Selling products or life stories? The storytelling of “hero” entrepreneurs

This essay is provided by Hannah Schupfer, student in the master program Organization Studies at University of Innsbruck, and based on her master thesis.

“The worlds most powerful person is the greatest storyteller” – Steve Jobs (1995)

Nowadays, the Silicon Valley is brimming with firms whose CEOs and founders apparently are role models for today’s generation of young entrepreneurs. Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Larry Page and alike are regarded as geniuses in their areas of expertise. To the wider audience they are especially known for their entrepreneurial success story. How often did we hear the story about Bill Gates and how he made up his way from working in his garage to become the CEO of one of the world’s most famous companies? Or Mark Zuckerberg – do we start thinking about Facebook or do we maybe first think about the lucky college dropout?  

A relatively coherent group of people that share a similar background and hold certain attributes in common can – theoretically – be defined as a social category. In my master thesis, I investigated how the category of today’s “hero” entrepreneurs has been formed. Specifically, I analyzed how the Silicon Valley entrepreneurs “tell their story” which, I argue, influences how the social category of the hero entrepreneur is shaped and understood.

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