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ESHIP Summit


What are Firestarters?

Since the inaugural ESHIP Summit in 2017, we invited ecosystem builders from around the country to speak in what we call a “Firestarter Session.” Ecosystem builders share a story, notion, thought, project, or idea to seed people’s thinking, fueling creativity, analysis, inspiration, and engagement in key themes in the field of entrepreneurial ecosystem building.

Now, three years later, we’ve asked over a dozen additional ecosystem builders to watch, recap, and share their thinking on the Firestarter talks from the past ESHIP Summits.

The following themes – Collaboration and Culture Building; Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion; Ecosystem Building Fundamentals; and Updates from the Field – have emerged as part of a series that supports the Kauffman Foundation’s ongoing efforts to grow entrepreneurship and explore new models of economic development by elevating the work of ecosystem builders.

Jeff Bennett

Jeff BennettJeff Bennett builds ecosystems at the local and field levels. At the local level, he is the co-founder and President of StartupSac, a small, scrappy nonprofit in Sacramento, California, that informs, educates, and connects founders and innovators. He also works to connect and inform ecosystem builders, advancing the field across the nation. Bennett co-founded Ecosystem Builder Hub, an online resource for ecosystem building news and stories, and writes extensively on the topic. He also works with the Kauffman Foundation in advancing the work of ecosystem builders and as an ESHIP Champion for ESHIP Goal 4.

Alistair Brett

Alistair BrettAlistair Brett works with national and regional governments, universities, research institutes, and corporations, building new technology-based businesses in some 15 countries. This experience has led Alistair to develop the science and practice of innovation ecosystems described in his book “Admired Disorder: A Guide to Building Innovative Ecosystems.” He has a Ph.D. in physics.

Dell Gines

Dell GinesDell Gines is a senior community development advisor from the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City. He focuses on innovative economic development strategies to help support economically challenged rural and urban communities. More on Dell on LinkedIn.

Paulo Gregory

Paulo GregoryPaulo is the inventor of Cohado, an Afro-futurist, collaborative tool for reimagining systems and relationships to generate abundant and sustainable solutions. He is a designer, facilitator, and community builder with extensive experience designing, facilitating, and advancing collaborative planning and transformation initiatives. He also developed the Cohado Strategic Design process that is implemented with individuals and groups desiring to initiate quantum changes personally, within communities and workplaces, and on both sides of the prison walls.

Felecia Hatcher

Felecia HatcherFelecia Hatcher is on a mission to create inclusive and diverse tech/startup ecosystems and has written extensively on the subject. She’s also served as co-founder of Tribe Cowork and Urban Innovation Lab, Code Fever, and Black Tech Week. As a result of her work, Miami has become one of the most authentically diverse startup ecosystems in the country. Before joining the startup community, Felecia spent many years working in all aspects of marketing for large brands around the world. She’s received numerous awards for her work in entrepreneurship and in support of building diverse ecosystems.

Anika Horn

Anika HornAnika Horn is an ecosystem builder for social change, social enterprise advisor, and storyteller. She is on a mission to equip ecosystem builders with the insights, resources, and community to lead fulfilling lives and purpose-driven careers. Learn more about her work at and

Tyler LeCompte

Tyler LeCompteA self-described ‘recovering’ entrepreneur, Tyler LeCompte is an ecosystem builder from Florida who was part of the inaugural ESHIP Champion class. Tyler has worked with hundreds of entrepreneurs and businesses on their startups. Through his involvement with 1 Million Cups, Tyler was introduced to the ESHIP Summit and has been engaged in the work ever since. He works most closely with Goal 4 – Connected Networks and the Storytelling Initiative. Recently, Tyler joined ESHIP Champions Jeff Bennett and Avary Kent, launching to highlight the people and work of ecosystem builders around the world.

Louisa Shepherd

Louisa ShepherdLouisa Shepherd currently serves as the director of Collective Impact at Epicenter, the Memphis, Tennessee, hub for entrepreneurship and innovation. At Epicenter, Louisa leads strategic initiatives to collect ecosystem data and measure the impact of collaborative efforts across the city, furthering Epicenter’s mission to create 500 new companies and cultivate 1,000 new entrepreneurs through idea creation, development, funding, and growth.

Cecilia Wessinger

Cecilia WessingerCecilia Wessinger is an entrepreneurial ecosystem builder and supports the Kauffman Foundation as an ESHIP Community Activator. She works to unite empowerment and equity with community culture, and as a certified Cultural Competency and Unconscious Bias facilitator, she moves conversations beyond diversity and inclusion to connecting, engaging, and belonging. She previously worked in the travel industry and has lived, worked, and traveled around the world. Follow her story contributions on Medium.