Ecosystem Builders: Liaison-Animateurs?
What differentiates ecosystem builders? Are great entrepreneurial ecosystems truly built bottom-up,
entrepreneur-led as Brad Feld (2012), Startup Genome (2018) and others argue persuasively? Given the
near-absolute policy dominance of the triple helix and clusters before that, a focus on the inherent
connectivity of ecosystems is imperative. In particular, the practitioner community argues for the
centrality of connecting and thus connectors. This project is part of a larger effort to understand the
nature of the critical connectors in entrepreneurial communities. The Ewing Marion Kauffman
Foundation and others argue that a new profession has arisen, that of the “ecosystem builder” (e.g.,
2017, 2018). Implicit in this is a belief that ecosystem builders are inherently more entrepreneurial. We
thus seek here to characterize ecosystem builders on multiple dimensions as to knowledge, skills and
beliefs, on critical behaviors, and on the entrepreneurial mindset.
At the just-completed Growing Entrepreneurial Communities summit, it was clear that we need to
devote more energy to supporting connectors, especially the “super connectors” who seem crucial to the
growth of entrepreneurial communities. We heard the exact same call from the delegates to the Ewing
Marion Kauffman Foundation’s global ESHIP summit of ecosystem builders. But to support them, we
need a much deeper, richer understanding of what they do and who they are.
Wednesday, August 15, 2018
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