ESHIP Summit 2018: Building an Ecosystem of Ecosystem Builders

Jeff Bennett
Apr 29 · 3 min read

Over 600 startup and entrepreneurial ecosystem builders converged on Kansas City last week for the second annual ESHIP Summit, organized by the Kauffman Foundation.

Entrepreneurial ecosystem building, the work of supporting entrepreneurs and growing entrepreneurship in a community, is an emerging movement in economic development.

In 2017 The Kauffman Foundation launched the first ESHIP Summit, a three-year initiative (Year 1: Discover, Year 2: Design, Year 3: Deliver) designed to “bring together builders of entrepreneurial ecosystems to collaboratively create tools, resources and knowledge to better support communities that empower makers, doers and dreamers.”

“The ESHIP Summit aims to create a unified, national movement of entrepreneurs and ecosystem builders who work to infuse entrepreneurship into economic development.”

This year’s summit prioritized inclusion and diversity in entrepreneurship as well as focusing on a mass collaboration effort to define the EShip Goals.

The ESHIP Goals

  1. Inclusive Field: Ensure ecosystem builders from diverse perspectives lead our field.
  2. Collaborative Culture: Strengthen the culture within our field.
  3. Shared Vision: Establish shared outcomes and a common lexicon for our work.
  4. Connected Networks: Build field-wide communication channels to connect ecosystem builders across networks.
  5. Quantified Methods: Define the methods and metrics of evidence-based ecosystem building.
  6. Universal Support: Expand external stakeholder engagement in ecosystem building.
  7. Sustainable Work: Develop professional recognition and resources for ecosystem builders.

In a two and half days of jam-packed activities, attendees worked in regional “campfire” conversations, interactive and engaging roundtable discussions on goal definitions, as well as “firestarter” keynote speakers, an unconference, and a science fair.

Fantastic job by the organizing team and all of the facilitators that brought together a diverse group of people working so hard to support entrepreneurship! It was great to see and interact with hundreds of others out there who are empowering entrepreneurial activity in their communities. The spirit and energy were inspiring and motivating. You can get somewhat of a sense of that in the video below.

On Friday, the event concluded with a commitment fair. My commitments from the EShip Summit are two:

  1. Help to connect the new ecosystem builders working in underrepresented in our region to the broader startup community
  2. Step up and start connecting the network(s) — Goal 4 — Connected Networks

Next steps

In his closing remarks, Victor Hwang remarked that they will “pull together a team of people from across this whole spectrum of work to help advise and guide us on how we deploy this strategy.” Victor also encouraged people to step up and start doing the work.

“Generally people wait for permission, they keep waiting for leaders to step up and do something for them… You are the leaders you’re waiting for. We are the people, in this room, we’re the ones on the ground, that are going to do this work. No one’s going to give you permission to do it. You just have to start doing it.”

For my part, I want to dive right in to start connecting the network. I’m taking on the challenge of trying to collect and organize sub-networks of ecosystem builders around core missions/purposes/focuses, interests, verticals etc. of ecosystem building. For example, I’d like to organize a network of people and organizations who are the “small, scrappy, non-profit”, non-institutional builders who are focused on supporting and enabling innovative, scalable, growth-focused startups (afraid to use the word technology startups because that can be too narrowly defined). Others might be interested in a network for ecosystem builders in CDFIs or city economic development departments.

If you’re interested in helping to collect/organize sub-networks of ecosystem builders around core mission/purpose/focus, interest, verticals etc. of ecosystem building join the conversation in the EShip Community Facebook group.

If you’re a small, scrappy, organization focused on empowering innovative, scalable, growth-focused tech and life sciences startups, or just someone who’s interested or has experience with that, connect with me on LinkedIn as I’m collecting the sub-ecosystem/network of people interested in that.

Originally published at


Jeff Bennett

Written by

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


The Startup Champions Network is a tightly connected network of innovation ecosystem builders — and related support organizations — who collaborate to advance the practice of Ecosystem Building and bring about more successful entrepreneurial ventures across the United States.

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