Motivations and Aspirations: Why Do People Start or Run a Business?

March, 22, 2020

Introduction and Some Changes

As noted earlier, there may be almost as many reasons for starting a business as there are people willing to start them. These can include striving to make a difference, seeking higher income and wealth, the desire for independence and autonomy, continuing a family tradition, or simply the lack of alternative job options. These reasons matter, and illustrate the overall socio-economic conditions in which individuals operate: for example, if there is a strong desire for independence or if jobs are seen as scarce. Similarly, the expectations and aspirations of those starting a business are important, including how many people they expect to employ, the anticipated scope of the customer base (e.g. the local area, rest of country, abroad), the proportion of revenue expected from international sales and, finally, the novelty of the business’s products or services, and the technology and processes it uses. All of these dimensions will be considered in this chapter.

Since its inception, GEM has distinguished between opportunity and necessity as primary motivations for entrepreneurial activity. However, there has been growing recognition that this dichotomy may not fully reflect the nuances in motivations for founding contemporary startups. Following extensive debate, review and piloting, some significant changes were incorporated into the 2019 GEM Adult Population Survey (APS) to allow a more nuanced approach. (Read more…).

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