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Entrepreneurship Ecosystem Lessons

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The current catch phrases—incubators, angel networks, crowdfunding, accelerators, business plan competitions — usually disappoint when conducted in isolation. When they do work, it is because of the existence of a comprehensive ecosystem that supports growth entrepreneurship.

Since 2010 BEEP has been pioneering the development of advanced methodologies for using entrepreneurship as an effective, results-oriented strategy for the development of economic prosperity. But rather than observing, assessing, and studying, we develop our reservoir of knowhow by doing. Here are some of the lessons we have been learning in our projects:

1. Understand and holistically enhance all relevant elements of your entrepreneurship ecosystem. (Note diagram below). For example, financing without education and culture won’t lead to sustainable entrepreneurship. You must consider all these elements and how they drive each other.

2. Don’t worry about changing everything on a full scale at once. When focusing on one or two domains of the ecosystem (social norms about failure, for example), you still need to address the other domains. However, we can touch all the “bases” on a smaller scale.

3. Learn from practices from around the globe, but don’t imitate others’ successes. Silicon Valley and the Boston Innovation District [HYPERLINK TO CASE] evolved in a unique environment, completely different from Israel or Taiwan. You cannot build another Silicon Valley; rather you need to be creative and innovative with the resources, and problems you have at hand. That, after all, is what entrepreneurship is all about.

4. Be local: don’t target the entire country, target specific regions, in parallel if needed. Only limited (but important) aspects of the entrepreneurship ecosystem, such as labor laws and growth-friendly tax regimes, are handled effectively at the national level. Even in small countries, entrepreneurship tends to be localized in what we call “watering holes,” where entrepreneurs come to get access to the resources they need to survive and grow. That is why entrepreneurship-related portals, or incubators, usually don’t work, and when they do, it is when they are supported by a broad group of local stakeholders, including successful entrepreneurs.

5. Have a dedicated, independent team of entrepreneurship enablers on the ground. This new professional role, conceived of and pioneered by BEEP, consists of a team with the skills to activate the local stakeholders by impacting, in a coordinated manner, all six of the domains of the ecosystem. This project team or agency must be supported by committed stakeholders, but be able to act independently of them.

6. Success breeds success. Entrepreneurship is a “positive addiction” and successful entrepreneurs like to help others be successful. Often they help with their expertise and capital. That means that anything we can do to accelerate specific success stories helps stimulate broad based entrepreneurship. And, as in the “law of small numbers,” it only takes a few, local successes to change the whole game.

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