on ECOSYSTEM BUILDING
- What are answers to the silo mentality that's found in most every community?
- How do you help convince traditional economic developers and community leaders that there are new and different ways of looking at growth, i.e. the recruiting versus grow your own strategy?
- Do you invest in business or entrepreneurs? Do you focus on high-growth entrepreneurs or take a broad approach?
Turf wars and talent wars—so much of communities’ inability to break down the silos to fully collaborate and build an entrepreneurial ecosystem stems from fear of competition: of losing money, businesses, talent and jobs to other organizations or neighboring regions.
But those communities that have built vibrant ecosystems have proven that when you rally around a common goal, when you work from your strengths rather than your fears, you can build something impactful and sustainable.
RALLY AROUND A COMMON GOAL.
Whether it’s a common threat or an opportunity, when entrepreneurs and support organizations, government and corporations, startups and second stage companies rally around a common and united goal, change happens.
“The whole community—not just youth or startup entrepreneurs—needs to develop an entrepreneurial mindset. Engage second stage companies, engage youth, build existing businesses.” —Steve Radley
“When the larger corporate community aligned around entrepreneurship and connected to grassroots entrepreneurship, things began to change.” –Maria Meyers
“In big cities . . . it’s harder to get people who are your champions. People don’t think of it as a big city but as smaller neighborhoods. My goal: start little fires and create a conflagration.” – Tom Lyons
FIND THE GAPS.
When you know the assets of your community—and its gaps and needs—you can pull people out of their silos to build collaborations that fill the void.
“Find the gaps and then build collaboration to build impact. That’s what funders want to fund.”—Maria Meyers
INVEST IN ENTREPRENEURS.
Do you focus on the top performing entrepreneurs and help them accelerate? Or do you try to raise the tide for all boats? That depends on your goal. But all thought leaders agreed, communities need to focus on building their region’s entrepreneurs rather than recruiting them.
Invest in entrepreneurs, not businesses. “We should be measuring the skills and potential of entrepreneurs. I don’t know how to pick winners. It’s a slippery slope when you try to and you don’t have the tools to do it.” –Tom Lyons
When looking at second stage companies, there are two types: internal and external. “Internal market entrepreneurs sell within the region. They bring personality to the region. Think restaurants, boutiques. It’s tough to grow jobs with these companies. External market entrepreneurs are focused on outside markets, and bring new money in to your region. They focus on new markets and new wealth—and that’s the only way to grow a region.” –Penny Lewandowski.
HIT A SHORT-TERM MILESTONE.
Communities get tired quickly. Attach a short-term milestone to your efforts to give communities the quick win that in turn feeds your long-term vision.
“Keep people engaged. Set achievable milestones in short time horizons, so people won’t get tired and lose sight of the big goal.”—Chuck Wolfe
BUT FOCUS ON PATIENT GROWTH.
The thought leaders agreed that communities need to steer away from the quick fix program and focus on layering strategic initiatives that build sustainable growth for their entrepreneurial ecosystems.
“Patient growth isn’t as sexy as cutting the ribbon, but it has much more stickiness. . . . We’re on a mission to make patient and sustainable sexy because that’s how you develop economic stickiness in a community.” –Penny Lewandowski
BUILD (SOCIAL) CAPITAL.
Most thought leaders agreed that investors invest in people—not in businesses. For that reason, in those regions that have vibrant funding mechanisms—Silicon Valley, for example—the concept of failing (and failing fast) doesn’t carry the stigma it would in smaller communities. For regions that can’t feasibly build their own funding continuum, having angel or VC connections outside of their own communities is key to helping their entrepreneurs accelerate.
“If you fail fast, you tried, you made the attempt, you figured it out, and then called it quits [when you recognized it wasn’t working. For many in Silicon Valley] . . . that’s the kind of person I want to hire.”
“It’s more important to recognize, ‘Here’s the outcome we didn’t want to go toward.’ In that sense, failure is a success, it’s a decision.” –Nathan Kurtz