Entrepreneurs Are Artists

I wrote about entrepreneurs as artists in a previous post.

The FounderLy team interviewed me and got me to give a better explanation of what I was trying to say in this 2 minute video clip.

If you can’t see the video click here.

26 Responses

  1. Your ‘previous post’ link goes to your blog’s admin console: http://steveblank.wordpress.com/wp-admin/post.php?post=8464&action=edit

    Probably not what you intended 🙂


  2. well said steve…i think there are so many articles about how to do startups, when most of it can’t really be taught.

  3. well said steve. so many articles on “how to do startups”, yet I never feel that the guys who achieved great things really ever would have needed that info!

  4. Steve, first of all that video had a very cool design with the edge of the table surface, the black background, etc.

    Now to a few quick quotes that pertain….

    The most famous one, from Andy Warhol: “Being good in business is the most fascinating kind of art. Making money is art and working is art and good business is the best art.”

    Recently for my day job (public company investing) I was reading the 2010 Swatch Group annual report. The document is largely a tribute to the company’s founder Nicolas G. Hayek, who died in June 2010. He was quoted therein: “Entrepreneurs are first and foremost imaginative and innovative artists.”

    Now to the modest criticism if I may be so bold. Beethoven, Van Gogh and the rest may be among the greatest artists. But the parallel you are making to individuals who have a vision and then are able to rally talented others around realize that vision is an even rarer thing in any discipline and painting on its own doesn’t demonstrate that.

    A parallel I would offer is the founders of Intel and, in the realm of music, Jerry Garcia or Bill Monroe. These two musicians unarguably created whole new *genres* of music. That is the mark of world-changing lasting influence that goes beyond mere individual artistry no matter how inspired. In the same way, the Intel guys built a lasting company (with some gravity defying pivots along the way) but they also shaped the business culture in their industry.

    Great entrpreneurialism is a form of art, but not all great artistry is entrepreneurial.

    To (I think) coin a phrase, there’s no ‘I’ in entrepreneur.

    All the best,
    Ben Tanen

  5. Well put Steve. We do not know how t teach vision. I once heard an interview with Itzak Pearlman about the students he teaches. They are among the very best. Some of them are technically perfect but onny the rare student feels the intent of the composer and adding her own vision creates a new piece of art in her performance.

    It is both, of course. Without the knowledge base (as in Four Steps) the vision of entrepreneurial creation has no order. Without a fundamental dissatisfaction and the spark of creativity the structure remains empty.

    I do think it can be taught. We have an opportunity to inspire those around
    us to grab some marble or paint or paper and lead with their hearts.


  6. Great article. Nice to know that the madness and creativity can be put to good use 🙂

  7. Paul Graham wrote a book of essays several years ago called Hackers and Painters which drew similar analogies.

  8. Great video! It’s amazing to have so many great resources and inspiration. If only my own ideas could come to fruition, but I have yet to find the one bridge, and I appreciate any comments on it.. Going from a great idea, to funding, where I can’t afford to quit my current job or save any money to jump on my ideas.

  9. Very interesting post + video, and music to my ears, thank you. I am particularly interested in the nexus between arts and technology innovation. I’d made a similar analogy in my blog last year, comparing visionary tech entrepreneurs and luminary artists.

    I have a dual background/degrees in arts (incl. classical music) and technology, and would be happy to discuss further. I love your metaphor, but think your composer comparison would benefit from additional insights/exploration to be fully convincing.

    A great book you may like: “The Rest is Noise, Listening to 20th Century [Music]”. It offers great perspective and insights on luminary contemporary composers.

  10. […] sharing this video from Steve Blank. It’s good stuff. In product management we have to live in the space between […]

  11. I think what you are getting at in both these posts is that creating something new will always require creating something new. Creating a methodology for start up management is certainly a huge bit of progress, but it simply means that entrepreneurs can now redirect the efforts they would have dedicated to management innovation towards other sorts of innovation.

    There is no endgame. There is no point at which the puzzle will be fully solved because at such a point the entrepreneur will simply set his sights on a larger puzzle.

  12. Thank you for an enlightening post and video. Being a late bloomer, I particularly like this quote…

    Dream lofty dreams, and as you dream, so shall you become. Your Vision is the promise of what you shall one day be. Your Ideal is the prophecy of what you shall at last unveil.
    — James Allen

  13. […] Entrepreneurs Are Artists (steveblank.com) […]

  14. I’ve been developing an Entrepreneur Development Program for the past two years which is based on the premise that if we can find and attract the people who can see the sculpture within the block of stone, that we can help them tap into their natural abilities to unlock it, and help them find the block that inspires them – the canvas waiting for their Mona Lisa.

    Along the way I’ve worked with artists and performers. Two things I see in the “artists”, which now forms a large part of the selection criteria for the program…

    1. It’s a “calling” for them? – not just something they do. It’s who they are! They’d even pay for the privilege of doing it if they had to,

    2. By and large, they have a promethean temperament. If you’re aware of Myers Briggs, it’s the combination of N and T – intuitive thinkers. They see a big picture very clearly, and they just “know” that’s how it’s supposed to be – they can rarely explain how they came up with their vision – it just came to them. Also, they have a natural ability to see and think through the steps to execute the vision.

    These promethean types are most likely to be the “artists” – but not all prometheans are the artists, and not all the artists are prometheans – but there’s a huge correlation.

    Check out the Gene Landrum stuff if you’re interested such as “profiles of creative genius”.


  15. Steve, your argument is much like Paul Graham’s argument from his book Hackers and Painters. While I find the idea of VCs and Silicon Valley comparing entrepreneurs to artists interesting, I find the choice of examples that both you and Graham pick intriguing: all of the examples represent an old-fashioned, romanticized idea of what an artist is and does.

  16. A year a go I participated in the Alexander Osterwalder master class in Stockholm and was dumfounded that he said that customer development in cooperation with his “static” canvas was new. I had by than, myself been playing with them for over 3years, since I found your earlier stuff a little “unclear”, and for his canvas to be valid it needed to be dynamic; so they complemented each other. As long as we have the concept of time we have a dynamic world and need dynamic models. And as an earlier athlete I know that I can never learn something only by my trainer telling me what to do, I need to practice again and again, and no matter how much I train and learn it is in the competition I excel. I like to make that resemblance to getting out of the classroom and the fact that we are artists not engineers. So what I just realized was that I think the class really disappointed me because I recognized him to be an engineer and not an artist.

    Thank you Steve and that’s why structure tools and methods are best for entrepreneurs ie what you, Eric, Dave has done so that’s why I also designed some process tools that soon will be found at valuehub.org


  17. This is a really good insight. I think the hard part is to not get lost in your visions. There needs to be a fine balance between pragmatism and pure chaotic creativity. I think that attaining that balance is what makes an efficient composer.

  18. Hi Friends, Aaron 32: I was recently led to Steve’s blog and life’s work 2 days ago from a new friend Bill Svoboda here in MN who is writing a book about startups. A parable comes to mind in this overall thread. “Young men have dreams and visions and old men will dream of the past.” If I got that right. I personally am a ENFT, I get visions of business ideas, products and plans. A blessing and curse knowing there are so many flowing ideas to pick from and knowing someone in the same strain of consciousness may be beating me in the race or loosing their focus like mo do to such a process. I have seen a few of my inventions in stores years after a few wisdom nuggets what have you. I reckon as a working artist, our innovations are forms of conceptual wisdom handed down from above. I thank Steve for the knowledge he has granted and I’ve been longing for this knowlge. I am commited to someday see the fruits of Steves labor as well as my blocks of marble appear. I think to be inspired is a sacred vibratory condition when one is in alignment with the creator himself. When I am living right and also free from emotional stress daily, the magic appears inside. Anywho, thought I post here and ask if anyone is looking to partner up and form a trusting cohort here in MN, or s stufy group to excel my ideas in many different industries. I am in the twin cites suburbs. Thanks steve and I am so greatful to be here!!! I finally feel validated as a an artist here fighting the stigma of “the starving artist”. We need to stick together and empower each other by great leaders like Steve~ Keep me in the loop~ Tafoya

  19. Nice video! I wrote a little bit on the intersections of art, politics, and culture in my post here — I’m currently doing a Ph.D and am interested in writing about the intersections of the three.


    In short, the act of improvisation is probably the best way to describe what happens in the minds of artists/entrepreneurs when they go through their creative process.

    Of course, there’s still much debate among the community as to whether this can be “taught”, but university programs seem to be interested in creating more programs in this area nonetheless. At the very least, though, I think it’s providing an educational path for people who might already be inclined to go that route. It kind of sucks to see people drop out because they don’t feel like they “fit in”.


  20. For me, the greatest correlation between creator and entrepreneur is the fact that once a foundation of core skills have been established, both are discovering new territory. Accepted disciplines limit (positively) the progression of new skills, perspectives and heuristics. New enterprises and new works require stepping out into space and defining new skills, and combinations of skills, to bring something new into the world. Once that new space has been revealed, performers will flock into it (in all disciplines) in order to learn and advance the collective craft.

  21. […] Back in 2008 I was part of the Austin Bootstrap Panel for SXSW and was compelled to write a blog about bootstrapping entrepreneurs as artists.. Steve Blank has a good explanation of this perspective in a video here. […]

  22. […] some small segment of founders are truly artists – they see something no one else does. These entrepreneurs are the ones who want to change […]

  23. […] some small segment of founders are truly artists – they see something no one else does. These entrepreneurs are the ones who want to change […]

  24. […] some small segment of founders are truly artists—they see something no one else does. These entrepreneurs are the ones who want to change “what […]

  25. […] some small segment of founders are truly artists – they see something no one else does. These entrepreneurs are the ones who want to change […]

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