Entrepreneurs are the primary source of net new job creation. The ideas and innovations born in young firms, small companies and high-impact startups disrupt industries, challenge status-quo products and services and create a stronger economy and greater opportunities for upward mobility.
And, as economic and entrepreneurial developers, we’re all trying to figure out how to grow them in our own backyard.
Organizations like the Northeastern Economic Developers Association (NEDA) get the economic empowerment that a focus on entrepreneurship can bring to a region. NEDA recently hosted its 60th annual conference September 11–13 in New Haven, Connecticut, centered on the discussion of “The Economic Developer’s Road Map.”
While SourceLink was there, we took the moment to survey participants on entrepreneurship. We want to know how practitioners, those in the entrepreneurial trenches, build an entrepreneurial infrastructure and what challenges they face.
Do you feel your community has a successful entrepreneurial ecosystem?
Less than half of the participants surveyed feel their communities have a successful entrepreneurial ecosystem and 52 percent believe their e-ecosystem is not quite there yet.
At what stage of development is your entrepreneurial ecosystem?
Most entrepreneurial ecosystems, 42 percent, are reported to still be in the emerging stage of development. Those communities are still working to identify resources and connect entrepreneurs to business-building resources.
Some 30 percent place themselves in the early stage of building their entrepreneurial infrastructures. There are still silos of information: perhaps the community is missing a hub or go-to of resources for entrepreneurs; however, people are excited about the prospect of creating a unified entrepreneurial community.
And 20 percent would categorize their communities as established. These communities are on track to become vibrant, sustainable ecosystems. They may be missing key players or local government in the process of creating the necessary infrastructure.
That leaves just 8 percent who would characterize their entrepreneurial ecosystems as vibrant and sustainable. This is where communities need to be: where our entrepreneurs are well-serviced and supported and where we as economic developers can identify and fill gaps. It’s here, at this state of “vibrant and sustainable” where communities are creating sustainable initiatives that increase startups, support growth and create jobs.
How would you describe your community’s efforts to support entrepreneurs?
A total of 40 percent surveyed participants described their community’s efforts as “reactive.” These are communities playing catch up, trying to meet entrepreneurs’ needs. Often, they feel they’re working backwards, chasing the gaps rather than proactively addressing them. Early gap identification and continuous reassessment can get communities to a “proactive” stage.
The breakdown: Entrepreneurial ecosystems that are seen as successful are more proactive in their efforts to support the e-community (67 percent). These communities make data-driven decisions on what programs to bring into the community because they know—not just intuitively understand—what entrepreneurs want.
What obstacles are you facing in supporting entrepreneurs?
Of the 52 percent who reported they do not have a successful entrepreneurial ecosystem, obstacles include the basic needs of an entrepreneur: partnerships, funding, support, education and mentorship.
From the results below it’s clear that entrepreneurs need a central hub to connect entrepreneurs (17 percent), improve access to capital (17 percent) and make resources visible (12 percent). These are all things that can be remedied, but take time and initiative.
What do you think?
Do these findings resonate with your experience? Let us know. Take our survey on growing entrepreneurship.