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How to develop innovative entrepreneurial ecosystems?

The growth of startups depends on the sharing of resources and knowledge and each individual can contribute to the prosperity of the entrepreneurial ecosystem in which they live and work.

Article by Federico Micol, PhD student at the Politecnico di Torino with a strong passion for Deep-Tech startup development. He has been studying technology transfer processes, entrepreneurial finance and the development of entrepreneurial ecosystems for several years. Since February 2023, he regularly publishes content on his blog Deep-Tech 4 Dummies with the aim of stimulating reflection and raising awareness on topics related to the world of innovation.

In order to grow and thrive, every complex organism needs to live in an environment that provides it with all the nutrients it needs for its development.

To have a chance of surviving and growing, start-ups also need fertile soil to germinate and the right input of resources, connections and skills from the surrounding environment to take root and grow. In fact, start-ups do not grow from nothing but need entrepreneurial ecosystems that can facilitate these processes.

An entrepreneurial ecosystem is the network of actors and organisations that interact to facilitate the birth and growth of innovative start-ups. Perhaps the most famous entrepreneurial ecosystem in the world is Silicon Valley. Home to technology giants such as Apple, Google and Facebook (also start-ups in their time) and some of the world's largest and most successful investment funds (such as Sequoia, Accel and a16z), since the 1970s, this area of the world has seen an increasingly dense concentration of start-ups, companies, talent, research labs and venture capital.

Looking at the entrepreneurial success of Silicon Valley, other countries have begun to wonder whether it would be possible to transform their region into a Valley-like ecosystem.

Unfortunately, however, replicating California's success is extremely unlikely, because what really drives the evolution of entrepreneurial ecosystems is the way people act within the ecosystem. In fact, every organism in an ecosystem tends not to survive if the other organisms around it do not provide it with the necessary resources to sustain itself. If everyone thinks only of themselves and does not cooperate with the ecosystem actors, trying to understand their needs and goals, there will always be little room to build the trust relationships necessary to reduce barriers to knowledge sharing and resource circulation.

Indeed, several studies (including Hwang & Horowitt – The Rainforest; Saxenian – The regional advantage; Taylor, 2016 – The Politics of Innovation) have put forward the hypothesis and proven that the success of entire regions or countries is largely due to the way in which actors interact with each other, and consequently the ease with which resources and information circulate in the ecosystem itself, and not so much by how resource-rich the ecosystem is. In fact, in these 'complex systems', outcomes are highly dependent on the quality and quantity of interactions between participants, so the behaviour of the innovation actors (both as individuals and as collectivities) has the capacity to strongly influence what may happen in the future. This phenomenon therefore makes it extremely unlikely (but not impossible) that highly entrepreneurial regions will be created unless virtuous mechanisms can be established to improve the relational aspect of the ecosystem.

The growth of your local entrepreneurial ecosystem therefore depends heavily on how you (entrepreneur, investor, corporate employee or politician) relate to the other ecosystem actors.

Each of us therefore has the power to start building (or reinforcing) these relationships, acting in the present to try to increase the level of trust between ecosystem actors and trying to build and strengthen a sense of community.

How? Brad Feld, creator of the accelerator Techstars and author of the book The Startup Community Way, suggests that by simply helping someone without expecting to get anything in return you can foster the development of your region. This does not mean dedicating your whole day to supporting others, but trying to spend a few minutes every day to support someone else.

Surely you are an expert in something or know someone who could help someone else. As trivial as it may seem, adopting the philosophy of the '5-minute favour' and making an introduction between two people in your network, providing a link to a useful resource for your investor, or spending a few minutes to listen to another founder's doubts and help him or her with a technical problem, if done consistently over time by many actors, can accelerate the evolution of the entire ecosystem.


So don't act like the guy in the meme: be nice and try to help those who, like you, care about the growth of the local business community, and start acting like the mentor you always dreamed of having.

Read the full version of the article on Deep-Tech 4 Dummies


Federico Micol
PhD student at the Politecnico di Torino & Blogger


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