An entrepreneur has a similar, but not identical, role under both import substitution and export promotion models of economic development. Import substitution is based on the idea that a country can stimulate its own economic growth (particularly in the earliest stages of its development) by creating its own domestic industries to replace foreign imports. Entrepreneurs would be needed in an import substitution model, not so much to come up with brand-new ideas as to come up with new ways to execute known ideas. Their primary role would be to find a way to make products that are cheaper to produce or more attractive to local populations than the foreign imports. It is notable that most import substitution models rely on tariffs to restrict imports, which would perform part of the entrepreneurs' task for them. Furthermore, import substitution is sometimes (though not always) a state-led project, which would also diminish the need for private entrepreneurs. Economists also theorize that import substitution slows technological progress by removing opportunities for the "cross-fertilization" of ideas that comes from trade. This means that an import substitution model may result in fewer entrepreneurs with valuable ideas over time.
In an export promotion model, entrepreneurs would be needed to come up with ideas for products and services that would be attractive to the rest of the world, either based on their price of production or their novelty, quality, or other unique characteristics. This is the scenario that generally creates the type of entrepreneur that is popular in the public imagination, like Bill Gates. Furthermore, economists theorize that export promotion and free trade promote faster technological progress. Export promotion models, therefore, do not just depend on entrepreneurs—they also produce them.