Here are some examples of breakthrough technology companies that are benefiting from Sculley’s investment and mentoring. Roll over each logo to read more about the business.

According to the United States Small Business Administration, small business entrepreneurs are an enormous source of economic growth and job creation. Statistics bear this out:

  • 99.7% of all employer firms are small businesses.
  • Small businesses represent 44% of the U.S. private payroll.
  • Small businesses hire 43% of our country’s high-tech workers.
  • 97.5% of identified exporters are small businesses.
  • Between 1993 and 2009 (the latest figures available), small businesses created 65% of net new jobs.

The qualities of initiative and risk-taking that define entrepreneurship may well be uniquely American. As Sculley explains:

We are brought up to believe that anything is possible and there are no barriers to one’s opportunities to succeed at whatever one sets one’s mind to do. Individual freedom to push the boundaries beyond the safe path; a classless society that is comfortable with empowering individuals to try new things; and a culture where making mistakes is part of one’s necessary learning experience and won’t be an indelible penalty on one’s career – these are the core elements of our business value system.

The rise in high-tech entrepreneurism in the late 20th and early 21st century has prompted numerous studies of the qualities of individual entrepreneurs and their paths to success.

More than half of entrepreneurs can be categorized as “transitional entrepreneurs;” that is, they earned their business skills as employees of traditional companies before venturing out on their own. Others became entrepreneurs at a very young age, including many “serial entrepreneurs” who have started more than one company, each time learning valuable lessons to apply to the next start-up. Beyond business, a new breed of  “social entrepreneurs” is leaving a legacy of good works around the globe.

Whether their focus is innovative digital technology, retail sales, or social services, studies indicate that entrepreneurs share a number of common qualities. Here are just a few:

  • Entrepreneurs see opportunities in disruption, constantly searching for market gaps and niches.
  • They eat and sleep their businesses, intently focused on innovation and staying ahead of the competition. (Sculley notes that European cultures do not share American entrepreneurs’ obsession with business success as life’s top priority, however.)
  • Entrepreneurs understand that ideas are not enough; they know that leadership and business discipline are critical to translating creativity into a successful business venture.
  • While they are likely to be non-conformists, entrepreneurs are also team players. As Sculley says, “Entrepreneurs recognize that nothing is done by a single individual. The key is to get the right people at the right time – to build networks of people, expertise, and funding.”
  • Perhaps most important, entrepreneurs have the courage to take calculated risks and to withstand failure.

The notion of tolerating and learning from failure is especially critical, says John Sculley, because real innovation takes place at the edge of change and entrepreneurs have to push at those edges.

Sculley works every day with about half a dozen high tech start-ups, and knows first-hand that successful entrepreneurs make mistakes, learn from them, and move on. Yet, he says, one of the hardest things to accept is that it is okay to fail – because most children are taught that failure is unacceptable.

As world markets become more and more receptive to entrepreneurial ventures, many U.S. public and private institutions offer education and support systems to fledgling entrepreneurs and business start-ups. Earning an MBA is a giant step; Harvard Business School estimates that 50% of its graduates become entrepreneurs within 15 years of earning their degree. But as Apple guru Steve Jobs proved, there are many other paths for advancing game-changing business ideas.

If you want to learn more about entrepreneurship, here are some resources you might want to check out: