What Makes a Wozniak: Entrepreneur Success Stories

Entrepreneurship seems like an elusive opportunity to many. Much of the success traditionally associated with this part of the business world is perceived as driven by luck, connections, or other arbitrary factors. But are there ways to increase your chances of entrepreneurial success?

Recent trends would indicate yes, with approximately half a million new businesses started in the United States each month. During 2015, the number of startups increased for the second consecutive year, reversing a downward trend in entrepreneurial activity that began in 2010. Since the end of the recession, the United States has experienced a surge of entrepreneurial ventures. For those looking to drive innovation in today’s business world, entrepreneurship presents numerous opportunities for financial and career success.

What Makes an Entrepreneur Successful?

As this Entrepreneur magazine article points out, there are specific attributes and traits that can help an entrepreneur, but they might not be the traditional strengths of business professionals. According to the article, “Scholars, business experts and venture capitalists say entrepreneurs can emerge at any stage of life and from any realm, and they come from all personality types and with any grade point average.” If that’s true, then what sets entrepreneurs apart?


Tenacity is key because starting a business requires such a significant commitment as well as the ability to overcome a wide range of obstacles, from funding to market fluctuations and more. It’s a fact of life that most entrepreneurs will experience repeated failures and setbacks before finding the idea that sets them up for success. The ability to stay determined and persistent is what sets successful entrepreneurs apart from the competition.


Flexibility is also important because there is an element of risk involved in every venture. Expert Michael Sherrod told Entrepreneur, “‘It all boils down to being able to successfully manage fear.’” Entrepreneurs must be able to look at a risky situation and know that they have some control over the outcome. The ability to adapt and be flexible allows entrepreneurs to stay agile in ever-changing markets with shifting consumer tastes.


Another shared trait among entrepreneurs is vision, or “the ability to spot an opportunity and imagine something where others haven’t.” Entrepreneur notes that to be successful, entrepreneurs should have an innate curiosity that “identifies overlooked niches and puts them at the forefront of innovation and emerging fields. They imagine another world and have the ability to communicate that vision effectively to investors, customers and staff.”


Self-confidence is important as well because entrepreneurs must have faith in their idea in order to be able to sell it effectively. As Entrepreneur points out, “Researchers define this trait as task-specific confidence. It’s a belief that turns the risk proposition around — you’ve conducted enough research and have enough confidence that you can get the job done that you ameliorate the risk.”

4 Characteristics of Successful Startups

Harnessing the above traits will help would-be entrepreneurs on the path to success, but to thrive in startup culture, your business needs to incorporate other key elements as well. As this article from The Guardian points out, as many as half of all startups don’t survive longer than five years, and many fail because they run out of money. However, there are myriad reasons why this can happen, from flawed management styles to a lack of crucial skill sets and more.

There are many theories and a lot of research that discuss why some startups succeed and others fail; including certain factors in your business plan can increase your chances of success.

The Right Team

One report found that businesses with multiple founders are more likely to be successful than those with just one. And as entrepreneur Paul Smith told The Guardian, “‘You can have the best idea in the world but unless you have a strong team, they will never execute it … However, if you have a great team then even if the idea isn’t fully formed, the team will hone in on it.”

The Right Idea

A wholly unique idea is no guarantee of success. In fact, many business experts say that originality isn’t what matters most. Instead, successful entrepreneurs are able to implement concepts better than the competition, even when the general idea is the same. Tech entrepreneur Hari Mann told The Guardian, “‘Great entrepreneurs are really good at implementing small changes to existing ideas.’”

The Right Business Model

Your business model is crucial. You have to address the market the right way, even if that way evolves over time, The Guardian says. It’s important to conduct extensive research to understand the time and resources it will take to achieve profitability and success.

The Right Timing

And then there’s the key element to every entrepreneurial venture: timing. Knowing when to have your company arrive on the market is critical. That’s why it’s vital for teams to be prepared, keenly aware of the competition, and ready to stake a claim on their corner of the market. And if it doesn’t respond well right away, having the resources to wait it out can make or break the venture.

Entrepreneur Success Stories

For many who are interested in entrepreneurship, studying the successes of those who came before them is helpful. The stories of giants like Steve Jobs and Bill Gates offer up-and-coming entrepreneurs both context and confidence that success will happen eventually.

Konosuke Matsushita, without formal education, became an apprentice at the Osaka Electric Light Company in 1917. When his boss wasn’t interested in his improvements on the light socket’s design, Entrepreneur says Matsushita began making samples in his basement. Battery-powered bicycle lamps, among other products, followed. He went on to found Matsushita Electric, now known as Panasonic. Panasonic is worth more than $66 billion, largely due to Matsushita’s perseverance in the face of rejection.

Oprah Winfrey started as a local TV news anchor and turned that job into a hugely successful media empire. When she started on a Baltimore talk show in 1976, she expressed vision by deciding that her show wouldn’t stoop to the same kinds of topics common in talk shows of the era. Although that decision was risky, it paid off. In 1986, she launched The Oprah Winfrey Show into national syndication, and it made $125 million by the end of its first year. Over the next couple of decades, she launched a book review brand, produced television shows, co-founded Oxygen Media, produced a Tony award-winning musical, and eventually launched her own television network in collaboration with Discovery Communications.

Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak gained real-world work experience developing games at Atari, but they went on to co-found one of the world’s most successful companies, along with fellow Atari employee and Apple co-founder, Ron Wayne. They used the skills they learned at Atari to create a success in Apple. Even when Jobs was fired from Apple in 1985, he continued innovating. He founded a new company called NeXT, which Apple eventually acquired. Jobs, of course, went on to lead Apple to increasing international acclaim.

Bill Gates is one of the wealthiest people in the world, but he failed and faltered along the way. He couldn’t sell his big data precursor, Traf-O-Data, because the product barely worked, according to Entrepreneur. Undeterred, Gates created the first Microsoft product just a few years later and, with it, one of the most powerful computer companies in the world.

The most important insight entrepreneurs can gather from the above success stories is that learning a valuable, marketable skill and working hard in spite of setbacks is “where the ideas, opportunities, partners, and finances always seem to come from,” according to Entrepreneur. Budding entrepreneurs’ ability to draw on and apply the personality traits, experiences, and startup essentials modeled by successful business owners will strongly support the likelihood of their venture’s success.

Getting an Entrepreneurial Head Start

With Rivier University’s online MBA programs, you can learn the skills you need to succeed in business. Develop innovation strategies and project management skills, learn to spot opportunities and find ways to execute on them in a flexible environment that works with your schedule.

Rivier University proudly boasts textbook-free MBA programs that save students about $1,500 in textbook costs. Find out about the benefits of open educational resources (OER).