Entrepreneurship is taking responsibility for a problem you did not create.

It was not Google’s fault that the web was a massive set of unorganized pages that were hard to search, but they claimed responsibility for the problem and solved it with their engine.

It was not Dropbox’s fault that data loss was common and sharing files was a pain, but they claimed responsibility for the problem and solved it with their software.

It is not Tesla’s fault that hundreds of millions of cars are burning gasoline and polluting our atmosphere, but they have claimed responsibility for the problem and are attempting to solve it with their electric cars.

In a free market, like in America or online, you can attempt to take responsibility for any problem you want. That’s pretty neat. You can decide to take responsibility for making sure your neighborhood has easy access to great Mexican food. Or you can decide to take responsibility for making sure the whole Internet has easy access to reliable version control. If you do a good job, you will be rewarded based on how big the problem is and how well you solve it.

How big an entrepreneur’s company gets is strongly correlated with how much responsibility the entrepreneur wants. The entrepreneur gets to constantly make choices about whether they want their company to take on more and more responsibility. Companies only get huge because their founders say “yes” to more and more responsibility. Oftentimes they can say “yes” to less responsibility, and sell their company or fold it.

Walmart started out as a discount store in the Midwest, but Sam Walton (and his successors) constantly said “yes” to more and more responsibility and Walmart has since grown to take on responibility for discounting across the world.

Google started out with just search, but look at all the other things they’ve decided to take responsibility for: email, mobile operating systems, web browsers, social networking, document creation, calendars, and so on. Their founders have said “yes” to more and more responsibility.

Smart entrepreneurship is all about choosing problems you can and want to own. You need to say “no” to most problems. If you say “yes” to everything, you’ll stretch yourself too thin. You need to increase your responsibility in a realistic way. You need to focus hard on the problems you can solve with your current resources, and leave the other problems for another company or another time.