Onramps make ecosystems more open. They grow networks by bringing in more talent, thus fostering diversity and allowing for serendipitous interactions that lead to new ideas.
In a biological ecosystem like a coral reef, diversity creates resilience. Similarly, entrepreneurial ecosystems thrive when there is greater diversity. In order to achieve this diversity, we need new entrants to be able to find the community. Healthy ecosystems have visible and welcoming onramps that make the ecosystem easy to access for anyone. These onramps may come in the form of events like 1 Million Cups; organizations like accelerators, small business development centers (SBDCs) or career development centers; or online communities like websites or social media groups.
Collisions between people, ideas and resources often allow entrepreneurs to find missing pieces of the puzzles they are trying to solve. Ecosystems must "engineer serendipity" between disparate elements of the network by creating intersections where such collisions can happen.
Intersections may be institutions, such as coworking spaces, research parks or coffee shops that are regularly frequented by entrepreneurs and their supporters. Or they may be events, such as pitch competitions, conferences or meetups. Intersections may also take place online, such as through a Slack channel or Twitter hashtag that convenes a virtual community.
The community's story.
The collective story that people tell themselves—and the rest of the world—powerfully shapes an ecosystem's future. It frames what is possible. In Silicon Valley, this story is about the generations of legendary entrepreneurs who were misfits determined to disrupt the status quo. This story inspires new aspiring misfits to arrive in the Valley every day. Some communities, however, tell themselves negative stories. They bemoan the native entrepreneurs who left, the brain drain of young people, or the catastrophic failure of a company many years ago that still serves as a cautionary tale. These negative stories become self-fulfilling and inhibit new entrepreneurs.
The best community stories are authentic and true.
A collaborative culture that is rich in social capital.
Culture makes the ecosystem come alive. We find culture in a community's energy, its attitude toward collaboration and competition, and its enthusiasm for entrepreneurship.
A strong ecosystem culture is like rocket fuel for entrepreneurial growth. But an ecosystem will struggle without a culture of collaboration, cooperation and trust that inspires people to move quickly, help each other and be open to novel ideas.
A community's culture can be cultivated, tended and nurtured. It is by no means static. People engage in culture change naturally—through the conversations they have, the questions they ask and the behaviors they model.
"'Social capital' refers to features of social organization such as networks, norms and social trust that facilitate coordination and cooperation for mutual benefit."