In the start-up world, the term “serial entrepreneur” is thrown around frequently. You’ve probably heard it, and you might even use it as part of your day-to-day vernacular. It’s accepted terminology in the business world, even utilized by leading publications like Forbes, to describe someone who has a great idea, develops a company based around it, and then hands it off post-launch to focus on their next business enterprise.
After considering the implications of this title, the question remains: Does the term “serial entrepreneur” accurately reflect our professionalism or does it undermine the painstaking process of turning our ideas into successful ventures?
We propose to change the archaic term, and by extension, change the perception of entrepreneurship. The term “serial” implies similar actions occurring in rapid-fire, often careless, succession. When we think “serial,” we think of serial daters and serial killers—the Hugh Hefners and Jeffrey Dahmers of the world. Such connotations do not help to paint a positive picture of the professions the term is attached to.
Moreover, “serial behavior” as it is used in the professional context is seen in careers across the board. Georgia O’Keefe produced painting after painting. Ansel Adams took photograph after photograph. Danny Meyer launched restaurant after restaurant. Adding serial to any of these professions—painter, photographer, restaurateur—would be superfluous and redundant. The same is true for an entrepreneur who starts business after business.
Shakespeare, a serial poet and playwright, wrote the famed words, “What’s in a name?” Well, in this case, A LOT, and semantics can be a double-edged sword.
Certain words carry negative connotations, despite best efforts at explaining the context behind their use, and often create polarizing associations. Paired with real careers and positive people, serial is still one of those words.
Entrepreneurs are leaders, visionaries and continuous creators. Entrepreneurs are professionals who make a career of starting multiple businesses, often learning the nuances of different industries quickly and expertly. Above all, entrepreneurs are professionals who earn the title after years of hard work, sleepless nights and dedication.
So, here’s a challenge for the entrepreneurial community: Ditch this underwhelming title, stop selling yourselves short and give credit where credit is due. When differentiating between a traditional entrepreneur and a “serial” entrepreneur, let’s ditch the S-word and start using the P-word instead: professional.