Should Entrepreneurs Be Passionate About What They’re Building?

How else can entrepreneurs justify all the effort they put into building their companies?

Aaron Dinin, PhD
5 min readApr 13


Photo by Ian Schneider on Unsplash

I was in California at the wedding of my wife’s former college roommate. In other words, I didn’t know anyone. Instead, it was the kind of situation that includes lots of casual smalltalk, which is fine except when you’re an entrepreneur and whatever stranger you’re chatting with inevitably asks the one question that’s always annoying to answer:

What kind of work do you do?

In those moments, entrepreneurs have two choices. They can either be honest and try explaining whatever startup they’re working on to someone who likely won’t understand and won’t care, or the entrepreneur can say something vague and move the conversation toward other topics.

I usually choose the latter option. However, as I was sitting down at my assigned dinner table, I was already a few drinks into the evening and the first question one of my new tablemates asked was, of course, “What kind of work do you do?”

I should have said, “I’m in corporate sales,” and left it at that. But, at the time, I was two years into building a venture-backed sales tech company, which meant I was in “full-on networking mode.” Since the guy who’d asked was wearing a nice watch, and since I was in California, I thought he might be a tech person or a potential investor, so I said, “I run a sales tech startup. We help businesses optimize their sales pipelines.”

“Interesting,” he said in the kind of voice that meant he didn’t actually think it was interesting, thus extinguishing any slim hope of him being potentially valuable to my company. But, out of politeness, he decided to continue engaging. Normally, in those kinds of situations, the person asks something trivial like, “What’s the company called?” Instead, he responded with a question I hadn’t expected.

“Oh, you have a sales company,” he said. “You must be really passionate about sales, huh?”

I wasn’t sure I understood his question, so I asked him to clarify. “What do you mean by ‘passionate about sales’?” I responded.



Aaron Dinin, PhD

I teach entrepreneurship at Duke. Software Engineer. PhD in English. I write about the mistakes entrepreneurs make since I’ve made plenty. More @