In the latter case, the examples are many. In fact, according to the UK Department for Business Innovation and Skills, there were a record-breaking 5.4 million private sector businesses at the start of 2015; 1.9 million more since 2000. With cultural heroes like Mark Zuckerberg and the late Steve Jobs drawing a fan base as large as any Hollywood star, this may be because entrepreneurship has become idealised – some might say evangelised. Its glossy image promises freedom, adventure and wealth in equal measure.
Since the height of the dot-com boom, it is the tech industry in particular that seems most alluring to up and coming entrepreneurs. HSBC Private Banking's Essence of Enterprise report shows the flipside. "It takes time and energy, meaning that tech entrepreneurs tend to work the longest hours of any sector," said Mark Winterflood, global head of collaboration at HSBC Private Banking. "Their average working day is longer than 10 hours. They do not dramatically cut down on their sleep, but rather they compromise on their personal life and tend to spend less time relaxing and socialising."
That may be why there is a new phrase making the rounds. Coined by Lori Greiner, one of the most prolific inventors of retail products, she says: "Entrepreneurs are willing to work 80 hours a week to avoid working 40 hours." Never off, never out, the goal of the tech entrepreneur is to keep up momentum without burning out.
Jean-Christophe Chopin is living proof. When his friends were heading off to university in their late teens, he was setting up a ski racing training camp in the Alps. He had an extreme desire for "independence and adventure. It was not because I wanted to make money or be the boss; I really wanted to create and to drive and to try."
After a lacklustre job selling bonds door to door, Chopin became fascinated by what a career in tech might have to offer. In quick succession, he launched an online insurance brokerage business, expanded into financial services and became founder of E*TRADE@NetBourse in Europe. When E*TRADE bought him out, he repeated his success with Verisign before moving onto to Asia.
"You have to challenge yourself just the right amount," said Chopin, now the founder of BORN, a global event celebrating luxury brands and the consumers who buy them. "You have to try, to go out, to do what you love. Don't be afraid to make mistakes."
Mistakes, you can be sure, will happen. The life of an entrepreneur starts hard and stays hard. "Entrepreneurs are often thought to thrive and enjoy the huge highs and lows of the journey from ‘garage start-ups' to global behemoths," said HSBC's Winterflood. "This creates a certain sense of glamour for the industry but the reality for most entrepreneurs is much grittier."
And yet, entrepreneurs can't seem to help themselves. Winterflood goes on to explain that traits of self-determination kick-start entrepreneurs into business ownership. "It is the autonomy that comes from being the boss that spurs many entrepreneurs to accept the risks of potentially lower earnings and greater uncertainty."
The uncertainty is high. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labour Statistics, half of all new businesses survive five years or more; about one-third survive 10 years or more. These are survival rates that have changed little over time.
Masoom Minawala's is hoping her business is one that goes the distance. The owner of StyleFiesta, an online fashion destination, she developed her fashion blog while interning in the industry. Her success has been swift but not always smooth. Despite her ambition, it was her father that pushed her to get the necessary qualifications to take her career to the next level.
"The journey of an entrepreneur is filled with so many beautiful moments and obstacles. Failure will teach you the most amazing things," she said. "That's when you know you went wrong, but also when you know what you need to do to make it right."
According to Winterflood, "for entrepreneurs the benefits of self-determination trump the fear of failure." Jerry Porras, co-author of international business bestseller Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies, agrees. Offering insight based on research with some the most successful companies in recent history, Porras believes that viewing lessons learned as experience, versus failure, reduces the reluctance to take risks.
After all, for those who do take the risk, the rewards can be immense. In fact, the S&P 500 predicts that two thirds of the businesses that will make up its ranks in ten years' time will be companies that don't exist today. So how do you keep going when the going gets tough?
"For me, the most significant finding or dimension that we identified with respect to longevity is the core ideology of a company, its purpose and its values," said Porras. As we move toward faster changing environments and developing technologies "a company's rudder needs to be strong and relevant for a long time. Values and purpose keep it steering in the right direction, which benefits a company in the long term."
Chopin is certainly brimming with purpose. Which may be why it's hard to imagine him at a desk job spanning his working lifetime, no matter how well paying it was. That's not because life is long. On the contrary. For the driven entrepreneur, life is far too short. "The next 20 years represents only 1040 weeks," he said. "Each week needs to be great and spent with people whose company I enjoy and who shares the same philosophy; people who want to contribute to our world."
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