Ex nihilo is Latin for "out of nothing". In philosophy, theology, and the literature of other fields, ex nihilo usually appears in the context of creativity, as in creation "out of nothing." Ex materia, the sister term, also links with creativity and means creation "out of some pre-existent matter" (Young, 1991).
It seems to me that entrepreneurs create in both of these ways.
Some entrepreneurs work within existing organizations, leverage proven ideas, and/or mobilize extant groups of people to build something new or move in a different direction. Olga La Luz of Chicago Public Schools (CPS), Julie Morath of Children’s Hospital in Minneapolis, and John Martin of Taco Bell are examples of individuals who wisely stood on the shoulders of others, of an organization's success, or of both, to innovate.
They created ex materia.
Other entrepreneurs work outside of existing organizations, parlay untested ideas, and/or convene new groups of people to, amazingly, create something that did not previously exist. Leopoldo Fernández of TelePizza, Nacricas Mashienta and Robin Fink of Jungle Mamas, and Tiffany Cheng of Dignitas are examples of individuals who pioneered uncharted territory, forged new markets, and led others to new frontiers.
They created ex nihilo.
Regardless of how each type of entrepreneur creates, what they both create is public value. They initiate and reshape enterprises in ways "that increase their value to the public in both the short and the long run" (Moore, 1995).
They craft experiences, movements, services, or products that influence people's aims. They orchestrate people, ideas, and matter in ways that positively impact how others make meaning.
They shift the demand curve.
The robust mentoring and extra academic program of Citizen Schools serving 4,000+ middle school students, Long Beach Unified School District’s standards for academic excellence, and a cable channel for kids in Latin America are examples of public value that resulted from entrepreneurial work.
But what is it that helps entrepreneurs successfully create public value?
Vision? Details? Relationships? Character?
A combination of all four?
How about this for a theory for entrepreneurship?