There Ought To Be A Law

Carnegie, Jobs And Jordan

A look at serial entrepreneurs in history

Serial entrepreneurs aren't new, observes Lynne Pierson Doti, director of the Leatherby Center for Entrepreneurship and Business Ethics at Chapman University in Orange, California. In fact, they've been around for a long, long time.

Many of the first entrepreneurs were inventors. "Eli Whitney invented the cotton gin," says Doti, "but [it] was a financial disaster for him. Whitney had delays and difficulties patenting it and even after it was patented, he couldn't enforce the patent. He wasn't able to sell his machines by the time he was producing." But he was more successful with his next venture: "He introduced interchangeable parts to gun manufacturing," she says.

Andrew Carnegie was another famous serial entrepreneur. "Carnegie embarked on several money-making projects before revolutionizing the steel industry and personally reinvented [his] company several times in response to new market forces," says Doti.

Serial entrepreneurship strikes even the most rich and famous of people today, says Doti: "Steve Jobs, Michael Milken, Michael Jordan and Warren Buffett couldn't retire even after their names made the history books. It just isn't in their nature."

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Geoff Williams has written for numerous publications, including Entrepreneur, Consumer Reports, LIFE and Entertainment Weekly. He also is the author of Living Well with Bad Credit.

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This article was originally published in the February 2000 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: There Ought To Be A Law.

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