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How to build a sustainable startup ecosystem

  • November 13 2021
  • 5 mins

How to build a sustainable startup ecosystem

In this growing era of startup innovation centres, one walks past many co-working spaces branded as ecosystems. According to global statistics, the new age entrepreneurs are expected to be responsible for more than 20% of the gross jobs that will be created in the near future. There is much hype about emerging startup ecosystems, with even the governments willing to consider adding value.

However, often in the hype, the directional loss leads to more propaganda and little action on the ground to develop sustainable startup ecosystems. One can see many press releases about funds being used to create shiny facilities to spur the startup innovation ecosystem. However, these initiatives are good marketing tools most of the time but don’t make a difference to the startups.

Similarly, based on the herd mentality, much funding goes into startups as a flavour of the season; however, later, it is realized that these ventures might not have found product-market fit. This is where ecosystems fail to see the need for a foolproof and robust startups selection plan. Building startup ecosystems is a slow approach, built bottom-up with patience led strategy and capital. That is the only way to create growing companies led by changemakers and result oriented ecosystems. 

Collaborative Mindset: Developing startup ecosystems is not an empirical zero-sum. Being on edge and collaborating with startups on what they need is precisely how ecosystems can develop unicorns. Coming out of the traditional business mindset and working collaboratively with startups is the foundation to developing a robust ecosystem. Hence, the collaborative ecosystems are not dominated by gatekeepers who want to micromanage the startup founders. Thriving ecosystems develop many specialized organizations to work together as partners in tech, legal, fundraising, to name a few. These high impact ecosystems have mentors and coaches that help entrepreneurs across several programs and not just one or two cohorts. New age ecosystems build communities so that the startups can also benefit from peer learning. The collaborative mindset of startup ecosystems should foster operational excellence with no compromise

Map the Available Market: Mullins Framework: In simple terms, the 7 Domains Model equips ecosystems to help entrepreneurs decide whether an opportunity is viable and marketable or not. Most importantly, it helps the ecosystems line up the low hanging fruits for their cohort before entering unchartered territories. A most important aspect is the upward and downward connectedness of the ecosystems from which value drivers can be offered to the cohorts. Many new entrepreneurs are oblivious to the local startup resources, and ecosystems can help bridge the gap efficiently. Ecosystems need to help startup leaders map their ecosystem, promote collaboration, and templatize processes with practical outcomes.  

Network Aggregation: a critical step in building a sustainable startup ecosystem is to network for reach and depth. This is expected to be a weekly gathering of various vertical experts so that the ecosystem is always in action. One would realize that networking leads to unstructured yet long term learning on how to avoid mistakes. Moreover, it should be a part of the program structure of the ecosystem to be able to provide the most networking opportunities to the cohort. There should also be two mega formal networking events hosted by the ecosystem, over and above the mentoring sessions and demo days. 

In the end, it matters how the startups see the ecosystem supporting them for strategy, business and funding. Moreover, every day, action-oriented work should be on the premises, which keeps the founders’ adrenaline high. Many engagements with local government initiatives would also make a difference in creating a formidable startup ecosystem.

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