How to Get Started Mapping Your Entrepreneurial Ecosystem
“Strong ecosystems allow entrepreneurs to quickly find knowledge and resources they need to succeed.”
Note: A version of this article, updated in November 2022, with updated insights and tips can be found on Ecosystem Builder Hub.
That quote, from The Kauffman Foundation’s Entrepreneurial Ecosystem Building Playbook, highlights one of the key elements of a strong ecosystem. Why is the ability to find knowledge and resources so key? Entrepreneurs face challenges everyday and nobody is born with the inherent knowledge needed to make their startup successful. For an ecosystem to thrive, entrepreneurs need barriers reduced. They need to know what resources exists and where to find them.
There is great value in assessing and mapping your startup and entrepreneurial ecosystem. I believe that mapping out your ecosystem is essential for getting the community more engaged and connected. Assessing who the players are in your ecosystem and what they’re doing not only helps you point out those resources to others but it helps you to identify gaps.
All ecosystem builders I talk to agree that mapping their ecosystem is valuable. But many don’t know how to get started. How do you assess and find what resources are available, then organize it all, document it, and publish it to make it available? Here are some ideas from my experience.
Finding the Information
The best source of information is the people in your community-entrepreneurs and other ecosystem builders. The first step in assessing your ecosystem should be to find the most connected ecosystem builders and entrepreneurs in your community. Reach out to them and meet with them to extract their knowledge about the resources in the community. Meet with them somewhere you won’t be distracted, preferably with a large whiteboard or flip charts to capture the resources and connections. Don’t worry about the form or format of capturing it at this point. Just focus on capturing the information.
What kind of information should you ask about? Accelerators, incubators, entrepreneurship training programs and workshops, co-working spaces, maker spaces, universities, pitch events and competitions, networking events and meetups, venture capital firms, angel investors, government and other civic programs, and mentors. That’s just a starting point. You basically want to unearth any resource, program, organization, or…