Cracking the entrepreneurship ecosystem code

Editor’s note: This post was republished with permission from the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation’s Growthology blog.

How can cities can build thriving entrepreneurial ecosystems? That’s an increasingly common question. But it’s a tough nut to crack. In my new role heading up the Kauffman Foundation’s Entrepreneurship program, we have determined that taking on this big challenge—helping cities strengthen their ecosystems—is now a top priority for us. This means new tools, resources, and ideas. It’s the dawn of a new model for economic development. And Kauffman wants to help it happen.

We decided to begin by listening, learning, and collecting the best ideas in the world. So, when we got the opportunity to host a “master class” on building entrepreneurial ecosystems at the President’s recent Global Entrepreneurship Summit, we seized the opportunity to get started.

Collaborating with 8Works Consulting, a design firm that specializes in helping organizations create change, we created an experience unlike any other conference breakout session. We developed an interactive “ecosystem hack-a-thon” that flipped everything around—we asked participants to be the teachers. We tasked entrepreneurs, investors, policymakers, youth, and experts from more than 170 countries around the world to share their real-world solutions. And they rose to the challenge.

We ended up with a huge gallery of ideas. They include almost everything imaginable, from gatherings where entrepreneurs openly share failures, to new experiments in capital formation, to innovative ways to measure how ecosystems grow. You can get a sense of the event’s energy in this video, and you can see many of the solutions generated by participants below.

Help yourself to any ideas you like. Or use them as inspiration for creating your own strategies for cracking the code.

Over the coming year, Kauffman will be collecting ideas like these, synthesizing them into useful tools, disseminating those tools for the world to use, and convening a community of practitioners. In addition, we will be hosting a first-ever “E*ship Summit” for ecosystem builders to share and learn with one another. Sign up to stay up on plans for the Summit in 2017. In the meantime, I will be sharing with you other plans and insights along the way.

It’s time to make the field of ecosystem building a professional practice. I hope you join us!

Ecosystem Hackathon: How are you building your entrepreneurial ecosystems?

“There’s these two boxes: a problem box and a solution box. Most people spend all their lives looking for solutions in the problem box instead of just looking in the solution box.”
– Ken Kesey

We believe entrepreneurs are among those uncommon people who spend their lives in Kesey’s solution box. It is this mindset—this way of viewing the world—that helps entrepreneurs see solutions where others see problems, even as we are all looking at the same things. Drawing inspiration from Kesey’s quote, we asked hackathon participants to transform a meeting room into a Global Entrepreneurial Solution Box, exemplifying projects, experiments and ideas that are helping build and grow entrepreneurial ecosystems the world over.

hwang_victorVictor W. Hwang is Vice President of Entrepreneurship at the Kauffman Foundation, the world’s leading foundation for entrepreneurs. This work includes education for entrepreneurs; investing in entrepreneurial programs that can scale and create impact; and investing in metropolitan areas to create vibrant ecosystems that help companies start and grow.

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