The Secret to Building Strong Entrepreneurship Ecosystems

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Policymakers eager to drive economic growth and innovation have long talked about approaches to become “the next Silicon Valley” – many perhaps without fully understanding what that really means or takes.  While the understanding is growing that Silicon Valley can’t be copied, there is a growing interest in building local and regional ecosystems that empower entrepreneurs to help them start and scale new firms.

"Examining the Connections within the Startup Ecosystem: A Case Study of St. Louis," released recently by the Kauffman Foundation, reports on the elements necessary for creating a nurturing entrepreneurial environment. Most important, it found, are the connections and relationships that pull support organizations, new entrepreneurs and experienced entrepreneurs together in a way that helps founders get the mentoring and information that most benefits the company at its particular stage of development.

While St. Louis isn't known as an entrepreneurial hub, its business landscape has undergone a substantial transformation in recent years. Both the public and private sectors have invested heavily in promoting entrepreneurship, and many new entrepreneurship support organizations have launched in the last few years.

The investigation focused on four key connections within St. Louis' startup ecosystem: connections between entrepreneurs; connections between support organizations; connections between entrepreneurs and support organizations; and miscellaneous support connections, such as the availability of entrepreneurship-oriented events.

Inevitably, there will be gaps and overlaps of services, and entrepreneurship support organizations have to maintain constant communication and collaboration to adjust. The study also recommended that they court involvement from experienced entrepreneurs and selectively connect these individuals with startup owners.

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