This post was co-authored by David Ponraj, CEO, and Jodi McLean, Chief of Staff, at Economic Impact CatalystPhoto by Jaye Haych on Unsplash. 

The No Wrong Door Concept
The concept of “No Wrong Door” is not specific to economic development and has been adopted by other industries such as healthcare. The ideology is the same across industries: No Wrong Door represents a powerful network. It was designed to assist individuals who require specific resources. No Wrong Door signifies that an individual can access this network and will be linked to appropriate services, depending on their particular needs, regardless of where they enter the system. 

Why No Wrong Door Matters to EIC
Our Origin Story is what led our Team to champion the No Wrong Door concept for entrepreneurship-led economic development. In 2013, the Founder and CEO of Economic Impact Catalyst (EIC), David Ponraj, ventured out from corporate America to tackle entrepreneurship. He launched a bootstrapped manufacturing company that eventually failed, and he went back to the corporate lifestyle. He was unaware of the funding and resources available to him as a startup founder.

David went into business for himself believing that if he was consistent and diligent, he would be successful. Failing at the business ate away at him. After returning to corporate and rising to the top of a well-known global market research company, he felt unfulfilled and decided to look into why his original company failed. He then set out on a path to solve that problem for other startup founders.

Coming from a corporate, global world of technology and data analytics, he created a digital platform for founders and entrepreneurs to connect. He pitched his idea at dozens of startup events and pitch contests across the United States to get feedback and develop his Minimum Viable Product. He was able to discover many new business services, capital sources, and incentives by attending these events. David then developed the concept of a system that would create a No Wrong Door environment for entrepreneurs to find and access these valuable resources.

The Inspiration Behind No Wrong Door
David came to see No Wrong Door as the very first website, individual, or organization that an entrepreneur will reach out to in their community to find resources; i.e. mentorship, business planning, funding, or legal counsel. This could include places such as the local library, coworking space, incubator, SBDC, networking group, or local chamber.

Organizations that influenced David’s innovative solution for creating No Wrong Door experiences for entrepreneurs included:

  • 1 Million Cups – Free local events held nationwide for entrepreneurs to meet, pitch their startups, and find support and resources. 
  • The Kauffman Foundation – At the time, the nonprofit, private foundation based in Kansas City was bringing together local leaders in entrepreneurial ecosystem building. The foundation’s ESHIP initiative convened people to accelerate the promulgation of No Wrong Door for entrepreneurs nationwide.
  • CO.STARTERS – This national nonprofit provides local organizations with an accessible curriculum, instructor training, and promotional assets to develop small business programs and entrepreneurial communities.
  • The Commons on Champa – A public-private partnership based in Denver, Colorado, lent first-hand experience with a city’s economic development effort to build an inclusive entrepreneurial community with No Wrong Door. The organization is managed by the Downtown Denver Partnership, the economic development authority for Downtown Denver. Through the partnership with the city, entrepreneurs can access free event and work space and meet with representatives from Denver Economic Development & Opportunity. This agency works to ensure an inclusive and innovative economy for all residents, businesses, and neighborhoods. The Commons became the first organization to partner with David to implement the EIC solution for creating No Wrong Door.
  • Forward Cities – Discovering organizations like Forward Cities helped to coalesce the No Wrong Door idea. Forward Cities is a national nonprofit equipping communities and regions to grow and sustain more equitable entrepreneurial ecosystems.

The entrepreneur will be able to navigate the network from any point of entry. Artificial intelligence and a tech-enabled resource map power this guided process. Entrepreneurs can connect through a unified ecosystem with a variety of advisors, education, and capital access. This network is highly connected to be a referral source for those who wish to start or expand their business.

Our Mission and Vision at EIC
At EIC, 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. We fulfill our corporate mission and vision each day by developing interconnected, digital networks of local, regional, and statewide “front doors” for people who are looking to launch or scale a business. In turn, this will allow entrepreneurs to create wealth and autonomy for themselves, their teams and their communities. For our intent and purpose, No Wrong Door refers to effective referral networks that make resources readily available to entrepreneurs and small business owners across the United States, through the stages of business growth, from ideation to scale.

Why Communities Fight for No Wrong Door
No Wrong Door is an altruistic concept that many communities struggle to embrace. Scarcity mindsets can threaten the ability to build the coalition No Wrong Door. Referring entrepreneurs to other resources can cause providers to feel that they could lose clients or ownership. We help our clients and other resource providers understand the value and benefits of No Wrong Door.

Local resource providers must also understand their ecosystem in order to identify gaps and overlaps in services. In either instance, finding a unique value proposition or specialty niche can be critical for the provider to create new value within the ecosystem. For instance, they can specialize in solutions for high-growth tech startups, or for local mom-and-pop shops. Both types of startups bring value to the local community and the local economy. However, they each have different needs as they grow.

Empowering Entrepreneurs and Economic Developers
EIC developed the Startup Space platform to accelerate No Wrong Door nationwide. The platform uses technology and innovation to connect entrepreneurs with the resources they need. It also provides the ecosystem-building platform to the economic development organizations that serve those entrepreneurs. Our platform currently connects entrepreneurs to resources in more than 100 communities across 35 states in the U.S.

The Startup Space platform powered by EIC creates a dynamic, connected ecosystem. It also serves as an event and programs management tool. It includes a backend CRM and living dashboard that tracks analytics in real time. More features are available to manage grants and coworking spaces, and to track referrals, mentorship and cohorts. Startup Space is an economic development tool that measures impact and drives policy. It can be used to help secure additional funding through storytelling and impact reports. 

If you are an ecosystem builder with a focus on entrepreneurship, and would like to learn more about our platform, please book a call with our team here.