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Startup Champions Network

Building a network for ecosystem builders

When it comes to building an entrepreneurial ecosystem, it’s all about the relationships.

For the past two years, Kauffman has brought together ecosystem builders at the ESHIP Summit to determine what ecosystem building is and what it can be. SCN, through their own summits and networks, is helping to get things moving in the larger ecosystem building community.

Learn more:

ESHIP Summit
SCN Summits
Mayors Conference on Entrepreneurship

Startup Champions Network (SCN) is made up of people working on the ground, in the field, in the day-to-day business of economic development who support entrepreneurs in starting and growing businesses. “There’s really no other resource that I’ve found that’s been more beneficial for our ecosystem,” Scott Resnick, SCN member and executive director of StartingBlock Madison, said.

Trey Bowles, president of SCN, said that’s the benefit of their relationship with the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation. “What SCN can really help do is communicate to Kauffman, and other leading entrepreneurial organizations across the country, what entrepreneurs need in their ecosystem,” he said.

SCN members across the nation support entrepreneurs by developing broad, diverse entrepreneurial communities, and by increasing access to resources that entrepreneurs need.

Larkin Garbee, interim executive director of SCN, said the network helps ecosystem builders share knowledge with each other in order to accelerate entrepreneurship. In short, SCN supports the individuals who support the entrepreneurs in their communities.

Philip Gaskin, director of entrepreneurial communities at the Kauffman Foundation, is responsible for the portfolio of grants that fit with Kauffman’s ecosystem strategy. This includes testing and measuring ecosystem conditions, and providing tools and best practices for ecosystems and ecosystem builders to enact in communities in order to support entrepreneurial growth and success.

Startup Champions Network

Kauffman supports this new model of economic development that is community-driven with entrepreneurship at its core. Through education, training, and an increase in the tools and best practices of ecosystem building, Gaskin believes SCN can help be a catalyst for change that can happen at scale.

“How do we make economic change?” Gaskin said. “We have to find a way to reduce barriers so that more entrepreneurs, especially the entrepreneurs who need it the most, get in the funnel, because traditional economic development by itself can no longer be the answer.” Big companies, often a hallmark of the modern traditional economic development Gaskin means, cannot solely and sustainably save communities and cities. Locally-led efforts to remove barriers for entrepreneurs must be done in a way that invites all parties – from the traditional power structure, to the grassroots organizers – to collaborate in a way that benefits everyone.

SCN Summits, held twice a year, spark these collaborations. Resnik invited people he’d met at SCN Summits to help guide Madison’s entrepreneurial ecosystem. Experts in startup-related ecosystem data came to discuss how Madison is doing in job creation while other guest speakers discussed the ways in which to create an inclusive space. Resnick is confident he wouldn’t have found these people if it weren’t for SCN.

At these summits, experts from across the country share trends, best practices, and data-driven methods. Relationships are built through discussing what exactly communities need to support vibrant entrepreneurial ecosystems, such as:

  • Programs and events that have been effective.
  • Methods to manage, build and grow mentor bases.
  • Strategic planning processes.
  • How to raise funding and create long-term sustainability for an ecosystem builder organization.
  • Best practices for diversity and inclusion in communities across the nation.

“We have seen the network and relationships be the most important element of successful long-term ecosystem builder development,” Bowles said.

Support for a strong foundation will eventually allow the network to expand further, which is why the Kauffman Foundation invested in a grant to help formalize the organization. This includes developing an operating plan, hiring an executive director, creating a membership program, and establishing a sustainable revenue model roadmap, among other logistics.

Startup Champions Network

“There’s more potential, and that potential is us reaching more entrepreneurs and more communities,” Garbee said. “Knowledge of information can flow faster, and we’ll be able to form better partnerships with governments, corporations, and higher education to influence the future work of entrepreneurship in our country.

“Our mission is to continue to identify new markets that are emerging within the entrepreneurial ecosystem builder community,” she said. “I see us continuing to push boundaries at a national level to represent what it means to be in this space and how we continue to be intentional about the growth and knowledge of ecosystem building.”

Visit the website to learn more about SCN, future summits, and how to bring a summit to your community.