Economic Development Organizations and Their Needs
For economic development organizations (EDOs), it has become increasingly important to provide opportunities and resources for entrepreneurs to grow and maintain their businesses. Local small businesses are critical to a vibrant community and have been widely overlooked in economic development until the COVID-19 pandemic shone a bright light on their benefits. Small businesses are the lifeblood of a community as they can help create third places and job opportunities. Third places “root us, give us identity, and support us.” Third places contribute to society by sparking conversation, allowing for a sense of personal connection, and creating an accessible place for the community to gather.
While third places provide this level of connection and access for the community, the small business owners in charge of these locations also need a heightened level of connection and accessibility to grow their businesses. EIC provides a solution with the Startup Space platform. Startup Space allows entrepreneurs to be connected with investors, mentors, peers, and others in their community looking to aid entrepreneurs in their journey. When launching a small business, entrepreneurs look for resources and methods to strengthen and grow their businesses. EDOs can support and facilitate this growth through tools that prioritize milestone tracking, data collection, and the entrepreneur’s progress over time. As entrepreneurs interact with the platform through event registration, form submissions and surveys, advising and mentoring sessions, and the utilization of other tools, EDOs gain invaluable insight into the health and progress of their small business communities.
Unwrapping the Layers of Startup Space
There are three layers to the Startup Space platform that make it a robust, all-in-one technology platform to support entrepreneurship-led economic development (ELED) efforts: community forming, community building, and data analytics. The first layer, community forming, is the most forward-facing and user-centric layer built to provide the level of access small business owners need to get connected and learn more about what their community offers. As the second layer suggests, community building builds on that access and connection to provide tools for small business owners to develop their skills and knowledge over time. The third layer, data analytics, provides a lens through which EDOs can collect, track, measure, and manage community engagement, customer relationships, and program efficiency through the small business owner’s interactions with the platform. Implementing Startup Space’s layered approach helps improve and progress ELED efforts, as well as workforce and community development initiatives.
Community Forming: The Basis of Startup Space
Startup Space’s multi-layered approach was developed by a team of industry experts that understand the purpose behind the work that economic development organizations do. Most EDOs understand that small businesses need to transform and reach the next stage of development to succeed, but before that can happen, entrepreneurs must learn how to get their businesses to that point. Community forming, the first layer of the Startup Space platform, is the foundation for encouraging that connection and growth. Community forming is the most front-facing layer that involves what communities choose to show outwardly. Users are welcomed into a community to engage with one another and find resources. Generally, this forward-facing layer is an EDO’s public website or business navigator that integrates into our technology to promote events, share resources, highlight programs and opportunities, and more.
By navigating through the EDO’s website, entrepreneurs and others who require help can find what would best suit their needs. For example, Energize Colorado hosts a wealth of information on their site including a section purely for resources. These resources can be filtered by name, area of support, geographic location, and communities of interest. There is a wide variety to choose from, and the platform is user-friendly. Our technology makes it easy for individuals and organizations to navigate the extensive list of resources and find exactly what they’re looking for.
This approach also takes into account what an EDO may specifically want to show to small business owners who are visiting their website. Community forming tools and integrations are easily customizable and give EDOs the freedom to choose what works best for their organization or community. In addition to seamless, integrated access and community support, Startup Space tracks how small business owners interact with these platform integrations, providing valuable data and insights for EDOs.
Community Building: Features of the Tool
Have you considered the amount of details and resources that go into transforming entrepreneurship efforts? This is what the second layer of the multi-layered approach, community building, addresses.
One of the key features of this layer is mentorship. Traditionally, mentorship has been a heavy lift for EDOs. From searching for both qualified mentors and mentees, coordinating meeting times and setting up programmatic support, and reviewing the progress and quality of interactions over time, mentorship programs often result in loads of manual upkeep and support. Startup Space mentorship allows for a more hands-off approach. EDOs can create and send out applications within the community to source mentors and mentees, and then automate the review process with ease of submission review. The technology’s algorithm can then automatically recommend pairs for mentors and mentees based on interest, experience, and expertise. Our mentor and mentee dashboards help program participants by organizing requested, upcoming, and up-for-grabs sessions, and even provide mentors and mentees with recommended connections.
Similarly to mentorship, business advising is a feature on the platform that simplifies and streamlines the implementation of programming and data collection. This tool provides advisors with an easy way to track their meetings with advisees and support the advisee’s progress over time.
EDOs can also facilitate grant management through the platform. From the earliest stages of collecting and reviewing applications, and then working with internal and community partners to match applicants to opportunities, Startup Space’s tools aid in grant management delivery. Organizations can track budgets and financial reports, award grants to qualified applicants, administer technical assistance, and measure progress over time, which leads to more successful program outcomes.
Other community building tools include event management, cohort management, and the resource compass. Event management provides an interactive calendar where EDOs can post locally curated events. Small business owners can then search and discover unique opportunities to learn and grow their businesses. Whether in-person or virtual, small business owners can register through the Startup Space platform directly or through integrations with other popular event platforms.
Cohort management allows EDOs the opportunity to organize their programs into dashboards where they can add and populate participants manually or with intake program applications. Applications can be reviewed and scored, fulfilling a variety of programmatic needs.
The resource compass is an easily manageable online directory where small business owners can search, filter, or browse locally curated entrepreneurship resources and other types of support. Searches can be conducted by filters such as name, interest, expertise, industry, stage, communities of interest, location, and location radius, and resources can be viewed in a list or by location on a map. With community moderator approval, local organizations are also able to submit their business details or request to edit a pre-existing listing with the correct location and other information. Different hubs can have varied filters and features specific to their community, even when working with local or state community partners. Default filters can also be changed or removed in order to better suit an organization’s mission or focus. Any changes made to resources are also processed in real-time, which means small business owners will always have access to the most updated information at any given time. Like other Startup Space features, small business interactions with the resource compass and events are tracked to measure interactions and support effectiveness over time.
For EDOs who support physical spaces, the coworking space tool is a feature that allows for interactivity and a streamlined, efficient process for managing local spaces. Small business owners can schedule and book out rooms and available space to focus on projects and other tasks by using the Startup Space desktop or mobile application. EDOs and space managers can also create and assign membership access and utilize customizable front desk and reception screens.
Data Analytics: The Meaning Behind the Data
The final layer, data analytics, is where the information on how small business owners have interacted with the platform is collected, measured, and displayed. This strictly backend data is helpful for EDOs to see exactly how their programs are making a difference. Having access to this real-time data can allow EDOs to understand who is interacting with their content, and then translate that into the user journey on Startup Space. Analytics can be viewed on the Startup Space’s dashboards and then downloaded into curated spreadsheets to further analyze trends and visualize impact. Our system is all user-focused. This means that we can track user data, activity, and interaction within each feature. Additionally, if small business owners have filled out forms, surveys and applications detailing important characteristics such as demographics, this information is aggregated for EDOs to influence decision-making and programmatic improvement. *See our data privacy page for important security and privacy info. Privacy and security is woven into every layer of our platform.
The Startup Space platform transforms ELED efforts and programming so that entrepreneurs and small business owners can harness the content and tools all in one place. We offer this platform to help EDOs assist startups and growing businesses to make an impact in their communities. The community forming, community building, and data analytics layers all come together on Startup Space.
At Economic Impact Catalyst, our mission is to activate a world where there is equitable and inclusive access to entrepreneurship. We believe that entrepreneurship is the key to equitable and inclusive economic development. Our team’s main focus every day is to make it easier for founders to launch businesses in order to create wealth for themselves, for their teams, and for their communities. To learn more about our technology and market research solutions, built exclusively to catalyze entrepreneurship-led economic development efforts, book a call with us today.
*Please Note: We have a heavy focus on data privacy, as well as safeguards that are put in place to ensure safety and security of personal information.* Visit our Trust Center for details.