Pixar and Google made me an ‘intrapreneur’ — here’s what I learned


An entrepreneur is defined as “An individual who starts a new business, bearing most of the risk and receiving most of the rewards… an innovator, a source of new ideas.” In comparison, an intrapreneur is a leader who promotes innovative product development and marketing in the area of ​​a large corporation.

Both terms portray a person willing to take risks to promote the development of breakthrough products. Their motivations vary, but both typically have in-depth knowledge in emerging areas and a passion for their vision for the future. Our culture revere these visionaries, and for good reason.

Think a venture capitalist’s intuitive understanding of recombinant DNA technology pushed him to found Genentech. Although less conspicuous, intrapreneurs are also making waves, as we have seen with Paul Buchheit starting Gmail at Google via his famous project 20%.

Intrapreneurs are somewhat less in the spotlight in the press, and for this reason advice and best practices for those taking this route are limited. Here are five lessons from my career, spent working inside many of the world’s most innovative technology companies.

1. Choose your own adventure

Whether you start or join a business depends in large part on your belief in the vision of the founders versus your willingness to defend your own. Both choices have pros and cons, but they’re not for the faint of heart either.

Recognize your own insights and explore synergies with people already in the field. Did anyone come up with a compelling vision? Have these organizations received promising funding or are they on track to get there?

If someone else’s idea is gaining momentum and their vision is aligned with yours, intrapreneurship may be the solution. People underestimate the power of teams – whether you are a founder or not doesn’t matter if the journey is empowered for everyone.

Early in my career, I had a vision that computer animation would be the way movies would be made in the future. I was fortunate to find a thriving organization of people who shared this vision at Pixar. I joined the company when the team was only 50 people and I was able to keep up with its momentum.

Credit: Disney