As an Entrepreneur-in-Residence at The Kauffman Foundation, I’m exposed to some of the most creative, innovative and strategic thinking on entrepreneurial ecosystem building in the world. Ecosystems are defined as all of the components, usually at a local level, that help entrepreneurs and small businesses thrives in local communities. As defined in this awesome new ecosystem playbook that the Kauffman Foundation just released, these components include:
- Talent that can help companies grow
- People and institutions with knowledge and resources to help entrepreneurs
- Individuals and institutions that champion entrepreneurs and the ecosystem
- Onramps (or access points) to the ecosystem so that anyone and everyone can participate
- Intersections that facilitate the interaction of people, ideas and resources
- Stories that people tell about themselves and their ecosystem
- Culture that is rich in social capital—collaboration, cooperation, trust, reciprocity and a focus on the common good
Last week, I was fortunate enough to accompany a number of the Kauffman associates on a field trip deep into America’s Heartland to explore local ecosystems, talk with entrepreneurs and better understand some of the many different challenges that are faced when starting a business. As a technology entrepreneur who’s been playing in the US West Coast start-up world for almost two decades now, it was refreshing to hear from ‘main street’ entrepreneurs who weren’t driving for $1B valuations, but simply starting businesses out of pure passion or financial need.
And this week, I have an opportunity to garner insight on how other countries, especially those in Europe, are working to to foster entrepreneurial ecosystem growth. I’m in Tallinn, Estonia all week attending Startup Nations Summit and the European Commission’s SME Assembly with the sole purpose of 1) better understanding how public policy initiatives impact entrepreneurial growth and activity and 2) garnering deeper insights on how other countries, especially those in Europe, are innovating and building their own entrepreneurial ecosystems.
As the world becomes more connected and digital barriers continue to subside, we’re going to find our ‘communities’ becoming more open and much more integrated. And as this convergence continues, entrepreneurs will not only see increased opportunities, but will also find themselves having a choice in which communities to participate.
And as ecosystem building grows in popularity, we’re going to see a new industry of ecosystem builders emerge around the world….in fact, it’s already happening.