In Ecosystem Basics

The term “ecosystem” comes from biology. It is used to describe a biological community of interacting organisms and their physical environment. For example, in biology an ecosystem could be an ocean, continent, or even a small tidepool.

For the last few decades there has been much research done, scholarly papers published, and books written about something called an Entrepreneurial Ecosystem. Much of what you will read in these articles and on this web page is drawn from these vast information resources.

While much essential meticulously created content and research are available on Entrepreneurial Ecosystems, a lot of this excellent data and information may not be totally accessible to those tasked with making large and small ecosystems actually work efficiently.  Therefor, while there is no fixed formula or recipe for a balanced sustainable entrepreneurial ecosystem we will try to suggest actionable ways to explore, implement and pivot tactics and strategies that will leverage this vast information and data.

But first… What is an Entrepreneurial Ecosystem?

The term “Entrepreneurial Ecosystem” refers to the elements – individuals, organizations, or institutions – outside the individual entrepreneur. These fundamentals are either conducive to, or inhibitive of, a person’s choice to become an entrepreneur and may impact the probabilities of their success following launch. Organizations and individuals representing these elements are referred to as entrepreneurship stakeholders. Stakeholders are any entity that is actually or potentially interested in having more entrepreneurship in the region. Entrepreneurship stakeholders may include government, schools, universities, private sector, family businesses, investors, banks, entrepreneurs, social leaders, research centers, military, labor representatives, students, lawyers, cooperatives, communes, multinationals, private foundations, and international aid agencies.

In its simplest form, these are the “Actors” and “Factors” that directly and indirectly influence the sustainability of businesses or other entities in the ecosystem.

To explain or create sustainable entrepreneurship, one isolated element in the ecosystem is rarely sufficient. In regions with extensive amounts of entrepreneurship – for example, Silicon Valley, Boston, New York City, and Israel – many ecosystem elements are strong and have typically evolved in tandem. Similarly, the formation of these ecosystems suggests that governments or societal leaders who want to foster more entrepreneurship as part of economic policy must strengthen several such elements simultaneously. However, recent research shows that government policy is often limited in what it can do to develop entrepreneurial ecosystems.

Communities like Silicon Valley, Boston, Tel Aviv, London, Boulder, and Berlin took decades to become robust entrepreneurial ecosystems. However, today such ecosystems can grow anywhere. In our modern economy, every community – even micro-communities of only a few stakeholders – has the opportunity to become a thriving ecosystem.

In fact, many already have.

The essence of an entrepreneurial ecosystem is its people and the culture of trust and collaboration that allows them to interact successfully. An ecosystem that allows for the fast flow of talent, information, and resources helps entrepreneurs quickly find what they need at each growth stage. As a result, the whole is greater than the sum of its separate parts.

We have identified over 240 elements in five categories that can influence the sustainability of an ecosystem. More on those later. In the mean-time, here is a short list of “big picture” ecosystem elements.

A thriving ecosystem includes these key elements:

  • Entrepreneurs who aspire to start and grow new businesses, and the people who support entrepreneurs.
  • Talent that can help companies grow.
  • People and institutions with knowledge and resources to help entrepreneurs.
  • Individuals and institutions that serve as champions and conveners of 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 – makes the ecosystem come alive by connecting all the elements together.

Stay tuned to these articles for more on Entrepreneurial Ecosystems and to see how we plan to simplify and repackage the vast ocean of Ecosystem research into actionable strategies, tools, tips and tactics, that just might transform your ecosystem.  If you are looking for some example ecosystems CLICK HERE.

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