This past Thursday, I, along with Bill Aulet, was invited by my thesis advisor, Scott Stern, to talk the the Entrepreneurship Lab (E-Lab) course that he teaches. E-Lab is one of the oldest "action learning" classes at MIT that pre-dates all entrepreneurship courses and most other entrepreneurial efforts (e.g., the Martin Trust Center) at MIT. The class is a mix of graduate, undergraduate, and non-MIT students organized into teams that do consulting-style projects with host companies over the course of the semester.
I was invited to talk about my experience with the Regional Entrepreneruship Acceleration Program (REAP) and, accordingaly, my thesis which will assess the REAP program against the success of the regions involved, attempting to accelerate entrepreneurship in their home regions.
As part of my brief talk , I decided that I would give a working hypothesis of what, according to my research and analysis, what were they three most important elements to buidling an entrepreneurial ecosystem. Here they are:
- "Setting the table" to allow for entrepreneurship to begin and flourish
- Sustained and deliberate leadership in the entrepreneurial community
- A shared and publicly available system of measurement
"Setting the table" is perhaps the most obvious, but also, most impactful lesson from Josh Lerner's Boulevard of Broken Dreams. It involves setting up legal and cultural norms that allow and reward entrepreneurial risk-taking.
Leadership is an important element popularized by Brad Feld in his "Boulder Thesis" for building entrepenerial communities. While I agree strongly with the need for sustained and deliberate leadership to drive the community (as Feld himself did in Boulder), I disagree that this needs to come from an entrepreneur directly, perhaps benefiting from government and corporate roots as well.
Sharing measurement and making it available is a concept being advocated by Mark Kramer in his article "Channeling change: Making collective impact work." Measurement and accountability is a familiar concept in management and individual performance, however, the practice has been conspicuously absent from efforts of collective action.
What do you think? I would love to hear any comments/reactions to my list here. I also hope to add/remove from this list as I complete my thesis over the next moth.