10M Euros For Startup Ecosystem Developers: Connecting Startup Ecosystems And Supporting Cross-Border Activities
The H2020 2018-2020 work programme recently launched a new call with application deadline 28 March 2019, aimed to:
A total budget of EUR 10 million will be distributed among ecosystems organizations who want to establish consortiums of 4-5 startups ecosystems across Europe per project, to apply together for a project for connecting activities between consortium ecosystems, with aim to building an ever closer Union of startups ecosystems.
EU Commission is specially interested in organisations aiming at connecting local tech startup ecosystems supporting cross-border activities between EU ecosystems, where about half of each consortium should be located in less developed ecosystems and half from top 20 of the more developed ecosystems (on scale up index ranking).
A consortium can also include international consortium member outside EU as long as it’s aligned with targets of the call to support European startups/scaleups to soft land and get access to new markets (not the other way around ie. startups to access EU). More about international aspect, see towards the end of this message.
Each consortium project should look into developing:
Also additional focus will be placed on:
See also additional details from information and networking workshop organized by EC for potential applicants to the call where you will find more additional details and the official presentations related to it.
The deadline for the call is 28 March 2019.
Evaluation of applications
Three main evaluation criteria are; excellence in form of being relevant to the topic of the call, impact, quality and efficiency of the implementation, including self sustainability (how things developed in the project can continued without support).
See further evaluation criteria in more detail here.
Developing a plan for a consortium project based on call details?
Building one single digital entry point for your ecosystem, actively connecting between ecosystems and to Startup Europe in a self sustainable manner, is not as simple as manually collecting information from different sources and put it on a map or some application. Key points here are “actively” (should not be only manual) and “self sustainable manner” (how things developed in the project can continued without support).
The more there is manual work involved the harder it is to make connections active and self sustaining. Also as one of the new key focuses on this call is deep tech, also solutions developed and build as part of the project itself, should naturally look into utilizing deep tech approaches. Combining, these mean how to get the information (data) flow more automatically and how to make that data into high quality. If these are considered, then there will also be opportunities towards more deep tech solutions to develop later, like use of AI.
What could be a focus for a project to apply funding to?
Permanently fix the ecosystem fragmentation problem and begin the digital transformation journey within and between ecosystems taking part in your consortium.
In startup ecosystems, founders looking for cofounders, talent looking for ideas and support, investors looking to invest, companies looking for partners, lenders looking to provide working capital, corporates looking new innovations to existing problems and opportunities for their customers and markets. The list goes on and on.
Everyone and anyone trying to find what they are looking for from startup ecosystems suffer from fragmented, limited and outdated information. So easy access and use of accurate key information (data) about the things they are looking to understand and about people and companies they are looking to connect and do business with is a key for everyone.
As long as any given startup ecosystem develops and grows, it has to scale its own programs, services, activities, processes, projects, people and resources in general. This rapid pace of change is compelling to provide a more transparent vision of the ongoing developing and evolving ecosystem in order to communicate in effective way to all users in the ecosystem relevant information such as what is going on in the startup ecosystem, who are doing what and why, where and when are things happening or how different parties can "get in on it all".
Additionally, there’s an important speed gap between and disconnectivity with the showcased information and ecosystem performance metrics (KPI’s) with the real startup ecosystem activity that generally becomes into outdated and inaccurate information for all user roles within the startup ecosystem, generating a lot of frustration to users and inefficiency at ecosystem level.
When we have been evaluating the core problem, it’s not that the information would not exist or about missing or wrong applications per se, it’s often about manual and/or non sustainable strategy and solution that is applied in projects supporting an ecosystem to increase connectedness. We have validated this problem several times globally.
Instead a solution needs to focus on an application connectivity framework and not just a manually populated portal approach, with an open standard ecosystem level data model and related data sharing practices. To establish a digital backbone to enable application level connectivity that can be built step by step and API connections to share data more automatically can be added one by one with smart architecture approach.
This needs to be done in a way where during and after setup is in place and any individual connection created, each connected application and data owner can separately decide from their connectivity settings in the system, what data they want to share and under what terms also taking into account GDPR compliance for users to be able to make their data portable between applications without having dependency in any single application.
In such setup, a startup ecosystem one stop shop can then be added “on top” to showcase all real-time information flowing within the system about ecosystem people, startups, events, support services, development projects and beyond.
Also this type of setup enable software developers or managers of any application to enable connectivity from and to their application to all other existing ecosystem applications via single API gateway connection (instead of multiple different connections directly between multiple applications), and also to build totally new ecosystem applications based on data and connections within the system.
If you need inspiration, please check out Startup Commons ecosystemOS model which is especially designed based on these global learnings.
Making it self sustainable
Another global key learning is that too many projects created are not designed to become sustainable beyond their initial project life. This leads to a lot of wasted efforts, resources and money. As well as to situations that many projects seem to be repeated, set up by different actors trying to fix a same problem, where often times repeating same things, facing same challenges and gaining same learnings.
Also often unfortunately ending with same or similar outcome. Often time these types of unfortunate things are only visible for those who have been working with ecosystem developments for long enough time.
Instead we believe there should concrete and more permanent results achieved, that any next new project could also leverage to develop further, instead of repeating projects with limited sustained benefits.
As such, a key part of deploying such solution is that it needs to be designed to be sustainable, operated by and organization that is operating under local economic development policy makers and ecosystems key actors strong support and/or mandate (e.g. regional and municipal development agencies), corporations driving dedicated business vertical ecosystems internationally for innovation and key public & private startup support services that operate startup and entrepreneurship ecosystems and offer services to startups, investors, and other stakeholders.
If dedicated ecosystem operator who's focused on ecosystem connectivity, systematic long term development and neutral orchestration does not currently exist in your ecosystem, this project is very well aligned for establishing such function, where learnings between consortium ecosystems can be accelerated during this project and related costs can be shared, not only between the EU funding but also between consortium members. As the whole core target is to build active connectivity and as such that also means building digital standards to be able to connect within and between ecosystems.
Call to Action!
At Startup Commons we strongly believe on research concluding ecosystem connectivity being the most important factor contributing for growth and since 2014 we have been part of projects trying to solve such challenges with digital solutions with 25+ ecosystems. Step by step building these learnings to build an unified network of ecosystems with a shared data platform and standards. Therefore, we couldn't be more pleased to see the European Commission focusing on this and launching this call to fund active connectivity solutions between ecosystems, with key focus on self sustainability and involving deep tech and digital innovation hubs included.
Our hope is that this will encourage and contribute the creation of ecosystem operators role with a systematic step by step and data-driven development approach but with a long term sustainability and GDPR regulation in mind, to make services more automated and startups more visible, accessible and easy to reach international markets through digital means.
For this to happen, ecosystem builders have to act now to get a deep understanding about what EU is requiring and to start establish consortiums and projects for plans that can be funded.
Building a consortium, project plan and application
For exploring different solutions and identifying potential partners Startup Commons want to support the efforts of any ecosystem wanting to establish an consortium and/or for existing consortium to find suitable ecosystem partners. You can join and announce your interest via our global startup ecosystem developers group on facebook, send us a message or simply email us.
We will be more than happy to organise a video call session with you to explore and plan next steps towards building your own startup ecosystem one-stop shop to enable connectivity within the ecosystem and to support cross-border activities with other ecosystems.
Other sources for you to look into:
In addition, those who seek our support, we will support in developing a project and application towards the call itself. As well as naturally communicate about the progress and learnings of all consortium projects we are involved with, to our global audience and networks.
International Cooperation Guidelines Notes from the video about call presentation (in about 6 min: 40 sec)
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Building a successful startup from an idea to successful launch and beyond is a mysterious process for many. There is so much information out there and it can be very difficult to obtain what is the right information for you.
First, it’s important to understand that depending on the type of company/business the process can be very different. Also we have intentionally left products, customers and other business related parts out of this process outline, to be able to focus on the other aspects of startup development.
When it’s risky to see if the idea will gain traction and momentum, the only logical thing to do from a risk funder’s point of view is to minimize all the other related risks involved, making sure that the idea will have the best possible chance of success.
This usually requires ensuring the team behind it is great, the timing for the idea is right, competition is manageable, and the most important item, “protecting the idea,” would be possible.
However, the last one is becoming very difficult in today’s fast changing world and also less meaningful if the business can quickly gain critical mass (like a user base). It is also more and more difficult to patent and protect ideas and components in our “open source world.”
So based on these assumptions, we have outlined the process of building a startup that would have an optimum chance of success from the funding and growth point of view.
This process could be over simplified and there are many other factors as well. But it’s important for us to explain the main process:
1) The first risk to avoid is to be too dependent on one entrepreneur where one would have such ownership that he or she alone could make all decisions. So the core structure / ownership will need to be built, so that also looking from a funders point of view, there is more than one committed entrepreneur. So at least a core team of two or three is advised (since a 50/50 split can be problematic as well). More than three depends on the business model, roles, ownership %, etc.
2) Other team members. The next step is getting various other contacts committed to support and offer expertise and funding when needed, without too much effort. These people can typically be ex-colleagues, business contacts and other close contacts that you have built. They are the type of contacts that you know and they know you. So real trust is based on those relationships
3) Next you will need an ecosystem: outside experts that are not in your personal and inner circle: They are the ones bringing in the “outsiders viewpoint” and the contacts that would normally be out of your reach without a bigger effort. You must be able to convince enough of these types of people and get them involved with your start-up as well.
4) When you have shown traction with external experts, and they are committed to help you by sharing their contacts and expertise and recommending you to others, your startup has reached a level where you are starting to look more appealing to funders. Of course, this is only looking at your startup structure and people involved with it. The value of the idea and the quality of your product must be competitive as well.
In Startup Commons, our focus is to scale entrepreneurship and innovation by empowering ecosystem development with global knowledge and tools for data-driven development.
This because growth and success of the ecosystem is dependent on how well support services are designed and implemented.
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 has released entire Growth Academy innovation entrepreneurship curriculum training materials with more than 700+ slides, along with supporting booklets for free co-development and use.
All is released under Creative Commons licensing and in editable format.
The curriculum is built, designed and refined over the years to increase the volume of entrepreneurship and likelihood of startup success by focusing on removing or reducing the biggest “universal risks” and to educate about optimal methods and structures.
The base knowledge shared via these trainings is accumulation of more than twenty years of international serial entrepreneurship experience combined with more than ten years of parallel experience on startup advisory.
➡️ If you are interested join our facebook groups:
Startup Ecosystem Developers
Innovation Entrepreneurship Education providers/trainers
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.
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