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Entrepreneurship Resources: Entrepreneurial Ecosystem Mapping

Last Updated: Jun 3, 2024 12:13 PM

What is an entrepreneurial ecosystem?

"[Entrepreneurial ecosystems] EEs are a set of interconnected entrepreneurial actors, entrepreneurial organizations, institutions and entrepreneurial processes."

"An EE is a set of interdependent actors and factors, coordinated in order to allow productive entrepreneurship. Therefore, entrepreneurship occurs in a community of independent actors, where the systemic conditions are the heart of the ecosystem, being formed of networks of entrepreneurs, leadership, finance, talent, knowledge and support services. The presence of those elements and their interaction determine the ecosystem’s success."

Source: De Brito, S., & Leitão, J. (2021). Mapping and defining entrepreneurial ecosystems: a systematic literature review. Knowledge Management Research & Practice19(1), 21–42.

Elements of an ecosystem map

Basic elements to consider are listed below. Depending on your need and area, your elements/categories may vary!

Place: real estate, maker spaces, launch support spaces, offices, programming, and other "third spaces" like libraries, coffee houses, etc.

Social Capital: networking events, entrepreneurial/small business networks

Financial Capital: personal equity, government grants/loans, bank lending tools, private equity (venture capital investors)

Culture: "local attitudes about entrepreneurship" (e.g. Media features on small business and new business announcements, presence of buy local and promotions like “Shop Small” campaigns, small business owners engaged in local civic organizations, etc.)

Regulation: community-specific web resources for starting a business, economic development resources, zoning practices that provide for protections while allowing for a broader mix of uses and functions, etc.

Education & Training: local colleges and universities with programs, diverse access (online, in-person, on-demand)

Human Capital: levels of minority and women-owned businesses, youth entrepreneurship programming, local universities and colleges in workforce development

Why is ecosystem mapping important?

An ecosystem map allows you to:

  • Build your own resource guide
  • Tell a story of potential paths and gaps
  • Reduce silos and encourage collaboration

Planning & Data Collection

Before you begin:

  • Define the scope of your ecosystem. (e.g. location, industry/sector, demographics)
  • What question(s) are you trying to answer with this map? (E.g. What is like to start of brick-and-mortar business in Buffalo? What resources are available?)

Now you’re ready for data collection!

  • You often do not have to conduct all the research alone and from scratch! Don’t forget to reach out to and network with any partners and known organizations.
  • Sources include:
    • Local business publications and/or newspapers (e.g. Business First Journal)
    • Local government and economic development websites
    • Public or local college library
    • Networking/word-of-mouth
  • Use a spreadsheet, typed document, or even post-it notes to organize and categorize your findings

Once you have collected, reviewed, and organized your data, you can begin to map the ecosystem!

Mapping Tools

Kumu: organize complex data into relationship maps