Updated: Oct 5, 2020
The short answer is, it can mean a lot of different things to different people. Here's what it means to us.
Ecosystem building is an evolving field that’s being collaboratively defined by those working in it, but at its simplest, it describes the people who work to build communities that support entrepreneurs as they scale their businesses.
These communities of people, organizations and resources that help entrepreneurs thrive are often referred to as entrepreneurial ecosystems. Much like a rain forest or an ocean ecosystem, an entrepreneurial ecosystem consists of a network of interconnected players that feed off of and into one another, supporting and sustaining life and growth in the community. These key players span a variety of roles and job descriptions, including corporations, universities, government, service providers, investors, journalists and many others.
To understand how an entrepreneurial ecosystem works, it’s important to emphasize its structure as a network, and not a hierarchy.
Brad Feld, co-founder of Techstars, theorizes that a successful entrepreneurial community must be centered around the entrepreneurs—they are the “leaders” focused on building things. Everyone else who participates in the ecosystem are the “feeders” supporting the founders along their journey. Their primary goal is to make knowledge and resources available and accessible to entrepreneurs, not to become the gatekeepers of it.
So, where does Agile City fit into all of this?
The answer for us, and for a lot of ecosystem builders is: right in the middle.
We’re still “feeders”, but we also act as a convener for all of the entrepreneurial ecosystem supporters. We believe one key to supporting entrepreneurs is to nurture alignment and collaboration within the system, so we look for the gaps to be filled, connections to be made, and collaborations that could add value, and go after them. You can check out some of our previous work, and some things we’re excited to tackle in the future, here.
If you’re an entrepreneur or an ecosystem builder at heart, how do you define ecosystem building? What do you think is essential to building a successful entrepreneurial ecosystem?