The opening conference of the World Entrepreneurship Forum 2012 welcomed on-stage 7 speakers from 6 countries. They exposed their vision for improving efficiency and effectiveness of Entrepreneurial Ecosystems. Encouraging connections, changing the way entrepreneurship is taught, accelerating the availability of resources and facilitating a culture of entrepreneurship among communities were the key factors highlighted.
Creating a network of entrepreneurs (whether virtual or through geographical clusters) is one of the key elements of an effective ecosystem. Lily Chan, from the National University of Singapore (NUS), pointed out that entrepreneurs benefit tremendously from peer interaction and co-working: “In 5 years, we believe the ecosystem will stand on its own, entrepreneurs will learn from each other”. Nicolas Shea, from Startup Chile, said: “connections create connections, and the effect is exponential”. There is great benefit in connecting entrepreneurs together and having them share experiences and mistakes.
Entrepreneurship education is extremely important for a successful ecosystem, but new approaches have to be pursued. Sarah Green, co-founder of EMPACT, supported that higher education needs to adapt to new practices such as co-learning and mentoring. Focusing on young entrepreneurs is critical due to youth unemployment in many countries around the world. Promoting the entrepreneurial mindset among all is key to nurture talents and encourage SME creation.
One of the biggest challenges for an entrepreneurial ecosystem is creating an infrastructure where new ventures have access to the main resources they need to succeed. Funding is a critical resource, and in that sense David Drake of The Soho Loft emphasized the growing relevance of crowd-funding platforms: “crowd-funding is making some Venture Capitalists nervous”. Stefania Amorosi, from the Imageen project, covered best practices in policy-making – another key element of entrepreneurial infrastructure. Sarah Green presented data on the fast growth of accelerators and co-working spaces over the last few years – those infrastructure elements have lately become central to successful entrepreneurial ecosystems around the world. A holistic approach is also fundamental: “developing innovative cities by bringing together industries, government and R&D labs” is the way forward, according to Gouming Feng, Secretary-General of Hangzhou City, China.
Entrepreneurial ecosystems have a strong culture. Sarah Green cited their focus on celebration, an opinion that was shared by Nicola Shea: “we celebrate entrepreneurs, and if they fail we celebrate as well and focus on the next step”. The value of sharing was a common point stated by most speakers, and it was specifically emphasized by Kah Walla, founder and CEO of Strategies!, at the beginning of her speech: “let’s all stand up and share our energy”. Nicola Shea expressed the importance of culture: “get a group of smart people, ensure they are having fun, that they are happy, and it will foster innovation”. Diversity was another key part of entrepreneurship culture. Kah Walla incited the audience: “informal entrepreneurs and female workforce can’t be ignored”.
Thinking out of the box can be not only a concept, but a reality. As Daniel Evans, Chief Innovation Officer at EML Executive Education, said: “when theory says no, but practice and reality say yes, it’s time to rethink the theory”. The world needs entrepreneurs to turn constraints into disruptive change and create sustainable economies in the next decades. Ecosystems are the platform for successful and innovative entrepreneurial implementation.