Entrepreneurship overall isn't about the exit, but VC-backed technology startups are very likely about the exit. To me, entrepreneurship is the chance to build something that people want, the chance to lead and the chance to have a voice in one's own destiny.
Corporate jobs often don't offer those things. You usually build what others tell you to build, follow orders and have little voice in your own future.
Can you imagine if the team at 37 Signals had corporate jobs? They wouldn't be rock stars, they'd be cube-dwellers with no blog, no chance to make big changes, with vague titles like "Lead Web Designer" or "Enterprise Architect." David Heinemeier Hansson wouldn't be known as the designer of RoR, he'd be that kid who came up with the non-corporate-standard framework that got mothballed after he was laid off. The people left would complain when they got assigned to port his weird "Ruby" apps over to Struts.
Entrepreneurs, from the person who opens a McDonald's franchise to an Ivy Leaguer seeking millions in VC want more or less the same thing, and for them an "exit" is often just icing on the cake.
On the flip side, if the team from 37 Signals worked for a great technology company like Facebook, Google or Apple, they could have built products that tens or hundreds of millions of users and hundreds of thousands of developers use every day. They could have worked with some of the best engineers and designers on the planet and have had a huge impact on the products they've built and their company's success. They also could have also created popular open source software that runs on massive infrastructures, written their own blogs, and achieved industry fame.
I'm not trying to argue that entrepreneurship isn't a great path to pursue for many people, but I disagree with the simplistic picture that people sometime paint wherein entrepreneurship is always glamorous and employment is always dreary.
That's a really good point. There definitely are shades of gray. There are companies where one can have a voice and build some great things. One doesn't have to be the founder to be part of an entrepreneurial effort.
It doesn't always always have to be about money. Open source software gives people to build something, break some new ground and make a change. I guess that's the same drive that gets people to found or be part of all kinds of efforts that extend beyond software and startups.