What is my role in the local entrepreneurship ecosystem?

I perfectly recall my first interaction with the idea of an “entrepreneurship ecosystem”. It was back in 2013, I had just started my new job at Orion Tech Park and Tec de Monterrey University. Back in the day, I had worked with a couple of ill-fated startups, as well as in consulting, and several startup events. I knew about Silicon Valley and some things about entrepreneurship, but I had never heard the concept of a machine just to set the conditions for entrepreneurship.

One of the first assignment I had in this position was studying other ecosystems to find a better way to organize the local efforts.

I remember the word ecosystems from my environmental science and geography course on the 3rd grade; living and non-living organisms, their environment and a series of components connected in a geographic area, but, “entrepreneurship ecosystem”?

We started researching and found plenty of ideas, concepts, and models about it. Several proposing different perspectives based on phases, institutions, environment, components, etc. (I wrote this in 2013)

In the end, all of them consider corporations, media, talent, universities, government, investors, and incubators-accelerators.

The second finding was that most of the models were focused on Innovation-based entrepreneurship with a strong base on economics.

During our journey, we researched and discovered amazing stories about the evolution of the regions and how they can be configured, in addition, we also visited several entrepreneurship ecosystems. From the ecosystems’ royalty: Silicon Valley, the Startup Nation, the Latin American equivalent in Startup Chile; all the way to the micro-ecosystem of H-Farm in Italy, the City case of Guadalajara, Mexico and many more (Babson, Stanford, Berlin, NYC, Berkeley, Seattle, Austin, Boulder).

It was then when we understood the importance of entrepreneurship ecosystems: they can change/move the economy of a place (city, region, country). One of the most comprehensive reports to understand the ecosystems is the “Global Startup Ecosystem Report by Startup Genome”. This year they published an Ecosystem Lifecycle Model to understand their evolution.

In their ranking they evaluate performance, funding, market reach, talent, and startup experience; Silicon Valley still stands in first place, followed by several US cities and the incursion of some Chinese cities.

The ecosystem can be created in 2 ways: organic or deliberated.

The origin of every ecosystem can be understood in one of those two ways. There are cases where a series of historic events led to the present conditions and some others where you can see a clear strategy in the ecosystem development, most of the times created by the government.

Lessons learned:

  1. Yes, ecosystems can create better economic conditions.
  2. Entrepreneurship tourists are everywhere, and they’re necessary.
  3. In most cases, ecosystems are not a good source of profit (incubators, accelerators, consultants, hackathon organizer, etc.)
  4. Universities play a more important role than they are aware of.
  5. Entrepreneurs are the center of the ecosystem, everything else must be aligned to them.
  6. The ecosystem must be an inclusive and friendly environment.
  7. Watch out for “anti-ecosystem” signs: egos, ecosystems patriarchies, government dependent ecosystems, short-term commitment, need for control.
  8. A culture of Failure (seriously).

Many cities, regions, and universities are working on their own entrepreneurship ecosystems. The worst mistake we have identified in their efforts is misalignment: a large number of beliefs, actors, efforts, events, programs, etc. working in different directions. This is not so bad in itself, it represents the beginning of an organic ecosystem, the main issue is time, considering that it can take up to several years and a large amount resources for the ecosystem to fully develop.

Allow me to further explain this with the OKR (objective and key results) methodology used by Google. According to this theory, every activity consumes time, resources, and has a direction. An ecosystem has various activities. If these efforts are all in the same direction, the impact will be stronger than if they were not.

There are several entrepreneurship efforts at the ecosystem:

Those efforts are in the same direction:

Or in different directions:

Ultimately, we are talking about time and efficiency. The deliberated entrepreneurship ecosystem efforts understand this and create a unique strategy. Otherwise, you are building an organic ecosystem.

So, what is my role (or your role) in this jungle (the ecosystem)?

It is a goal-oriented answer. Your role, our role, depends on “what I want to do for me? For my area? For my company/institution?”. If we find a perfect match between those goals the impact will be higher, if not it will result in diluted efforts.

What is your personal role and goal?

  • Entrepreneur (build a company)
  • Employee (have a job, personal/professional growth)
  • Academic (knowledge, improvement)
  • Researcher (papers, IP, projects)
  • Businessman (sales)
  • Consultant (customers)
  • Government employee (economic development, politics, branding)
  • Citizen (curiosity, support, promote change)

Which are the role and the goal of your area/department?

  • Sales (more sales and customers)
  • Development (impact)
  • Finance (profit)
  • PR (branding, networking)
  • Scouting (good projects)
  • HR (talent)
  • Engineering (developers)
  • Innovation (ideas)
  • CEO (all of the above)

Which are the role and the goal of your company/institution?

  • Corporate (innovation)
  • Startup (sales)
  • University (branding, innovation, academic work, customers, research)
  • Government (development, branding, politics)
  • A nonprofit organization (community)

The sum of those three perspectives determines the purpose of your role in the entrepreneurship ecosystem. That purpose must be confronted with the possibilities and assets that you can offer: knowledge, assets, networking, money, skills.

The result is your role in the ecosystem.