We wanted to do this for “weekend reading”, as weekends are good time to relax and enjoy some longer posts and do some thinking. If you watch all the videos linked to this post you can easily spend close to an hour with these, so we made this post so that it can be easily enjoyed even via your iPhone while laying on the couch.
Are entrepreneurs born or made?
Every now and then, there are talks going on about “are entrepreneurs born or made?”. We are not sure if there is a real answer to that or not, but what’s pretty clear regardless, is that to become a successful entrepreneur, there are many different things that can help you to become one.
Few key points:
We think that entrepreneurs are born with an entrepreneurial mindset, behavior and thinking, just like having some other personality features that one may have. However, this does not mean that all these people with entrepreneurial mindset will become entrepreneurs, or that someone without this mindset would not become one. It may well be that we all have these entrepreneurial minds, but some have stronger minds than others. This may well be the difference between an entrepreneur and a great entrepreneur.
Regardless of how it is, there is a path to becoming a great entrepreneur, some people can follow it, while some can’t and some only go half way. In every entrepreneur’s mind, at some point, it’s clear and you realize that you are an entrepreneur. This path – to become an entrepreneur – is why I wanted to write this post.
While we were thinking on how to do this post and thinking of some analogies to explain some of the key points, we started to think clips from the movie “Matrix”. Our plan was to only use few clips from Matrix and then some other stuff, but as we started to search for suitable clips in YouTube, we realized that we could build the whole post around clips taken from the Matrix.
The path of becoming an entrepreneur
While you’re watching the clips below, try to replace the roles in the movie with those occurring in the entrepreneurial and startup world, like mentors, service providers (experts), business angels, team members, corporations, venture capitalist etc. and enjoy!
Learn to question the functions of the existing models
At some point you start become aware that you may indeed be an entrepreneur. Sometimes you realize that yourself and sometimes someone else will see it in you before you do, and starts to talk to you about it. – When you feel yourself questioning many things around you – you need to go and meet other people that are entrepreneurs. People with ideas & passion and those that have done it before.
Learning to question the existing models will lead to finding “new and better ways of doing things” and that’s the most natural path to come up with a great idea for a startup.
The earlier you can see a “new way”, the more time you have for safe bootstrapping. When you are too early, the market is not ready and when the “new way” is already obvious to everyone, it can be too late for great entrepreneur. The right time to build a business around “the new way” is difficult to know, but at the point when enough smart people (that can and are willing to help you) are seeing the “new way”, it’s as close to right time as it can be.
Understand the big picture
To be able to really start learning, first you will need to understand the bigger picture. Whatever you are doing and however well you think you know the things you are planning to do, you need to become aware of other things around you that will have effect on the outcome of what you are planning to do – things that will help or bring obstacles on your way. Having been “in the business” where you want to bring the change is very important. This means having been studying, working etc. enough within the area you are about to make a change in.
To make this learning process faster, it’s crucial to follow, meet and talk to people that already understand it on the same or a deeper level that you will need to as well. It’s also important to understand, that while it’s important of having lived in the system, the system itself really can’t teach the things you will need to learn about being an entrepreneur.
Learn the related basic skills in other industries to be able to battle within your own industry
Besides the skills that you need for your own industry, you will also need to learn other important skills that are essential for your success. In our context, this means learning to listen people in volumes and to present your business and goals in simplistic ways. Or to learn how to acquire needed funding to make your business a reality. Simply put, you need to learn to convince other people to give you their money for what you have to offer.
From this clip it’s easy to understand how also smaller basic roles like “the operator” are crucial for the future success. In the startup world this means relevant service providers or experts, that can help, teach and give you the insight in some tricky issues or simply take care of some of the related important segments of your business (like legals, accounting, etc.), stuff you need to understand but that you really should not be doing/focusing yourself, if you are in a greater mission. Here’s a related post on how can you work with “the operators” for your startup.
Train your skills
When you have real life experience, you have learned from others by reading and listening their theories, it’s time to start practicing what you have learned. While you continue to work with your startup, participate to your local events to pitch your startup and see others pitch theirs. This is also a g00d way to meet potential new team members to build you core team.
Have a healthy attitude with failure
Everyone fails on something at some point. When we were kids we did it all the time and that’s how we learned. Obviously the goal is not to fail, but the fact is that you are able to learn faster when you do. If you are racing F1, you don’t know how fast you can take the corners, until you spin out on the track. After you have done it, you know how far you can push the car and still stay on track. Same goes for everything else. Just make sure you are aware what you are doing and what level of risk you are taking. If you crash your car, the race is over and if you pass out and you don’t know what just happened, it’s hard to learn from it.
Also make sure to communicate and agree on the level of risk you are about to take with everyone involved, or you will start to lose the people around you that are willing to help you next time. It also helps if they have experienced similar failures in the past themselves.
Pay attention to details along the way
As you move forward, remember to pay attention to those small details and indicators along the way that help to remind you of what you know. These will help you to keep your focus on things that take you forward. In business these can be metrics. When you combine metrics to your gut feeling, your gut feeling will start to develop for the better.
Entrepreneur without a team – is not a great entrepreneur
When you are on your way to becoming true entrepreneur, a big part to understand is that if you are aiming to go solo, your chances of making it big are much, much slimmer than with having a great team with you. Your team is everything, when building up your startup and product. And when things go really bad you must be able to count on them. Simply, if you are thinking of doing it alone other people don’t really care so much of what you are doing and even if you succeed, there’s no others to share the excitement with you (people that really understand it).
Take care of your team
What makes a great team – is the fact that they care for each other. If someone is in trouble, you can count on your team to come for the rescue. The relationships that are build in any startup team, usually carries way beyond one company, those ties that people create when living in challenging situations are the types that carry on for the rest of our lives.
At some phase you arrive to point when you are ready for the big leagues
If you are a true entrepreneur, all the failures, small details, incidents, fights and close calls eventually push you to the point where you realize that you now know enough to take on the big challenges and really start to go big with your idea. You know you have the right idea, the right team and the right people close to you, that can help your team to achieve the big vision. At this point nothing can really stop your team (think Facebook).
When you hit the serious growth
This next clip is highlighting that phase in your startup growth when you clearly have a big winner in your hands. That time when you have proven your model, maybe raised a boat load of money and are growing at an insane pace (think Facebook). At this point there are all kinds of people, companies, media etc. coming at you in a continuous stream and you need to fight for your position to make it. Not all startups can or want to arrive to this phase, but if you do, it’s good to know what’s waiting for you.
Now that you have lived the process of becoming a great entrepreneur, what next? Well, that all depends on you. What is your next big thing?
The end credits
This last video is just a nice wrap-up of some of the key points that we covered above with some nice soundtrack.
Enjoy your new entrepreneurial freedom!
We hope you have enjoyed this post as much as we did creating it. Regardless of what point you may be in your journey of becoming a great entrepreneur or the next big thing, you should take advantage of our resources, where you may find and connect with those people you need to move your startup to the next level. Or perhaps to join another startup already on its way.
Startup Commons, along with Swiss EP and US AID, continues supporting Startup Macedonia to help build its position as an ecosystem operator to orchestrate, moderate, coordinate and manage information and communication for Macedonia ecosystem.
Following the initial mission in January, the following mission was carried out in May to build consensus and common alignment with the main ecosystem players within Macedonia ecosystem, whose level of understanding and awareness have increased on this tour around the need of setting up an ecosystem operator for Macedonia ecosystem. Additionally, the value of digitalizing the ecosystem is becoming more and more relevant and many ecosystem actors in Macedonia are discovering the value of data to improve their own operations as well as the whole ecosystem performance. This has been the trigger to start working on designing a piloting project aimed to make ecosystem data visible and enable the data to start flowing among the different ecosystem actors.
Macedonia is taking the lead in the Balkans when it comes to implementing a data-driven approach at ecosystem level for data-driven policy making, measuring service performance, defining funding decisions, enabling matchmaking, etc., but Serbia has already started to move towards the direction too.
Startup Commons was selected by Swiss EP for a short mission in Belgrade to start introducing such ecosystem operator concept as well as fundamentals of startup ecosystem development framework for a first batch of key ecosystem actors in order to start opening discussions around the topic but with mid/long term perspective of identifying the most suitable organisation capable of orchestrating and moderating Serbia ecosystem.
In general, there is a clear need of bringing more coordination and visibility at ecosystem level to benefit all ecosystem actors in Serbia and the national government is willing to take the lead in that regards. Therefore, it is now the time in Serbia to continue building momentum around this topic as well as explore how the government could help to initiate a process towards a more structured, coordinated and data-driven ecosystem.
See also: “Connecting the Macedonian Ecosystem, 2018“ - research following Startup Common’s framework for ecosystem development, where Startup Macedonia engaged in conversation with startups and support organization to identify key challenges and opportunities for an ecosystem growth.
How can your region, country, or city solve the problems plaguing your people? Do you look to the politicians, bureaucrats, or corporate leaders? Where can you find professional problem solvers?
Rather than looking up the hierarchies, you need to look outside of them. Seek out the entrepreneurs, hackers, and startup teams. You see, these are the professional problem solvers who can save your people and unlock your economy’s innovative potential. Harnessing these business creators’ abilities can make or break your regional development, so how do you work with business creators to solve your region’s most pressing problems?
The answer is a four-step process: discovering, training, prioritizing, and empowering.
Discovering Professional Problem Solvers
Where do you find professional problem solvers? Usually, they are absorbed in launching their own ventures, so they are often too busy to engage with your agenda. This is why you need to catch them early, discovering them within your region’s educational system.
Although they may not be the best students on paper, problem solvers are not too difficult to spot. According to Harvard Business Review, serial entrepreneurs tend to possess higher than average levels of five traits: persuasion, leadership, personal accountability, goal orientation, and interpersonal skills. From the computer science to the public policy departments in your region’s universities, you can identify the problem solvers by their dedication to devising novel solutions to their assignments. Extracurricular pursuits, such as launching side hustles or attending hackathons, can also provide tell-tale signs of problem solving potential.
Training Professional Problem Solvers
If you want your region to flourish, you must take people with problem solving instincts and cultivate a class of professional problem solvers. Problem solvers will not always be familiar with startups and their development phases. They may not be inclined to engage with startups because they have their hearts set on corporate or government work. It is your job to teach them otherwise, educating and engaging them in startup culture.
This is an area where Startup Commons can help. Our Growth Academy Training Curriculum provides illuminating content to expose people to the exciting world of startups. Growth Academy is designed to provide a roadmap for potential startup teams and support providers to grow successful startups. Additionally, Startup Commons provides a wide array of free content and resources that you can use to train business creators.
Helping Professional Problem Solvers Prioritize
Once you have cultivated a class of professional problem solvers, you need to focus them on your region’s most pressing problems. The best way to do this is through challenges.
Professional problem solvers love to test their limits with difficult problems. By framing a problem as a nearly impossible challenge, you can engage the best people to design solutions. Hosting hackathons or offering cash prizes are ways to do this on a small scale. On a larger scale you can design accelerator and investment programs that are focused on specific problem sectors, such as water scarcity or food insecurity.
As an example of a challenge, Startup Commons is providing an app challenge where ecosystem developers can submit problems for application developers to solve. The solutions will be featured in Startup Commons’ Ecosystem OS Application Marketplace.
Empowering Professional Problem Solvers
After successfully completing training and prioritization, you must empower your professional problem solvers to bring their solutions to life. This often requires substantial resources and robust support systems, which is where startup ecosystems come into play.
Startups need a whole host of factors to succeed, ranging from talent to capital. Ideally, your region will begin attracting these necessities once you cultivate a class of professional problem solvers and establish a startup culture, as well as a business-friendly regulatory environment. Nevertheless, empowering professional problem solvers can be a difficult task.
Luckily, the Startup Commons team are internationally renowned experts in startup ecosystem development. Please contact us if you reach the empowerment phase and are interested in workshops, training, or consulting.
Startup Commons is here to help your region thrive, and we hope that you found the lessons in this blog post valuable.
For the 2018 Kauffman Knowledge Challenge, Kauffman is seeking to fund projects in four specific areas:
While looking into Special Interest Areas in more details here, on the first item “Technology and the new nature of entrepreneurship” we found these two sample topics to be very relevant and aligned with our mission in scaling entrepreneurship and innovation:
“What does digitalization mean for entrepreneurs and for the organizations that support them? What can be done to achieve inclusion? How can entrepreneurship support organizations leverage digitization for their programs?”
Related to this, few weeks back at Global Entrepreneurship Congress, Istanbul, we did a speech about “Digital Side of Startup Ecosystem Development”. The presentation materials of this speech, include many valuable learnings and insights that can help to contribute to projects under this area.
“What kind of education and training programs fit a future where people will need entrepreneurial skills to work?”
In our recent blog post “Entrepreneurship Education: Educating to jobs vs. Educating job creators.” we wrote extensively about our views related to this topic in general, as well as concrete initiatives that we are currently working on.
Naturally the points covered in this post, would also be big positive contributors for Special Interest Area 2: Barriers to entrepreneurship as well.
In both of these topics, if the related solutions we have described would already be broadly available, those would bring enormous help also in enabling Causal research (specific area 4), especially to tackle the known challenges Causal Research Studies related to Randomized Controlled Trials (RCTs). As well, as contributing to all sample topics regards to questions about “how do we measure...?”.
The fourth area itself, causal research, is naturally connected to all three other areas in many other ways as well.
Causal Research Studies
Below, we also want to contribute to the creation of causal research studies in the entrepreneurship space in general as well.
Kauffman “is interested in multi-site causal research the tests specific interventions designed to overcome barriers to entrepreneurship.” This research should be focused on the United States and utilize randomized controlled trials (RCTs) across multiple sites.
Having identified that Randomized Control Trials (RCTs) can have limited generalizability, which limits their usefulness in informing program and/or policy design. As such, the Foundation is interested in projects that exploit rigorous causal research across multiple ecosystems which, by nature of being systems, comprise many moving parts.
We will use this post to explore general RCT design, so that you can more effectively propose experiments to Kauffman.
About Randomized Controlled Trials
Aiming to reduce bias, randomized controlled trials randomly place study participants in a treatment or control group. Using a case example, the treatment group would receive an intervention designed to overcome barriers to entrepreneurship. The control group would receive a placebo intervention, meaning that they would receive a false intervention that would be designed to not accomplish anything. Randomization should be done after participants have been screened and selected for the experiment, but before the intervention is administered.
Based on research by Anthony J. Viera, MD, MPH and Shrikant I. Bangdiwala, PhD, RCTs are most effective when conducted in a single-blind or double-blind manner, also known as masking. In a single-blind experiment, the research participants do not know whether or not they are being given the treatment. This means, neither the research participants nor the experimenters know who is receiving the treatment in a double-blind experiment. Both of these methods can be used to eliminate bias.
Challenges with RCTs in Entrepreneurship Policy Context
Related to Kauffman Knowledge Challenge, as an example model for conducting randomized controlled trials across multiple sites is described as using entrepreneurs in one region as the control group and entrepreneurs in another region as the treatment group. But as already identified, this may give limited results. Since there will always be many differentiating factors between any two regions (i.e. different cultures, demographics, financial opportunities, industries, etc.), confounding, a situation where an experimenter cannot reasonably eliminate alternative explanations for an observation, can easily occur.
We agree that better results could be achieved where treatment and control group are located in the same region. And in addition, it make sense to replicate the study across multiple regions.
Another issue to take note of is the Hawthorne Effect, also known as the observer effect. When entrepreneurs know that they are being observed, they are likely to behave differently than they otherwise would. This limits the applicability of RCTs. Two ways to mitigate the Hawthorne Effect are; a) performing discrete observations and b) making the period of study as long as possible.
Additionally, Jeffrey Hammer identified three problems with RCTs in development economics for the Brookings Institution:
It it good to be aware of RCTs known limitations in and development of economics and entrepreneurship policy. If they are not conducted properly and applied too readily, they can potentially have even adverse effects on policy design.
Enhancing Your Experimental Design for RCTs
By being aware of these challenges of RCTs, we hope that you can be better equipped to design proposals for the Kauffman Knowledge Challenge as well.
If you would like to leverage any of our materials in your white paper, additional ideas on experimental design or utilize or expertise, tools, resources etc. in your actual project if materialize, please reach out to Conor Flynn, our Operations Manager who is based in the United States. He is happy to help you to mitigate bias and confounding so that you can provide stronger data for informing future policy decisions and entrepreneurship interventions.
Why Growth Academy
Most of business education if focused on educating people for being a good resource at some specific functions in an organization or at managing an existing organization, but not for creating organizations.
Also most entrepreneurship education is educating about creating a known business model to a know market, where innovation based entrepreneurship (ie startups) are about creating unknown business to unknown market AND building organization along the way.
Availability of entrepreneurship education
First off, we can start by the observation that actually there are very limited availability of proper entrepreneurship education available globally. Especially for innovation driven entrepreneurship and especially compared to how valuable innovation driven entrepreneurship is for the societies and economies everywhere.
In simple terms we can say most of education is targeting to train resources to various existing organizations needs, while innovation driven entrepreneurship is aimed to create new value contributing organizations.
Timing and relevance
Having covered the availability of existing education, where even most of this existing education is only available in higher education levels and mostly consumed at rather young age, being available to those who can afford it or those who qualify for the entry criterias. Considering the value of such education to societies at large, this should be much more inclusive.
At the same time, statistically most successful business founders are people in their forties and in many ecosystems on average there is a higher percentage of innovative entrepreneurs among first and second generation immigrants, including Silicon Valley. Also in practise big part of education/knowledge needed to build an innovation driven business and organization, needs to be available and learned at the time when actually building it. So that things learned can be used right when needed. Learning for later, is only partially beneficial compared to learning it, when really needing it.
While there are tons of materials and knowledge freely available online, about creating and growing a startup, most new and potential future entrepreneurs, startups and other people new to startup ecosystems, don’t know how and where to start, what they should focus on, when to do what, and how to identify what’s relevant now and next.
So they don’t know what available knowledge online is relevant, and how all these things connect with local support, trainings and services available in their ecosystems.
Also even among most of the people in ecosystem supporting entrepreneurs, have only partial understanding and limited experience on how to actually build a successful startup from nothing, due naturally it is hard to accumulate such knowledge and experience and it also takes long time, being also dependent on various sources to refer to when guiding others along the way.
But even with very well established and know methodologies like lean startup, that only cover small part of all the various things that innovation driven entrepreneurs need to solve while building their business and organization. And there are also a whole question before lean startup phase on how to select the idea to start validating.
There are many other similar things related to building and scaling businesses that as such, can be considered as “right advice” to share for new entrepreneurs. But because there is also the question of “when specific advice is relevant” - “A right advice at the wrong time, is wrong advice.”
It’s not only about entrepreneurs, trainers and mentors
Beyond the educators, trainers, mentors and business advisors that are directly supporting and training new entrepreneurs, also managers in support organizations and those organizations funding support and educational activities, need to have a better way to identify, be aware and make decisions regards to what is actually educated and trained with their resources.
This is a reason why more holistic framework of key activities is needed. A framework that also help balance the focus between building a business and building an organization.
It is necessary for the whole startup ecosystem to work on common language and framework to describe, track, measure and guide entrepreneurship and innovation from an “Ideas to Products and into Growing Businesses” and from “Talent to Teams and to effective Organization” in balanced manner.
It also needs to be an “open framework”, that can be developed and adapted by all the parties that are utilizing it in their operations, in a coordinated way. Where if there is sound reasoning and common agreement with actual data indicating that something needs to be changed, it can be changed. This is only possible when there is “a known common thing” in use, to actually make changes to. And also to measure later that changes actually made it better.
Growth Academy curriculum
Growth Academy together with broader startup ecosystem development framework, is designed to tackle these issues above. A curriculum build from a globally neutral perspective, as a common language and structure, how various existing leading global knowledge, methodologies etc. link to each others in a logical manner, filling gaps between this existing knowledge and by providing sound reasoning for all topics covered within the curriculum.
Growth Academy aims to minimize “reinventing the wheel”, by leveraging all the key knowledge captured by multiple serial entrepreneurs, mentors and advisors over the years, as well as best methodologies developed to various parts of building a successful innovative business and effective organization from nothing to success.
Where key focus is in putting all these pieces in right order, divide them into clear modules based on phases of business and organization development and provide various levels of detail on each these development paths, to cater for different levels needed depending on the needs and roles of the audience in question. Ie. new entrepreneur just starting, team member looking to join a venture, policy maker, advisor of specific phase in the overall journey etc.
Scaling entrepreneurship education by leveraging benefits of online and offline
In addition to tackling these various issues, by having and making such education available to help create a known common language for potential, new and existing entrepreneurs and amongst all ecosystem actors, - it is also key to make it available in multiple ways and also connect it logically with all support and services available in local ecosystem.
Our Canadian partner Startup Continuum is specifically working on eLearning platform and application in ways that leverage digital learning scalability, reach and 24/7 availability benefits, combined with building strong connections to offline training, education, mentoring and broader ecosystem services in each ecosystem locally.
We as Startup Commons are just starting a webinar based series to deliver entire Growth Academy curriculum online and will combine this with training of trainers program, to open the curriculum to motivated trainers anywhere for deeper learning of the Growth Academy curriculum, to become able to train and support all new people entering startup ecosystems about how innovation driven entrepreneurship works and how successful startups are created and scaled up.
All webinars will be also video recorded and build up to permanent learning resource with related materials, templates etc., along with dedicated section for trainers to access all Growth Academy training materials and having online community for support by Startup Commons and their peers.
This training of trainers program will cater for three levels of actors;
Key element tol collaborations in all levels, including eLearning programs and platform is the startup development phases based "open framework" that Growth Academy curriculum is based on.
The growth and success of any ecosystem is dependent of constant flow of new people entering the ecosystems, navigating it successfully and effectively utilizing what is available and/or contributing to what is needed the most.
Building common language and framework to be utilized and developed together is the best way to reduce waste in resource use, lower risks and reduce randomness, to accelerate all aspects within ecosystems.
Once eLearning platform is in use, it will be capturing data from various aspects of use (learning in general, problem topics, where learning stopped and why, what are most requested offline support needs etc.).
Startup Commons’ mission is to scale entrepreneurship and innovation by empowering ecosystem development with global knowledge and tools for data-driven development. However, we face an interesting obstacle that stands in the way of our mission.
Startup ecosystems lack ecosystem operators.
Sure, policy makers, economic development organizations, core support providers, and key individuals focus some of their efforts on ecosystem development. Some more, some less. Unfortunately, pretty much all ecosystems lack dedicated and sustainable resourced ecosystem operator teams that are solely focused, from a neutral perspective on growing and addressing problems in their regional startup ecosystems in a systematic manner over the long term. And doing so with focus on data and KPI’s and leveraging modern digital technologies.
Top down or bottom up?
When it comes to creating/developing ecosystems, there seems to be always a question and “two camps” with views of what would work. This is especially true at early maturity stages.
The reality is that both are needed, and eventually they need to meet in the middle. To cover both, energy and speed with long-term, sustainability & neutrality.
This means connecting the top down “announcement strategy”, policy-making & support funding spending, with bottom up motivated/committed/operative people with digital expertise. It is important to organize into a dedicated and neutral entity (PPP?). Next, you must give a mandate, resources, and clear a big target with milestones & KPI's to match. Once you have put the mandate and resources in place, you must let the selected team do their work with support and governance by ecosystem key actors.
When Ramon Lozano came on our podcast, he discussed how he is working to develop the startup ecosystem in Conroe, Texas. Operating as the Entrepreneur In Residence for the Conroe Economic Development Council (CEDC), he describes his primary role as “planting the seeds” for ecosystem growth. Although he works for an economic development organization, he does not think that his organization should govern the ecosystem.
Ramon believes that ecosystem governance should be in the hands of the entrepreneurs who make up the startup community. In other words, ecosystems should be governed by the people and for the people.
In accordance with his beliefs, Ramon is forming the Conroe Regional Entrepreneurship Guild, a group of entrepreneurs who will oversee ecosystem development. Although the CEDC will “plant the seeds” for growth, their long-term strategy is to hand ecosystem development operations over the the Conroe Regional Entrepreneurship Guild, which will serve as the region’s ecosystem development team.
Public-Private Partnerships for Ecosystem Development
As the Conroe example illustrates, ecosystem development involves collaboration between the public and private sectors. Policy makers and economic development organizations often need to prioritize startup ecosystem development and lay the foundation for community self-governance.
In addition to forming the Conroe Regional Entrepreneurship Guild, the CEDC is conducting surveys, pursuing industry cross-pollination initiatives, and building a research park to “plant the seeds” for startup ecosystem growth. Since the CEDC possesses resources and credibility, it is ideally positioned to perform the early-stage tasks that are essential to ecosystem development. Eventually, the CEDC hopes to pass its data and learnings to the Conroe Regional Entrepreneurship Guild so that the regional startup community can begin to govern itself.
However, the transition does not mean that the public and private sectors can stop collaborating. As the ecosystem development team continues collecting data and identifying barriers to ecosystem growth, they will most-likely need to make policy recommendations, mobilize resources, and collaborate on projects with the public sector. Ecosystem development is undeniably a public-private undertaking.
And to really master the digital side of ecosystem connectivity, to make all relevant data flow in real time for all ecosystem development and actors needs in various levels. - Finally, the digital silos in various ecosystem applications need to be smartly connected as well. This ain't no small task that can simply be solved with bottom up approach or left to solve on it’s own. But it is doable. As long as there are proper entity in place to take on the challenge, proper financial and skills resources in place with a mandate to operate from all ecosystem key actors.
What can you do to form ecosystem operator teams?
Recently it was reported that Business Plan Tool in Helsinki was hacked and some persons in social media raised a question about the role of Startup Commons in the matter. The solution was not implemented or hosted by Startup Commons or any other company in its group. Startup Commons licenses its concepts and models for several parties where licensees are responsible to make implementations and provide the service.
It is not our role to comment on the actual case on behalf of other parties, but we feel it is important to highlight, what Startup Commons is doing, what is Startup Commons’ business model and position in the context.
Startup Commons mission is to scale entrepreneurship and innovation by empowering ecosystem development with global knowledge and tools for data-driven development. Our strategy is to facilitate, develop, distribute and license global knowledge, tools, digital solutions and help to enable data flow for and between Ecosystem Operators.
Startup Commons licenses its assets, including development frameworks, concepts, software, documentation, metrics, branding and provide consulting and advisory services related to these assets to startup ecosystem development.
In addition Startup Commons promotes best startup support related practices, applications and concepts of others and can co-develop existing or new shared assets to be licensed to other startup ecosystems. Licensing is provided based Creative Commons, Open Source or Shared Source licenses.
Due scalability reasons Startup Commons may choose to operate only limited test and pilot projects and does not take direct responsibility to implement or operate actual live services for a ecosystem.
Regards to Business Plan Tool case in Helsinki, Startup Commons has not implemented or programmed the software version in the question or hasn’t been responsible for hosting the software, managing database or managing the servers running the software in question.
Business plan tool by Startup Commons is based on the same concept written in different programming language and different architecture, and is not the same software. For Startup Commons’ own software versions we have also strict data security requirements and e.g. work to be compatible with GDPR.
The use of “Startup Commons Finland” -name has been a part of license arrangements, not Startup Commons Business Plan software. Also all licensing agreements related to use Startup Commons name and assets in Helsinki, ended on 2nd of October 2017.
We believe that a globally effective and sustainable approach is a hybrid model of shared resources with dedicated local operator with responsibility to operate core services and coordinate connected services, where in digital services, data is always owned and controlled by rightful owners in distributed architecture, where ecosystem operators role is only to provide connectivity between services and to enable managing of data.
The incident in Finland is very unfortunate. It together with other recent significant data issues in social media and analytics services highlights the importance of data protection and need to have new models to better guarantee good data protection and privacy. We always emphasize importance of these aspects to our clients and partners.
iEER is an Interreg Europe funded flagship project with a budget of 2,3 MEUR bringing together 10 regions around Europe with varying ecosystem profiles and maturity levels. Initiated by a group of regions conferred with the European Entrepreneurial Region Award, in past two years and involving more than 600 ecosystem key actors in these regions, iEER have been defining smart paths and solutions to boost regional entrepreneurship ecosystems which supporting new and early stage entrepreneurs.
Since last year, Startup Commons have taken active part in iEER ecosystem peer reviews, learning camps and among other things, contributed startup ecosystem development framework for mapping and highlight the importance of active and ongoing KPI measurement activities, as well as taken active part in helping to designing more standardised transferability model for sharing ecosystem best practices.
For 2018-2020, iEER project moves to next phase, where based on the collected best practises and other collective learnings from over past two years and beyond, - next, regional action plans are put into practice and their progress is closely monitored.
On 22-23 March 2018 iEER held a Conference in Brussels where, Valto Loikkanen, Startup Commons co-founder and senior advisor, was invited to give a forward looking keynote speech that looks beyond iEER best practises, to also share about the biggest global findings and learnings from Startup Commons global ecosystem development projects.
The conference was opened by Mr Markku Markkula, 1st Vice President of the European Committee of the Regions, and Ms Christine Chang, Coordinator of iEER Interreg Europe, Helsinki-Uusimaa Regional Council, Finland. The second day of the conference was opened by Mr. Jyrki Katainen, Vice President of European Commission, Commissioner for Jobs, Growth, Investment and Competitiveness.
This two-day conference was great opportunity to meet with all peers actively participating in the iEER project as well as to share and learn from the work done so far and the main conclusions from the different regions participating in the project.
Valto Loikkanen made a presentation called “Ecosystem Orchestration and Digital: Entrepreneurial perspective - Support for Startups & Scaleups” in which he shared with the audience the biggest challenges and as such also the biggest impact opportunities for the future, to scale entrepreneurship and innovation in any ecosystem.
Download full presentation.
The presentation was aimed to act as inspiration for iEER regions as they are moving towards its second phase where regional action plans are defined and will be implemented.
The presentation was well received with positive feedback and following the panel discussion, stakeholders wholeheartedly agreed that ecosystem development would benefit from having a sustainable and neutral “ecosystem operator” to help orchestrate ecosystem development and information distribution with systematic and long term approach. As well as following the recent global events related to data privacy also more local and national level focus on leveraging digital solutions in ways that are aligned with digital world developments, EU digital single market initiatives and aligned with up coming GDPR regulation is needed.
As part of the learning process since 2016, during the event iEER released openly shared iEER Handbook, designed by David Kaneswaran from Institute of Technology, Tralee, as a collective work to inspire and support other regions working on developing entrepreneurship, innovation and startup ecosystems related to policies, support functions and new development initiatives within and between regional ecosystem in EU.
Four themes which run throughout this report are the key areas of policy intervention in developing entrepreneurship ecosystems in regions:
The handbook also contains overall findings as a result of the data and peer learnings in 2016-2018 with a list of key local and interregional actions that will be implemented in 2018-2020 to develop regional entrepreneurial ecosystems.
While the handbook is capturing the core learnings and value of iEER project until it's mid term, it is clear that no single document can capture the vast learnings and perspectives by people whom have taken part have gained during the project so far. We encourage to connect directly with iEER ecosystem developers to tap into their learnings and to seek ways to collaborate.
Going forward, Startup Commons is looking forward to continue being an active contributor and also help extend the spread of the learnings and value created with iEER project with all ecosystems globally, as well as bring global learnings towards iEER project next phase.
See also Startup Ireland report to compare key conclusions from intensive Startup Cathering week in 2015 where over 410 events took place in 22 counties with almost 19,000 participants, a great national collaboration for entrepreneurship. Where Startup Commons collected information from 5 cities, 30 groups in total. On average, each group had 10 people, connecting with 300 participants during the breakout sessions where each group provided 10 key findings for each of the 6 themes that underpin startup ecosystems (Environment, Culture, Skills, Education, Network, State Support), totaling to a database of 300+ inputs that were further summarized, refined, analysed for follow up actions.
Startup Commons has recently been selected by City of Marbella as the service provider to design a "one-stop-shop" ecosystem portal application to showcase real-time information about ecosystem people, startups, events, support services, development projects and beyond from the digital entrepreneurship ecosystem in Marbella.
Cristóbal Garre, councilor for economic development for City of Marbella, highlighted the importance of “initiating this project as part of Marbella Digital initiative, which is targeting to boost digital entrepreneurship in Marbella. It is very strategic for us to start the inventory of Marbella startup ecosystem as the first step to know the starting point of the ecosystem. Information like what is going on in the startup ecosystem, who is who, who is doing what and why, where and when are things happening, etc. is very relevant for us in order to start connecting the different ecosystem actors but also to understand over time together with Startup Commons team the services and activities that we are missing in the ecosystem and that we should deploy in order to increase the volume of business creation as well as their quality so that local startups in Marbella can compete in global markets. By knowing that information will help us prioritise the actions and therefore the resources to smartly support entrepreneurs and startups in Marbella”.
The project will kick off by gathering information from existing ecosystem players and users, continuing with its subsequent standardization according to Startup Commons Framework and finishing with the identification of the missing gaps within the ecosystem (services, activities, etc.). The output of this data collection process will be used as part of the designing works that Startup Commons team will carry out to propose a digital solution that help startups get the right services and connections at the right time, and to help public sector decision makers as well as both public and private service providers tailor their services to the specific needs of the startups and other ecosystem actors.
There is mutual interest between City of Marbella and Startup Commons in this project being the solid foundation on which a digital infrastructure is built to enable connectivity and data flow of ecosystem activities and processes in real-time.
In a global context where there are tons of materials and knowledge about how to create and grow your startup, startups still do not know where to start, what to focus on, when to do what, and how to identify what’s next. They also do not know how this all connect in sync with support, trainings and services available in a local ecosystem.
It is necessary for startup ecosystems to have a common language and framework to describe, track, measure and guide entrepreneurship and innovation from an “Idea to Product into a Scalable Business” and from “Talent to Team to an effective Organization” to eventually bring efficiency and transparency to help entrepreneurs and startups navigate along the startup journey.
Startup ecosystem development is about breaking ecosystem silos, sharing resources, removing inefficiencies and bringing connectivity and standardisation at all levels. When it comes to transferring entrepreneurship and startup knowledge, more transparency, common sense and efficiency is needed on how it is structured, connected and delivered.
For these the reasons we have created our Growth Academy.
We believe that when entrepreneurs and startups are educated with the right knowledge, while working together in an ecosystem - together we will be able to remove or significantly reduce the highest “universal risks” - We will also be able to educate and inform stakeholders about optimal methods and structures for startups that are strong and flexible enough to sustain failures at various levels, while minimizing the possibility of terminal failure. We will provide reasoning and will connect with other sources and data that support the knowledge and views provided.
Startup Commons has been implementing the Growth Academy program in different startup ecosystems at different levels by partnering with local support providers - but our mission is always “scaling entrepreneurship and innovation”.
Growth Academy eLearning
So we are now working to bring a digital eLearning solution to help scale Startup Commons Growth Academy to reach a global audience, - so that all entrepreneurs in the world can benefit to improve their potential for success.
Startup Commons has entered into partnership with StartupContinuum, a Calgary, Alberta based startup aligned with Startup Commons’ mission. StartupContinuum is a company that is founded by team of successful serial entrepreneurs who have built and exited a successful eLearning company before. StartupContinuum is creating an innovative online learning environment, with templates and support tools to help startups succeed by fully adapting Startup Commons’ world-renowned framework and curriculum.
The learning platform will be initially rolled out module by module in Calgary, with great support and input from the local Calgary startup community and ecosystem. This ecosystem is actively adopting Startup Commons Framework via key ecosystem players like the Calgary Innovation Coalition (CIC), Alberta Innovates, Calgary Technologies Inc and Rainforest Alberta.
After initial launching, the StartupContinuum / Growth Academy learning platform will actively start expanding to the rest of Alberta and Canada. In parallel, we at Startup Commons will start promoting it to be deployed in Europe and Asia.
Along with publicly announcing this great initiative, we are announcing an open call for all support providers catering support services directly for business creators to invite them to become a key game changer, to deploy and connect Growth Academy in their local ecosystem for a real impact in their local ecosystem.
Contact us to join the Growth Academy initiative and let's get things moving…
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