It occurred to me that we usually refer to entrepreneurs associated with a startup as being “behind” the company or phenomenon. As in Mark Zuckerberg, the Harvard drop-out behind Facebook or so-and-so, the folks behind startup X. Upon further reflection it seems like this phraseology has things backwards… we ought to be talking about the teams in front of a new or important concept.
I mean this not simply as a paean for entrepreneurs. While the broader society’s esteem of entrepreneurs waxes and wanes, entrepreneurs have been getting plenty of love in recent years both from within and outside the startup ecosystem.
But the reality is new companies and new products don’t simply come into being themselves. As we all know too well a lot of time, energy, and creativity goes in first before any new innovation comes to market. All this work goes in before customers and the broader public ever sees anything. So to me thinking about founders and early employees being in front of a new product isn’t about stroking peoples’ egos, it simply makes more logical sense.
The other phrase we use is people X invented Y as in “Steve Jobs invented the smartphone”. But we usually reserve that terms for a select few, and in fact most entrepreneurs put their hard work not in coming up with an idea (most ideas are commodities) but in executing in the face of limited resources and a competitive marketplace. So most founders don’t really feel like “inventors”. And so we end up with so-and-so, the folks behind company X.
So I’ve resolved myself to think, speak, and write about teams in front of a product. Or at least “responsible for company X” rather than being “behind” it.