aspect for IDEs.

Developing and refining processes: Rapid growth often requires businesses to develop and refine their processes to maintain efficiency and effectiveness. Their operational costs are scrutinized by investors, and they must show that they are not squandering their money.

Maintaining a strong company culture: With rapid growth and an expanding workforce, entrepreneurs must work to maintain a strong company culture and ensure that their employees remain aligned with the company’s mission and values.

Expanding into new markets: Innovation-driven enterprises often need to expand into new markets, which can involve navigating regulatory hurdles, adapting to different customer preferences and cultures, and managing supply chain complexities.

Embracing Failure and Learning from Experience

Given the higher risk associated with innovation-driven enterprises, entrepreneurs in this space must be prepared to embrace failure and learn from their experiences. 

Failure is often an inevitable part of the innovation process, and successful entrepreneurs are those who can adapt, iterate, and learn from their mistakes so as not to repeat them going forward.

As can be seen, innovation-driven entrepreneurship represents a more ambitious and high-risk path compared to SME entrepreneurship. On the upside, with the potential for exponential growth and global impact, these game-changing businesses can create significant value for themselves, their stakeholders, and society as a whole. 

To further illustrate the differences between SME and innovation-driven entrepreneurship, let’s use a sports analogy, taking Michael Jordan, as an example. 

Both basketball and baseball involve running and jumping, but the skills and strategies required for each are distinct. The legendary basketball player, Michael Jordan, arguably the greatest basketball star of all-time, had tried to change sports and go into baseball. He struggled considerably as a baseball player, and never really made the cut, because his training and experience were tailored to basketball and not baseball.

Similarly, the training and mindset required for SME entrepreneurship are not necessarily transferrable to innovation-driven enterprises. While there may be some crossover, it’s crucial to recognize and prepare for the unique challenges that each type of entrepreneurship presents.

Conclusion: Choose Your Entrepreneurial Path Wisely

As you embark on your entrepreneurial journey, consider the type of business you want to create and the impact you hope to make. Are you looking to serve your local community with essential services? Or do you have a groundbreaking innovation that could change the world? 

By understanding the differences between SME and innovation-driven entrepreneurship, you can choose the right path for your entrepreneurial journey, and set yourself up for a greater chance of success.

Understanding Innovation and Its Role in Entrepreneurship

In the next blog post, we will explore the concept of invention vs innovation and how it distinguishes innovation-driven enterprises from SMEs. This understanding is vital for aspiring entrepreneurs who want to create a business with the potential for exponential growth and global impact.

Alternatively, you can go to the first post in the series titled, The Two Sides of Entrepreneurship.


I am a branding and naming consultant with 16 years of experience. I believe in building a strong brand name that identifies your visions and that of your business. A brand identity motivates you and your team to achieve success.

Leave a Comment