Entrepreneurship Ecosystem Conference: Part 2

“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. 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 second half of the conference: the research presented, main topics, and key takeaways. The blog is structured in two parts, make sure to check out the first post Entrepreneurship Ecosystem Conference: Part 1.

1. The Roles of Universities Within Ecosystems

  • Heike Mayer: Revisiting the Roles of University in Regional Economic Development
  • Haifeng Qiang: Anchor Universities and College-Town Entrepreneurship
  • Academic discussant: Maryann Feldman, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill

Universities, especially ones that conduct research are seen as a necessary player to a vibrant entrepreneurial ecosystem and as an engine of economic growth. In this session, both presenters found that Universities are necessary to an entrepreneurship ecosystem, but in specific context. They demystify this myth and look at what important role universities do play.

Myth. Research universities are engines of entrepreneurial and innovation activities.

  • Mayer’s work found no correlation with university research and local entrepreneurship. rates. She found the role of the university as a research institutions is overstated and the educational role is under-appreciated.
  • Qiang found that compared with the traditional regional environment factors, anchor research universities do not matter for the rate that people start companies.

Importance. The findings above are not to say universities are unimportant to entrepreneurship. Rather, there are certain aspects of universities that are much more important to entrepreneurship ecosystems that need to be focused on more.

  • In Qiang’s research he found universities are important to college towns, and they attract and educate a young workforce, who are more likely to work at startups or start their own company.
  • Feldman made the point that universities can train students to accept the idea that failure is okay.

 

2. Diversity and Inclusion within Ecosystem

The major themes discussed during this session were on how to make entrepreneurship ecosystems more representative of their population base. Gender and immigration were the two subjects of the presentations. Issues as to why there is a lack of diversity among gender and immigrants were discussed, as well as strategies to overcome them.

Issues. Most entrepreneurship communities are not the most diverse or inclusive. This isn’t necessarily due to anyone’s intention, but to natural tendencies and lack of proactively making one’s community more diverse.

  • Homophily, the tendency of individuals to associate and bond with similar others. Watkins has recognized this phenomenon in the St. Louis community and understands that without intentional inclusion and outreach, entrepreneurial support organizations will remain homogenous.
  • Wang’s research found that women felt certain networks are harder to tap than others. She found that people’s use of personal networks through word of mouth advertising, and publicity of programs through social media, unintentionally perpetuate an imbalance of diversity.

Watkins proposed strategies for both support organizations and policy makers on how to make their entrepreneurship ecosystem more diverse and inclusive.

  • Recruit female entrepreneurs as leaders and role models within your organization.
  • Explicitly acknowledge and work to overcome bias.
  • Aim for integration, not marginal improvement or separate improvement.

3. Intra-city Analysis and Visualization

  • Elizabeth Mack: Spatio-Temporal Patterns in New Business Activity
  • Emil Malizia: The Economic Development - Vibrant Center Connection
  • Catherine Lawson: Building a Web Based Entrepreneurial Landscape Analysis Tool
  • Brent Perkins: Tracking Interventions Across the Venture Lifecycle

In order to make sense of the numerous variables in a complex entrepreneurial ecosystem, researchers are creating tools to visually analyze ecosystems. The goals are to better understand specific cities ecosystems and be able to compare ecosystems.

Three examples of impressive ecosystem mapping is below:

  1. Endeavor Insights Tech Map
  2. Albany Visualization and Informatics Lab
  3. Heike Mayer Galaxy Maps

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 on the conference, make sure to check out the Entrepreneurship Ecosystem Conference:    Part 1.

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