“Entrepreneurship ecosystem.” Although the term has been used by academics and practitioners widely in the last few years, little is known about how ecosystems are structured, vary by region, evolve over time, or function for different sub-groups of entrepreneurs. Earlier this fall, the Kauffman Foundation hosted a conference that focused on entrepreneurship ecosystems. Scholars and practitioners led the presentations, while attendees included policymakers and leaders from entrepreneurship support organizations.
The conference provided insights on entrepreneurship ecosystems and areas for further study. Below is a summary of the conference: the research presented, main topics, and key takeaways.
Presenters in this session presented many elements and key concepts of ecosystems. Three central ideas that rang throughout each presentation were nuance, diversity and the importance of people.
Nuance. Every entrepreneurship ecosystem is unique. Efforts that aim to improve the ecosystem need to be considerate and thoughtful to these differences especially when looking to copy a program or initiative from another city.
Diversity. In order to be a fully inclusive ecosystem, there needs to be diversity of all levels of leadership. This is especially true within support organizations, young companies, and city leadership.
People, not places or organizations. All presenters highlighted the importance of individuals when understanding ecosystems. It’s not just enough to understand the organizations, places and institutions, but also need to focus on the people who start, run, and leave their respected organization.
Everyone trying to improve their ecosystem is trying to find ways to create more high-growth firms. Unfortunately there is still no commonly used definition and terms for what constitutes a high-growth firm, let alone methods that have been proven to create more. This session focused a lot on how to define high-growth firms and understanding their importance within an ecosystem. One interesting finding that came from Desai’s paper was that people start companies where they are, rather than people moving to a specific region or city to start a company.
Definition. There is not a singular definition used across academics, researchers and policy makers. This causes difficulty when trying to create policy or initiatives to help high-growth companies.
Understanding. The importance and value of high-growth firms to their ecosystem was highlighted during this session.
While most of the research discussed during the conference isn’t published yet, there have been two related papers on entrepreneurship ecosystems published by Kauffman researchers. The first is the working paper How to Measure an Entrepreneurship Ecosystem, a necessary read for anyone aiming to map or measure the vibrancy of their ecosystem. The second paper is Enabling Entrepreneurship Ecosystems, which lists six specific strategies for entrepreneurship ecosystems.
For full coverage of the conference make sure to check out the second post Entrepreneurship Ecosystem Conference: Part 2.
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