Slacker theory of entrepreneurship

Do slackers have an advantage in entrepreneurship?

This theory is passed around more as rumour than formal theoretical framework. The theory starts with a premise about how entrepreneurial ventures come about. Entrepreneurial opportunities are viewed as difficult to discover or create, requiring a lot of time and trial and error. Perhaps slacker have nothing more important to do, allowing them the resilience to keep trying, even after repeated failures.
Perhaps individuals who are not particularly motivated or hardworking can still become successful entrepreneurs. By embracing a more laid-back approach to work, entrepreneurs may find creative and innovative solutions to problems that others might overlook.

The idea of the slacker theory of entrepreneurship challenges the conventional wisdom that success in business requires long hours and a relentless work ethic. Instead, it suggests that entrepreneurs who are willing to take risks and think outside the box can find success even if they don't fit the traditional mould of a hard-driving, Type-A personality.

The slacker theory suggests that people with slack time and slack resources have an advantage in entrepreneurship. They are able to pursue ideas that may not be profitable, and are still able to survive. This means they can take risks and experiment. Perhaps this elicits the image of a young adult from a well-to-do family that engages in social activities and gambles (engages in risky behaviours) rather than pursuing a real job or taking education seriously.

The slacker theory would suggest that if one is born or thrust into a situation that affords them considerable slack, then the chance that they will be afforded the option and resources to try out entrepreneurship increases dramatically. The family safety net (privilege), which is manifest in name recognition, reputation and even credit worthiness, confers untold advantages. Thus slackers from well funded parents and relatives have an advantage and can slack off more often and more fully.

This is similar to the concept of organizational slack which largely points to a positive relationship between organizational slack defined as availability of resources and innovation outcomes for firms (Marlin and Geiger, 2015).

Another interpretation is that any subculture that is composed of individuals with survival needs covered can mature into something more. Leisure time is key, when individuals can spends time playing, experimenting, and spending time and trading thoughts with others. Entrepreneurship is time consuming and unrewarding at the beginning, so one needs to be sustained in the short run by some other flow of resources. This is consistent with recent advances in the study of social safety nets and entrepreneurship.

The slacker theory is related to the Great Man theory of entrepreneurship in the sense that both theories try to explain the 'garage entrepreneurs': usually young people with time to tinker with new ideas along with their friends. Slacker-friendly college campuses can often become incubators of excellent startup ideas as students avoid their studies in favour of the glamour of entrepreneuring.

It seems there is little academic literature testing the slacker theory of entrepreneurship. It would be interesting to see if entrepreneurs are more likely to be among people that could have been categorized as slackers at the time they founded their ventures.


Marlin, D. and Geiger, S. W. (2015). A reexamination of the organizational slack and innovation relationship. Journal of Business Research, 68(12), 2683-2690. 

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