Some things do run in the family. We have families of musicians (Koes Plus, the late jazz musician Jack Lesmana and his son Indra Lesmana), families of doctors (the family of the late Prof. Sudjono Djuned Pusponegoro), or families of politicians (President Sukarno and President Megawati Sukarnoputri).

The same seems to be true with entrepreneurs. We have children of Indonesian tycoons running their family businesses: Eric Oei Kang (grandson of tycoon Eka Tjipta Widjaja); Anthony Salim (son of Sudono Salim), Michael Joseph Sampoerna (the youngest of the Sampoerna family), Anindya Novian Bakrie (eldest son of Aburizal Bakrie), Luckyto Wanandi (second son of Sofjan Wanandi), just to name a few.

So does this mean that one has to be born of “entrepreneurial lineage” in order to be one? Well, this question was recently addressed by a scientific study co-directed by a certain Scott Shane, a professor of Entrepreneurial Studies at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, USA.

Looking for some entrepreneurial DNA

Shane and his colleagues found that entrepreneurial tendencies — including the ability to recognize business opportunities – were estimated at 48% heritable or related to genetic factors. They went as far as to say that 10 to 15 years from now genetically advantaged entrepreneurs may even be identified through DNA testing or psychological surveys.

My opinion however is that while it certainly helps to be born of “entrepreneurship lineage”, these are actually inherent personality traits that make people different. Anyone with children can tell you that within a year, they can see certain attributes exhibited by their kids which vary from child to child. Traits such as being more likely to take risks (i.e. jumping from beds or chairs), persistence (never giving up when trying to solve puzzles) the ability to learn, improve and evolve (3 stars on Angry Birds as opposed to 1), imagination (creating new interpretations from their toys or games) and being open to new experiences (daring to try new things) can easily be interpreted as entrepreneurial characteristics. But this doesn’t necessarily mean that such a child will be an entrepreneur when they grow up.

This view is collaborated by prominent businessman and entrepreneurship advocate Ciputra, who in an interview with Sarah Lacy, the author of Brilliant, Crazy, Cocky: How the Top 1% of Entrepreneurs Profit from Global Chaos, said that while he believes most kids start out naturally entrepreneurial just by the fact that they are curious and have not learnt the meaning of fear, they need either a parent, a society or a school to encourage that feeling. Without the right encouragement and environment, these tendencies may die before they reach maturity.

Similarly, in an Ernst & Young report released in 2011, Nature or nurture: Decoding the entrepreneur, Maria Pinelli, the Global Vice Chair Strategic Growth Markets explained that “Entrepreneurial leaders are defined as much by their early business experience, cultural background and external environment as they are by any innate personal characteristics. Nurture not nature does appear to be more important in shaping the entrepreneurial mindset.”

On the flip side, I don’t think that all entrepreneurs are lucky enough to be born in a supportive environment where parents have set an example or encourage them to do so. In fact, many entrepreneurs have created business empires out of a drive to get out of the poverty cycle. Li Ka-shing, Hong Kong’s richest man, is one such example. Born as a teacher’s son, his father passed away early on and he had to shoulder the responsibility of his family. He labored in a plastics manufacturing factory at the age of 15, learning the ropes of the business and at the age of 22, managed to gather enough funds from family, friends and contacts to start his own factory making plastic flowers. A foray into real estate early on during the 1967 crisis gave him the opportunity to purchase large pieces of property at a low price, resulting in the start of his business empire.

Entrepreneurs as such are a curious breed. They may come from very diverse backgrounds, be born in nurturing environments or have a great motivation to want to succeed in life. Some paths are opportunistic-others are calculated risks. Not all succeed. But if there are common traits in those entrepreneurs who have been successful, it is persistence, passion and the inability to accept no for an answer. And I truly believe that if you decide to take the risk and walk the path of entrepreneurship, then you have as good a chance as anyone else in succeeding. It just depends on how many falls you will need and how many times you will pick yourself up before you start running.