Exploring the Top 3 Theories of Entrepreneurial Success: A Comprehensive Review of Trait Theory, Lean Startup, and Network Theory

Entrepreneurial success is a highly sought-after goal for many individuals who are looking to start and grow their own businesses. It can be defined as the achievement of financial stability, growth, and impact through the creation and management of a successful business venture. Over the years, experts and researchers have attempted to understand the factors that contribute to entrepreneurial success and have proposed various theories and approaches to help entrepreneurs achieve their goals. 

As a current marketing manager for Tixel, a startup in the tech industry, and a holder of a Masters in Entrepreneurship, I have had the opportunity to witness firsthand the challenges and rewards of entrepreneurship. Through my experiences, I have come to appreciate the importance of understanding the theories and approaches that underpin successful entrepreneurial ventures. In this article, I will discuss in-depth ideas and turn them into something easily understandable.  Let’s look at some of the top theories and approaches, including the trait theory, lean startup, and network theory, to gain a better understanding of what it takes to achieve entrepreneurial success.

Trait Theory

Definition and Explanation of Trait Theory

Trait theory proposes that certain innate characteristics or personality traits are associated with successful entrepreneurship. According to this theory, entrepreneurs possess a unique set of traits that enable them to identify and capitalize on business opportunities.

Key Traits of Successful Entrepreneurs

Some of the key traits associated with successful entrepreneurs include risk-taking, creativity, self-confidence, persistence, and passion. Successful entrepreneurs are also able to adapt to changing circumstances and are comfortable with uncertainty.

Critiques of Trait Theory

Critics of trait theory argue that it oversimplifies the complex nature of entrepreneurship and fails to take into account the role of environmental factors such as access to resources, social networks, discrimination and market conditions.

Lean Startup

Definition and Explanation of Lean Startup

The lean startup approach emphasizes the importance of creating a minimum viable product (MVP) and testing it in the market to gather feedback and make improvements. This approach is based on the idea of building a business in a lean and agile way, with a focus on continuous experimentation and learning.

Key Components of Lean Startup Methodology

Some of the key components of lean startup methodology include rapid prototyping, customer development, and agile development. By iterating quickly and incorporating feedback from customers, entrepreneurs can create products and services that better meet their customers’ needs.

Advantages and Limitations of Lean Startup

The lean startup approach has several advantages, including reduced risk and increased speed to market. However, it may not be suitable for all types of businesses, and some entrepreneurs may struggle with the discipline required to adhere to lean startup principles.

Network Theory

Definition and Explanation of Network Theory

Network theory emphasizes the importance of social networks in entrepreneurship. According to this theory, entrepreneurs who have access to strong networks of relationships are more likely to succeed than those who do not.

The Role of Networks in Entrepreneurial Success

Entrepreneurs can benefit from their networks in several ways, including access to capital, information, and expertise. Networks can also provide emotional support and motivation during the challenging journey of entrepreneurship.

Importance of Building Strong Entrepreneurial Networks

Building and nurturing strong networks is critical to entrepreneurial success. This involves identifying key stakeholders and influencers, participating in industry events and conferences, and leveraging social media platforms to connect with potential customers and partners.

Comparison of Theories

While each theory offers a unique perspective on entrepreneurial success, there are several commonalities that emerge when comparing them. All three theories suggest that successful entrepreneurs possess certain characteristics or behaviors, whether it be a set of innate traits or a willingness to experiment and iterate. They also recognize the importance of building strong relationships and networks, whether it be with customers, partners, or other entrepreneurs.

However, the differences between these theories are equally important to consider. Trait theory focuses on the individual characteristics of the entrepreneur, while lean startup emphasizes the importance of the skills to test and experiment. Network theory, on the other hand, places an emphasis on the relationships and connections between individuals and organizations. By understanding these differences, entrepreneurs can identify the approach that best aligns with their strengths and goals.

What does this mean for you?

Rather than adhering to a single theory or approach, entrepreneurs can benefit from integrating multiple theories to create a comprehensive framework for success. For example, an entrepreneur with strong interpersonal skills may find success by combining the relationship-building strategies of network theory with the customer-focused approach of a lean startup. By identifying and leveraging their strengths, entrepreneurs can create a customized approach to achieving their goals.


In this article, we explored the top theories and approaches to entrepreneurial success, including trait theory, lean startup, and network theory. Trait theory suggests that certain innate characteristics are necessary for success, while lean startup emphasizes experimentation and iteration. Network theory recognizes the importance of relationships and connections in achieving success. While these theories differ in their approach, they share a common goal of helping entrepreneurs achieve financial stability, growth, and impact through the creation and management of a successful business venture.

By understanding the key theories and approaches to entrepreneurial success, entrepreneurs can develop a customized approach that aligns with their strengths and goals. Whether it be focusing on personal traits, experimenting with new ideas, or building strong relationships, each theory offers a unique perspective on how to achieve success.