10% Entrepreneurship Around the Globe

How are entrepreneurs around the world chasing their dreams without losing a steady paycheck? We recently chatted with OnFrontiers expert Patrick McGinnis about his concept of the 10% Entrepreneur and cross-cultural entrepreneurship. A venture capitalist and private equity investor, Patrick is the Founder of Dirigo Advisors and author of The 10% Entrepreneur: Live Your Startup Dream Without Quitting Your Day Job. The book explains how you can become an entrepreneur by investing just 10% of your time and resources while maintaining the stability of a traditional career. It includes interviews with entrepreneurs across four continents and is being translated into many languages.

What differences have you observed in the concept of a 10% Entrepreneur across different cultures?

The general idea of the book is that people should be doing things on the side, not just relying on their day jobs but doing other things to make extra money, diversify their earnings, learn new skills, and create value over the course of their lives. This idea is very intuitive to people in emerging markets.

From Kenya to Argentina to China, people are very entrepreneurial and creative about how to make money. They’ve grown up in economies that are far less structured than in the United States and so they often have a predisposition to do things on the side. The 10% concept gets people to think beyond just freelancing to how they can create ownership over something in the long run, an idea which people are realizing the value of all over the world.

People in emerging markets are also very comfortable doing less with more. They are creative and resilient, especially if they’ve grown up in a country with economic volatility or political issues. They’ve learned how to be scrappy and to do things differently, and this can be very powerful in the context of the 10% Entrepreneur model.

Are there certain industries that lend themselves well to the 10% concept here in the United States vs. in emerging markets?

The cheap and ubiquitous technology all around us has actually made the 10% concept possible in most industries all over the world. You can get a website up and promote something on social media for practically nothing.

On a recent trip to Nairobi, I learned from my driver that he and his 15 siblings had bought a plot of land together and used the proceeds to open a hardware store. So he has a steady day job as a driver in the city, and on the side, he has a long-term, revenue-generating project that is facilitated by text and email exchanges among his siblings.

In places like Argentina, it’s common for people to do graphic design or programming work for customers in the United States. These activities might start out as freelancing but often lead to ownership of something.

If someone wants to give the 10% concept a try by investing in emerging markets, how would you recommend they get started?

I have three general rules to start:

  1. Pick an industry where you really understand how the business works.
  2. Get involved with people you know and trust.
  3. Invest in something where you personally can add value with an insight or a functional expertise. The point is to take a role and add value rather than just buying a stock by remote control.

So you need to figure out an industry that you are passionate about and where you know people. The world is so small now, it isn’t hard to find connections in most fields once you start looking into your personal network and leveraging technology. Maybe in the beginning, you help for free for a bit, and then you start asking how you can be more involved. Also, don’t forget that there are several ways to make investments – it can be done with cash, with time, or a combination of the two.

What are a few common mistakes that people make when trying to get into being a 10% Entrepreneur?

I see several mistakes crop up again and again. First, people are so anxious to get involved, sometimes they jump into the first opportunity they see. Instead, you should be rigorous in your planning process and make sure to do your due diligence before getting involved. Others fail to get things written down on paper and to have a proper contract. We all know how important it is to have a written record, especially in the context of emerging markets. And finally, some people actually overestimate how much time an entrepreneurial project will take. You have to remember that you can customize this to your life. If you set it up properly, you can make it work within your other life commitments.

What’s the most surprising thing someone has done as a 10% Entrepreneur?

 The coolest one I’ve heard is a guy who was a consultant at Bain and Company and also an emergency room doctor on the side. He became interested in forensic medicine and decided to tap into his passion for human rights by conducting mass-grave investigations in Africa. After experiencing several life-threatening situations, he went on to develop expertise in self-defense and security issues. Combining all of these skills and interests, he ultimately started a firm that specializes in high-risk security, counterterrorism consulting, and forensic investigations.


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Featured image was taken by Alley NYC.