I know, I know: That headline violates my own gripe about bastardizing the word “entrepreneur,” but maybe it makes the point that the word itself has got to go. No one really loves the term to start with, outside of the publishing company that owns the “Entrepreneur” trademark and occasionally sues those who cross some invisible barrier to trespass on its intellectual property.
I say, let’s avoid that particular property, but right next door let’s build a public park so open and welcoming and useful that no one would see any point in straying beyond the gates of Entrepreneurland.
Tim Berry, one of my all-time favorite business bloggers, says he’s ready to “make a movement” out of this. If he’s onboard, I think we’re off to a great start. The only problem is, before we can have a movement, we have to decide exactly where we want to go. There’s bound to be some debate on this, but here is what I would hope to accomplish:
First, if we’re going to choose a term to replace “entrepreneur,” it probably needs to be a real word — something already in the dictionary and firmly in the public domain so that it can’t be fenced off by linguistic squatters in search of a quick buck.
Next, as long as we’re replacing a long, awkward term, it follows that the new word should be easy to spell and relatively short, befitting the limitations of Twitter and the frustrations of a virtual keyboard.
Finally, I would argue for a term that’s as broad and inclusive as possible. Language adoption relies on usage, and you don’t gain users by excluding people. The best term is one that encompasses all the different varieties of those we currently call “entrepreneurs” — founders and buyers, tinkerers and turnaround artists, profit seekers and social visionaries.
With all those criteria in mind, I wonder if “venturer” might be the term we’re looking for. According to the Random House Dictionary, “venture” is defined as:
- (n) an undertaking involving uncertainty as to the outcome, especially a risky or dangerous one
- (v) to take a risk; dare; presume
- (adj) of or pertaining to an investment or investments in new businesses
“Venturer” isn’t a made-up word; it’s listed in the dictionary, with roots that trace back to 15th century Middle English. Given that history, I can’t imagine that any court would uphold a trademark claim.
What do you think? Does “venturer” capture the essence of what we’re all about? Is it the kind of term that we can embrace and standardize as an open-source alternative to “entrepreneur”?
If you like the word “venturer,” then here are two simple steps you can take to help speed its adoption:
- In the comment section below, show your support with three little words: “I’m a venturer”
- Any time you’re tweeting about a small-business topic, use the hashtag #venturer. When it becomes a trending topic, others will start to take notice, and we’ll have an honest-to-goodness linguistic movement underway.
And if you don’t like the term “venturer”? That’s fine too, but please feel free to suggest an alternative. As long as we can come up with something — anything — that’s better than “entrepreneur,” I promise to get behind the movement.
Photo by flickr user KTDEE