Entrepreneurs! Ecosystem Builders Are Here To Help You!

Find and connect with the people in your community that help entrepreneurs access the resources they need.

Jeff Bennett
Jun 17, 2020 · 6 min read
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Photo by NeONBRAND on Unsplash

Starting a business is challenging. The list of things you need to know seems to grow on a daily basis. You probably aren’t even aware of all the things you don’t know. Barriers and hurdles appear daily at every turn.

There are many resources available to help entrepreneurs, but you probably don’t know they exist. And, knowing how to find those resources is yet another challenge. But, take heart entrepreneurs! There are people whose sole purpose is to help you. They’re called ecosystem builders.

Ecosystem Building Grows and Supports Entrepreneurship

You may not know it, but research has shown that the young companies that entrepreneurs launch are the key drivers of economic growth. As an entrepreneur, you are vital to growing a vital and dynamic local economy. Recognizing this, a growing number of people are realizing that the best way to revitalize economies is through helping entrepreneurs start and grow their businesses by cultivating an entrepreneurial ecosystem in which they can thrive.

Entrepreneurs need communities and systems of support — entrepreneurial ecosystems — to increase their chances of success. These entrepreneurial ecosystem can be thought of as the systems of people and relationships that surround entrepreneurs and help them succeed.

Ecosystem Builders: Your Connector and Concierge to the Entrepreneurial Ecosystem

Over the last few years, a new role has emerged within entrepreneurial ecosystems — the ecosystem builder. Ecosystem builders are the people who make connections in the community and facilitate the flow of talent, information, and resources by focusing their work on building a system of support and resources for entrepreneurs in their communities or industries. The most impactful ones take a systems-wide approach to build, grow, support, and nurture the ecosystem and make it thrive.

Ecosystem builders do a variety of things to help entrepreneurs. They might run an accelerator or provide educational programs to teach entrepreneurs necessary skills. Many organize events like demo days, pitch competitions, and networking events. More than anything, ecosystem builders help entrepreneurs connect with each other as well as those in the community who can mentor or coach them and provide the resources and knowledge needed to succeed.

How to Find Ecosystem Builders in Your Community

While ecosystem builders are a critical part of making an entrepreneurial community thrive, they’re not always easy to find if you don’t know where to look. Ecosystem building still hasn’t caught on as a mainstream approach to business and economic development in many cities so ecosystem builders typically don’t get a lot of publicity and attention.

The field is also still young and emerging, so there currently isn’t an online database where you can go search for ecosystem builders in your community. But, there are a few things you can do to find and connect with ecosystem builders in your community who can help you on your entrepreneurial journey. If you’d like to find and connect with the people that can help you in your entrepreneurial journey, check out these tips to finding an ecosystem builder in your community.

Start with Google

As with many searches, Google is a good place to start. But, to make your Google search effective, not frustrating, you need to know what search terms to use. Here are a few suggested search terms to use to help you find ecosystem builder organizations near you:

Google Search Terms

  • startup {your city} (e.g. Startup Miami, Startup Cincinnati, etc.)
  • startup {your state} (e.g. Startup Iowa)
  • ecosystem builder {your city} (e.g. ecosystem builder Detroit)

The term startup {your city}, or startup {your state} if you live in a smaller community, is your best starting point. Startup {city} or startup {state} is a very common naming convention for ecosystem building organizations.

These searches may not result in the exact person or organization that you’re looking for. The search may return articles or websites that have been written about the organizations or ecosystem builders you’re looking for. If so, dive into the article and explore. Take notes of the names of people and organizations that are working within the city to grow entrepreneurship. Then, take those names and expand your search within Google or LinkedIn.

Branch out to Neighboring Cities

Still coming up empty? Many ecosystem builders are familiar with their peers that work in neighboring cities. Try going back to Google and use the same techniques outlined above but for a neighboring city, especially if it’s larger than the community where you are. Find ecosystem builders there and reach out to them through their websites or LinkedIn page. Ask them if they know any ecosystem builders in your community. If they do, ask them for an introduction.

Look For Your City On 1millioncups.com

1 Million Cups is an entrepreneurial program of the Kauffman Foundation, a national nonprofit organization with a focus on growing entrepreneurship. There are currently local chapters in over 170 communities across the country. These chapters are led by a team of volunteers, who, though it may not be their full-time job, are ecosystem builders. Contact your local chapter by clicking through to the 1 Million Cups community page for your city and reach out to the organizers. They will be glad to help you and will likely know the other ecosystem builders in your community who can help you.

Look for Startup Digest in Your Community

Startup Digest is another free resource that many ecosystem builders use to provide value to their community. It’s a weekly, curated newsletter with the latest startup news and startup events in an area. Search on the Startup Digest website for your community, subscribe to your local community’s digest, and connect with the person who curates and writes the newsletter.

Look for a Startup Weekend in Your Community

Startup Weekends are another grassroots event with an entrepreneurship focus. Like 1 Million Cups, they’re organized by volunteers in the community who have a passion for helping entrepreneurs. Again, they may not be full-time ecosystem builders, but they likely have connections with the key ecosystem builders in your community. Go to the Startup Weekend home page where you’ll find a search box to search for your community. You may find upcoming or past events, but either way, those should link to a page about the event that includes the names and contact information of the organizers.

Go to CO.STARTERS

CO.STARTERS is another ecosystem building organization with a national presence. They’re a global community that represents a diverse group of ecosystem builders supporting a wide range of starters. Go to their communities page to see if they have a provider near you.

Go to EcosystemBuilderHub.com

Ecosystem Builder Hub is an online hub of stories and news about ecosystem builders and ecosystem building. Many of the stories and articles are spotlights on what specific ecosystem builders are doing in their communities to support entrepreneurs. Go to the site and enter your city or community name in the search box to find articles or links to articles on other websites about that city’s ecosystem builders.

For Rural Entrepreneurs

Entrepreneurship in rural communities presents unique challenges for entrepreneurs. A growing number of organizations are realizing this and have organized to provide resources, events, and information to rural entrepreneurs.

The Rural Innovation Initiative (RII), a program of the Center on Rural Innovation (CORI), is a great starting point to find resources and ecosystem builders specifically focused on rural entrepreneurship.

RuralRise features a yearly summit for rural entrepreneurs as well as monthly online meetups where you can connect with ecosystem builders who focus on helping rural entrepreneurs.

Hopefully these tips have helped you to find people in your community that can help you on your entrepreneurial journey to launch and grow your business. But, if you’re still coming up empty, drop me a comment and let me know what city you’re in. I’ll see if I can use my network of ecosystem builders to connect you with an ecosystem builder in your community. Good luck!

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Jeff Bennett

Written by

Entrepreneurial Ecosystem Builder | Editorial Director at Ecosystem Builder Hub | Cofounder & President of StartupSac | Writer & Digital Media Content Creator

Data Driven Investor

empower you with data, knowledge, and expertise

Jeff Bennett

Written by

Entrepreneurial Ecosystem Builder | Editorial Director at Ecosystem Builder Hub | Cofounder & President of StartupSac | Writer & Digital Media Content Creator

Data Driven Investor

empower you with data, knowledge, and expertise

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