Best Practices

Year in Review: Building Entrepreneurial Communities in the Middle

Published Jan 28, 2019 by Rob Williams

Building Entrepreneurial Ecosystems with Bamboo DetroitIt has been a remarkable year with so many doers, dreamers and job creators advancing missions of innovative and inclusive economic growth through entrepreneurship.

This success can be seen with our own family of entrepreneurship builders, starting with the publication that highlights how we all go Beyond Collisions, and closing out 2018 with an analysis of startup jobs with the Greater Des Moines Partnership.

A number of interesting themes took center stage in 2018. One was certainly around bringing down silos to achieve meaningful data sharing for collective insight. We were inspired by our partners in southeast Michigan, St. Louis and Albuquerque for their pioneering efforts and trust in sharing business data to uncover emergent insights that will inform decision making and solve gaps in their respective entrepreneurial communities.  

Building Entrepreneurial Communities with Automation Alley, Troy, Michigan

A second theme we saw emerge was a renewed interest from many universities to get more deeply engaged with entrepreneurship development efforts on their campuses and in their communities. The University of Missouri increased their role for MOSourceLink; Missouri S&T developed a SourceFinder resource guide for the central, rural Missouri area; and the University of Nebraska identified, mapped and made visible all of their multi-campus university system offerings resulting in the deployment of SourceLink’s first university-based Entrepreneurship Resource Navigator network.

The third theme we have been struck by is the call from our network to refresh their messaging to local business owners through the development of new websites and innovative web applications to help entrepreneurs find exactly what they need.

NetWork Kansas led the way with the release of a new mobile app taking advantage of the SourceLink API system (joining Albuquerque’s TrepConnect system). KCSourceLink and the Missouri Technology Corporation redesigned their websites. Colmena66 launched a highly successful marketing campaign to connect owners through #TuCaminoEmpresarial, resulting in hundreds of new entrepreneurs connecting to their network to start and grow local companies.

The fourth theme we have been watching is the increasing role of local and rural networks coming together. Through a collaborative effort with the Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation and e2 Entrepreneurial Ecosystems, five communities have been working to coordinate resource delivery to main street entrepreneurs leveraging SourceLink Pro’s community management system. Additionally, we saw the launch of Northwest Missouri SourceLink, a regional and rural implementation of the SourceLink process for an 18-county area.

Here at SourceLink headquarters, we’ve been listening closely to all of you and ramping up our offerings to support our growing network of champions, including enhanced engagement on our invite-only Facebook Group, new Quarterly Conversations virtual town hall-style engagements, and we hosted an affiliate-only gathering as part of last year’s ESHIP Summit, convened by the Kauffman Foundation.

Kauffman Foundation, ESHIP Summit

Also with Kauffman, we have been working closely with the ESHIP Champions group to advance the ESHIP Summit Goals and refining initiatives to professionalize our field. We have started an effort to identify and catalogue national best practices with Co.Starters via the Ecosystem Building Marketplace, are partnering with the International Economic Development Council to develop entrepreneurship-led economic development curriculum, and have several other big ideas in development for 2019.

We’d love to hear what you have going on, what’s top on your list in 2019 and what you hope to accomplish to build a more vibrant entrepreneurial ecosystem in your community. Drop us a note at hello@joinsourcelink.com.

And thank you for all you to do for entrepreneurs in your region and across the nation.  We believe in this work because we believe in the businesses, jobs, innovations and dreams that our entrepreneurs create.

Looking forward to hearing how you plan to go #BeyondCollisions in 2019.


Rob Williams of SourceLink
Rob Williams is the director of SourceLink where he puts the “serve” in customer service, always available as support to SourceLink clients who are often the unsung entrepreneurial champions in their communities.