Infrapreneur: An entrepreneur who specializes in enterprise infrastructure*.
Infrapreneur is a blend of two 19th-century additions to English: infrastructure (originally a military term; literally, the installations beneath the structure) and entrepreneur (originally the manager or promoter of a theatrical production, then a business manager in general, and now a person who starts a business).
Navin Chaddha, a Silicon Valley venture capitalist, wrote about infrapreneurs for TechCrunch last weekend:
The software-defined data center should be a call to all entrepreneurs focused on enterprise infrastructure that the past does not predict the future, but it can be undone by it. …Today’s enterprise infrastructure startup leaders need to be focused on pairing innovative software with commodity off-the-shelf (COTS) hardware. They are, in essence, software “infrapreneurs.”
Chaddha isn’t the first person to combine the infra- prefix with the -preneur suffix. However, an earlier usage carried a different definition.
On October 10, 2011, the UnSectored blog published a post by Laura Tomasko titled “Hello, I’m an Infrapreneur.” UnSectored, located “in DC and beyond,” calls itself “a community platform for re-thinking change.” Tomasko writes:
Last fall, I co-facilitated a discussion on “Social Innovation in the Public Sector” at the StartingBloc All Fellows’ Summit. During this conversation, we asked participants to think about how careers in policy and law could connect to and enhance the field of social innovation.
StartingBloc, a fellowship for emerging leaders interested in driving social impact across sectors, describes its Fellows either as social entrepreneurs who want to start something new; intrapreneurs who want to improve an existing system; or a fuzzy third category for those generally interested in change-making and partnerships. It turns out that the StartingBloc Fellows who showed up to our session about the role for public and legal sectors in social innovation were the ones who didn’t easily identify as entrepreneurs or intrapreneurs.
In our session, we discussed systems and structures to support coordinated action, and aligning incentives and creating regulations that drive behavior. Not to be left out of the social-sector lexicon, we decided we wanted a way to identify our passion for infrastructure in the social innovation space. We want to create change by developing and connecting systems, or strengthening the plumbing that makes it all work. And from this, “infrapreneur” was born.
Portmanteaus built on -preneur—from Aquapreneur to zoopreneur—have been popular for years. As I wrote last year in a column for the Visual Thesaurus, the earliest coinage, intrapreneur, appeared in a 1978 paper about “Intra-Corporate Entrepreneurship.” Since then, as entrepreneurship has become central to the success myth—a recent survey found that two-thirds of people in the millennial generation, now age 18 to 34, want to start their own businesses—new hybrid-preneurs pop up regularly. In addition to infrapreneur, I recently spotted expat-preneur (“a traditional expatriate with an entrepreneurial nature”), Etsy-preneur (a person using the peer-to-peer commerce site Etsy to run a business), and opera-preneur (“take charge of your career!”).
* Enterprise infrastructure:“the composite hardware, software, network resources and services required for the existence, operation and management of an enterprise IT environment” (Technopedia).