In nature, an ecosystem consists of air, water, land, and wildlife interacting to create an environment that encourages and sustains life. In the same way, the business environment depends on interconnected social, political, economic, and cultural attributes to succeed. Taken together, these attributes comprise an entrepreneurial ecosystem.
What is an Entrepreneurial Ecosystem?
An entrepreneurial ecosystem is a set of interdependent actors and factors coordinated in such a way that they enable productive entrepreneurship within a particular territory.
Although each entrepreneurial ecosystem looks different depending on what is needed in a specific region, they comprise multiple attributes that allow entrepreneurs to start, sustain, and scale a new business. The domains of an entrepreneurial ecosystem typically include:
- Policy: State run programs or regulation that supports entrepreneurship or removes barriers.
- Finance: Availability of investment capital to support new ventures.
- Cultural: Attitudes that normalize entrepreneurial activities.
- Supports: Firms that provide ancillary services to new ventures, such as technology and legal expertise.
- Human capital: Qualified workers and other human resource needs.
- Markets: Sufficient local opportunities to enable new business ventures.
To better understand an entrepreneurial ecosystem’s attributes, read Entrepreneurial Ecosystems: What They’re Made of and How they Work by Ben Spigel, University of Edinburgh Business School.
EDC’s Entrepreneurial Ecosystem Initiative
Small business is part of the backbone of Island County’s economy and quality of life. Depending on the strength of our entrepreneurial ecosystem, starting or expanding a small business here can be easy or hard for entrepreneurs.
That’s why the EDC for Island County launched the Entrepreneurial Ecosystem Initiative (EEI).
EDC will help coordinate the partnerships needed for a strong entrepreneurial ecosystem and serve as a central intake point for prospective system users. It also will help facilitate services and other administrative functions like tracking and reporting.
Entrepreneurial Ecosystem Initiative Partners
Essential to the ecosystem are its people and the culture of trust and collaboration that allows them to interact successfully. An ecosystem that allows for the fast flow of talent, information, and resources helps entrepreneurs quickly find what they need at each stage of growth.
EDC has started building strategic partnerships to meet the philosophical ideals and typical domains of an entrepreneurial ecosystem for Island County. Some are already partners with the EDC and the relationship merely needs to be formalized within the context of the ecosystem, while others may be new.
As the EDC is developing and formalizing these ecosystem partners, it is looking for more champion partners to join the initiative and provide entrepreneurs with advice, mentoring, and resources. Some of the areas include:
- Funding a business start-up or expansion.
- Women and minority entrepreneurs.
- Recruitment and human resource needs.
- Technical expertise including online and mobile customer interfaces, accounting software, and other procedures to help fully operationalize.
- Legal support.
- Real-estate connections for office space.
- Assistance with advocacy, contracting opportunities, obtaining patents, research, and other business support needs
These partnerships will include organizations and individuals located in Island County, as well as partners that operate on a regional or state level.
Strengthening the Entrepreneurial Ecosystem
One of the first actions of the Entrepreneurial Ecosystem Initiative was to bring under the EDC umbrella Whidbey Entrepreneurs (WE) and Whidbey Island Local Lenders (WILL).
WE helps entrepreneurs navigate the difficulties of starting a new business by creating a network of entrepreneurs, innovators and mentors on Whidbey Island. WILL offers opportunities for current and aspiring business owners in need of capital to connect with people who might be willing to make a loan to support a startup or expansion.
The EDC also created an initial committee that consists so far of the leadership of WE and WILL. Our intention is to grow the committee to make sure we have geographic representation to cover the entire county including South Whidbey, Central Whidbey, North Whidbey, and Camano Island.
Looking ahead, the EDC is investigating the possibility of bringing in an expert at building inclusive rural entrepreneurial ecosystems with a track record for helping rural communities by taking on the robust role of research, outreach, planning, implementation, and monitoring.
By building a strong entrepreneurial ecosystem, Island County’s economy will grow stronger through the support of new business startups and expansions.