A common theme in this blog: Definitions are important.
A lot of entrepreneurs I meet conflate these two terms in my opinion. Entrepreneurs are not inventors of technology. Entrepreneurs are problem solvers and sometimes we use new technology to solve problems. But we don’t go out to make new technology for the sake of making new technology.
Inventors make new technology for the sake of making new technology. They often don’t think about how what they are creating can be used in the market place to make a profit.
I recently had dinner with a scientist working in a startup. He’s got millions of pounds of funding which is a dream for him because it means he can do what he loves all day – continue to work on his inventions and carry out studies. He’s a very happy man and is very content with the amount of money he is being paid.
I was blown away by what his small team of people are accomplishing. It’s basically a transdermal medication medium. This means that he’s very near to figuring out how to put a number of medications into a spray so that people don’t have to take oral medications or intravenous medications. This would be revolutionary. The number of drug errors that occur, the difficulty of getting intravenous access in the hospital setting, the amount of disease that is spread via needle sharing / using needles more than once in developing countries would all be solved.
Here’s the thing. He has backing from a bunch of entrepreneurs in America (I won’t name names, but two of them are well known billionaires) who have very little knowledge about the science behind what this team has actually created. These entrepreneurs are the people who are going to capture most of the value that is being created. The scientist may never get really rich.
This illustrates how the world works. Entrepreneurs are the ones who capture the value and get rich. Inventors generally don’t tend to get rich and get used to make other people rich.
History is littered with inventors who didn’t get rich even though they may have contributed a lot to society.
Einstein hardly captured any of the value he created. He was upper middle class at best.
Tesla died poor.
Thomas Edison was poor.
The list of successful inventors who died poor is endless.
This is why conflating the two terms is so dangerous. Inventing something new isn’t where the value is. Using inventions to solve problems in the market place is where the value is.
I think that this conflation of terms is one of the main reasons why inventors and technical people get confused and don’t end up rich. They think that just because they can create an app or make an invention that they’ll somehow get rich. This isn’t how the world works.