Artists and open source developers as entrepreneurs

No, not as in “artists need to think of themselves as businesses” or “open source business models” but as in entrepreneurs sharing the motivations of artists and open source contributors.

Entrepreneurship as a non-profit-seeking activity (PDF). The average could make substantially more money as an employee and obtain substantially better returns investing in the market rather than in the entrepreneur’s enterprise. Low risk aversion and over-optimism do not explain low financial returns to . However, the majority of “breakthrough” innovations are made by entrepreneurs rather than big firms. So why start a business?

The studies discussed give a direct indication of the non-monetary benefits associated with entrepreneurship. Being an entrepreneur seems to be attractive, not because it leads to a high income or wealth, but rather because it provides non-pecuniary satisfaction from being one’s own boss, from broad possibilities to use one’s skills and abilities, and from a resulting richer work content. Although no direct evidence has been presented, it can be hypothesized that similar aspects are responsible for Åstebro’s (2003) finding that entrepreneurs’ are willing to engage in innovative activities despite of poor expected financial returns. Amabile (1983, 1997), for example, argues that people often undertake creative endeavors simply because they like to engage in interesting, exciting and personally challenging activities.


Entrepreneurship is a crucial function in market economies. It is therefore important to understand what motivates people to engage in it. In this paper, it has been argued that traditional economic views on why individuals undertake entrepreneurial activities are incomplete. Entrepreneurship is not only and not even mainly a quest for profit. Rather, it is more accurately characterized as a non-profit-seeking activity. Contrary to the belief that people engage in entrepreneurship in order to make profits, a considerably body of empirical research shows that entrepreneurship is not particularly attractive in monetary terms. Being an entrepreneur emerges to be rewarding because it provides individuals with non-monetary satisfaction from aspects like higher autonomy, greater possibilities to use their skills and abilities, and the chance to be creative in pursuing their own ideas. It has been illustrated how these non-monetary benefits can be incorporated into economic theories of entrepreneurship. Further efforts along these lines seem instrumental in arriving at an improved understanding of entrepreneurship.

None of this surprises me, though I was completely ignorant of these studies. I suspect “artist” or “open source developer” would work in place of “entrepreneur” throughout most of the paper.

Via Will Wilkinson.

One Response

  1. […] Finding an answer, however proved to be more challenging! Mike Linksvayer points us to a very relevant set of studies on Entrepreneur Motivations. From the first study (Viralli 1991) of Italian Entrepreneurs, we learn that: Among multiple reasons that people can choose from, “aspiration to a higher income” is mentioned by less than half of the entrepreneurs as a motivation for engaging in entrepreneurship (47.1%). In contrast, non-pecuniary factors are considered to be much more important. […]

Leave a Reply