If you are looking to connect and map your ecosystem, we can help. Entrepreneurship ecosystems are highly fragmented by nature and that affects how small businesses are able to find and connect to the right resource.
Using the Startup Space platform, we map the ecosystem and connect the key stakeholders to ensure that the small businesses end up finding the right resource. We also track the engagement and utilization rates to ensure that the small businesses are using these resources, which then gives our clients the insights to make thoughtful programmatic changes when something is not working out.
Let’s first look at how this all started.
Startup Space: Born out of the need to better connect the ecosystem
I launched Startup Space in June of 2018 from my own experiences as an entrepreneur after failing in my first business. I found it hard to find the resources and connections I needed to get started. It was truly frustrating. I found my ecosystem to be disconnected and I didn’t know where to go for the support I needed. There were no support networks to ask a question, search for resources or even find a list of events. I had to solve that problem.
When we started we launched our platform with a peer networking forum – which is now called “Connect Now”. It was after listening to other entrepreneurs, customers and the rest of the ecosystem that we today have an ecosystem platform through which we have entrepreneurs in over 150 Cities, over 12,000 ecosystem participants around the world, we support 75 ecosystems hubs, we Measure Impact in 65 countries, and we have Service Provider information on over 3400+ resources.
Our vision is to help entrepreneurs navigate the ecosystem and find the resources they need to launch and grow their businesses. We also want to help the ecosystem providers by creating efficiency in their activities, help measure the impact of their work, track the journey of their entrepreneurs and like one of our ecosystem providers put it, “ unlock the philanthropic support needed to provide ecosystem resources and meaningful programing for their underserved communities”.
What is an entrepreneurship ecosystem?
An entrepreneurship ecosystem is a community of people coming together to create an environment that provides entrepreneurs in the locality the best possible chance to create wealth for themselves and for their community.
Key words are community, local, wealth creation. We believe that in spite of globalization and a boundary-less society, businesses rely primarily on local support to start their businesses.
How does an entrepreneurship ecosystem function?
An entrepreneurship ecosystem provides: access to develop technical skills, access to mentors and business coaches who can help prevent false starts, a willing group of early adopters who provide feedback on prototypes, access to capital, a diverse talent pool of sweat equity risk takers, a government that supports and incentivizes entrepreneurship, and a culture that celebrates innovation and entrepreneurialism.
Why do we need an entrepreneurship ecosystem?
When we lived in close-knit communities a few centuries ago, entrepreneurship was probably the most common form of business opportunity. I grew up in rural India where my parents were social workers and are still to this day. I vividly have memories of the tribal groups we worked with. They were all entrepreneurs, there were farmers, cattle owners, potters, bamboo weavers, etc. and they all bartered and made a living selling to each other. They had to be entrepreneurial to sustain their families.
With the advent of the industrial revolution, people went to work for corporations, and entrepreneurship took a backseat. It was prestigious to work for a large company. This resulted in large disparities of wealth between the people at the top of the corporate ladder and those at the bottom. We also lost some of our innate abilities to self start and use ingenuity to innovate and create wealth.
The arrival of the information technology age brought back the ability to be innovative and also the incentive to create a product or service that could scale to compete and create real wealth. However, this information is not uniformly accessible to everyone. And the resources needed to start a business are not equally distributed. Not all entrepreneurs have the same starting point and a level playing field. Therefore we need an ecosystem that breaks down barriers and helps level the playing field.
So who are the ecosystem participants?
We work with 13 different ecosystem personas or profiles:
- Startups – Actively working on a business.
- Entrepreneurs – The tinkerers, who actively are looking to partner with or start a venture.
- Service Providers – Lawyers, accountants, web developers, etc.
- Mentors – We work with several mentor networks to help connect mentors to entrepreneurs to automate the handshake process and track effectiveness.
- Investors – Angel investors, VCs, etc. We have had success stories of investors finding startups on our platform.
- Faculty – We work with several universities and colleges where the faculty play a critical role in teaching and inspiring emerging entrepreneurs.
- Community Organizers – These are ecosystem managers, mostly from Entrepreneurial support organizations and most of our clients fall in this bucket.
- Corporations – These are the WeWorks and the JP Morgan Chases of the world that support innovation and incubate ideas.
- Government Agency – We also work with city and state governments on tracking grant funding, providing ecosystem resources, etc.
- Nonprofits – Mainly 501c3’s that support entrepreneurship but play a critical role in supporting and empowering entrepreneurs.
- Ecosystem Builders – Influencers, super connectors and entrepreneurship veterans
- Students – Emerging entrepreneurs who are actively learning about entrepreneurship and working on startup ideas
- Community Member – Advocates for entrepreneurship
We provide a custom journey for each persona on the platform because a startup will need different tools compared to a mentor who will use the platform differently than an investor.
Profile of today’s entrepreneur in the ecosystem
- Represent the gig economy, most of them have a side hustle
- Hyper-connected and know how to source information digitally
- Early adopters of technology solutions at a rate faster than the rest of the ecosystem
- However, their reality is also that they:
- Face navigational challenges and are not aware of existing resources
- Need help to scale from freelancers to small businesses
- Lack knowledge on how to start a business and are scared of the unknown
- Underserved entrepreneurs are impacted disproportionately
What is an ecosystem resource?
An ecosystem resource is a resource an entrepreneur needs as an input to launch or grow a business or a service. On Startup Space, Ecosystem resources are an accumulation of well-categorized and hyperlocal services, organizations, programs, opportunities, events, and other content that spans a variety of interests and industries specified by stages of startups and communities of interest supported.
Ecosystem resources might include, but are not limited to:
- Programs or organizations that serve startups and entrepreneurs in any capacity
- Comprehensive events calendar that combines a local community’s programming efforts into one singular and easily accessible place
- Physical locations that provide connections to education, workforce opportunities, and space
- Individuals or groups that support and nurture the growth of startups and entrepreneurs through mentorship and networking
- Peer-to-peer support outside of centralized programs, organizations, and spaces that encourage startups and entrepreneurs to connect beyond physical locations
- Digital spaces that provide access to research and content relevant to starting and sustaining a business
- Shared information, stories, news, and other content that inspires and encourages local community starters, entrepreneurs, and other members of the ecosystem
- These resources must remain current and relevant to the ecosystem they support.
How can we better support underserved entrepreneurs?
We can better support underserved entrepreneurs by empowering them and giving them the same probability of success for their ventures. In the gap analysis section later in the presentation, we will look at one such underserved community to better understand what it takes to give them a level playing field.
The need from our partners to better connect underserved communities—like the Hmong community in Minneapolis, the Arab community in Detroit, the LBGTQIA+ community in Denver, and entrepreneurs who have disabilities across all communities—is because we need a better and more inclusive and accessible entrepreneur ecosystem. This has inspired us to create a solution that reflects the work of our clients. Here are some examples:
- Focusing on accessibility and inclusivity by making our platform friendly and compliant for people with disabilities like visual impairment.
- Democratizing our resources and making them open source so anyone can go to startupspace.app/resource, enter their address and get access to local resources in their community, from within a 5 miles radius to over 300 miles from where they live, which becomes important when you live in a small town in Illinois and your closest resource might be in Chicago
- Ensuring that our data is useful, fresh, and relevant to the communities we serve by enabling peer moderation, activating service providers to update information, and by implementing a robust process for working with local ecosystem builders to map resources, like the work we are doing with our Denver partner, The Commons on Champa.
- Creating an amazing user experience by providing several front doors to the ecosystem resources like the resource page and events page for our partner in Minnesota, Forge North
- A mobile app that auto-geofences you into your community but is dynamic and can also provide you with real-time resources in any part of the country with a couple clicks. Check out the community hub for our partner, NEI based out of Detroit here.
- Directly adding the resources to our partner websites so our partners can continue to be a resource platform for their entrepreneurs.
- Partnering with local storytelling organizations like ingoodcodetroit.com to use their storytelling platform to connect with entrepreneurs
Easily accessible and highly visible specialty resources within an ecosystem provide a greater sense of personal connection and representation to groups that have been traditionally underestimated in the realm of entrepreneurship. You can find out more about our work here. By bringing these specialty resources forward, a community is not only acknowledging the diversity of their local ecosystem, but also actively working to support and foster entrepreneurship for all individuals within their local community. This ultimately strengthens the ecosystem as a whole and provides a much richer and equitable experience for everyone—regardless of where they are at in their entrepreneurial journey.