Entrepreneurial Ecosystems

Social architects around the globe have worked to establish frameworks that can be applied to support long-term, generous, and community-driven collaboration. They have done this alongside government, educational institutions, entrepreneurial support organizations, and economic development groups. Along with societal constructs to guide economic development rooted in entrepreneurship, innovative community builders have stabilized our ability to communicate by adopting a common language that makes universal collaboration possible.

To communicate how a community collaborates to support entrepreneurship, the term “entrepreneurial ecosystem” was coined to describe the people, organizations, resources, conditions, and, most important, the complex interactions between everything in a business environment. The scale of an entrepreneurial ecosystem can be local, statewide, regional, national, or worldwide, but the primary focus must remain: the success of entrepreneurs.

Like an ecological system found in nature, each part of an entrepreneurial ecosystem plays into the continuum of economic development. As a conglomeration of interdependent parts, changing one aspect can affect other features. With so many moving parts, complexity science helps us understand and communicate how entrepreneurial ecosystems work.

In their 2020 best-selling book The Startup Community Way: Evolving an Entrepreneurial Ecosystem, Brad Feld and Ian Hathaway use complex adaptive systems to explore how a systematic, holistic, inclusive, positive-sum, and long-term mindset unlocks entrepreneurial ecosystems to thrive as one. There are many other thought leaders (e.g. Johannes Pennings, Daniel Isenberg, Victor Hwang, Greg Horowitt, Lolita Taub, Dell Gines, Steve Case, Naval Ravikant, Wendy Guillies, Philip Gaskin, Andy Stoll, Cecilia Wessinger, Arlan Hamilton, Yancey Strickler, Marc Nager, Scott Resnick, Laís de Oliveira, Seth Godin, etc.) and exceptional organizations (e.g. Kauffman Foundation, Techstars, Revolution, Center for American Entrepreneurship, Forward Cities, Right To Start, Global Entrepreneurship Network, etc.) that continue to guide this collaborative approach to economic development. In short, when you win, we win. The sooner a community comes together to support what works while leaving outdated ideas behind, the sooner it can flourish.

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Have you seen Brad Feld’s remarkable contribution inside You Don’t Need This Book? Brad inspires us all to think big and it was an honor having him riff on such an important topic within my new book!

As you’ll read more about in YDNTB, a genuine commitment to inclusivity is where the magic happens within an entrepreneurial ecosystem. Complex systems rely and thrive on diversity. Identity diversity (e.g., gender, race, and sexual orientation) paired with cognitive diversity (e.g., experience, background, and perspective) invites everyone to participate. Along with radical inclusivity, equitable policies provide an environment where entrepreneurial traction is easier to find. As expanding connectivity diversifies, the ecosystem matures and long-term growth becomes more sustainable. When members of the community are successful, they are free to give back and this cycle continues to fuel positive change.

With enough people who care, healthy ecosystems can exist anywhere. No matter the environment, thriving ecosystems trust that a rising tide will raise all ships, allowing entrepreneurs and the people who support them to prosper. Such an inclusive and collaborative approach sets a tone for the broader business environment, strengthening economic development and our society overall.

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Wanna geek out on this together? Perhaps your ecosystem is thirsty for a fresh perspective? Let’s pour some virtual coffee and explore innovative ways to collaborate!

Career Nirvana

Career nirvana is achieved when your community, work, and personal life are in harmony. This state of mind comes from happiness, health, and wealth emanating from the freedom to do whatever you’re best at with people you care about.

There is little holding you back from achieving such splendor. Start by doing remarkable work you enjoy. This creativity earns attention and delivers intellectual, human, financial, network, cultural, physical, and institutional capital. As we learn from The Startup Community Way, the Seven Capitals keep you building by using what you have, to attract what you want.

Let passion fuel persistence, then fuse your career portfolio into the entrepreneurial ecosystem. As you connect into community, be generous by accelerating others and use the trust that creates to do it more often. When this becomes routine, your generosity will leave a legacy. For innovators looking to change the world, such a legacy grants enduring satisfaction and furthers the sense of euphoria.

As a fulfilling career is composed, it’s easier to find work-life balance. Remember, we work to live. We don’t live to work. Nobody looks back wishing they had spent more time in the office. Use the freedom you create to embrace those you love while doing more things that make you happy.

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“The peace and satisfaction of building what you truly care about is one of life’s greatest gifts.”  –You Don’t Need This Book

This may sound idealistic, but it’s not all rainbows and unicorns. This approach to work requires creativity, immeasurable time, immense ambition, and advanced efficiency. As discussed in the Side Hustles chapter of YDNTB, an acute awareness of your personal bandwidth is essential to optimizing when and how resources are utilized. It can also be tempting to spend too much time on things that are fun but may not have real potential. Be humble enough to recognize what you have and what it will take to evolve your idea(s) into reality. Managing multiple “hobbies that pay” takes serious effort, but the reward is extraordinary work you love talking about and an inner peace that provides transformative happiness.

If you achieve career nirvana, be thankful, but recognize that things will always change. What you have today may not be the same tomorrow. Keep building to enjoy the moment, then make it last with generosity that recycles a sense of abundance for others along the way.

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Cheers to everyone who made last week’s book launch a huge success! Signed softcovers were shipped nationwide and more orders continue to pour in. As you dig into YDNTB, I’d love to see photos, hear what resonates and explore fresh ways to accelerate your work.

How I Wrote YDNTB

You Don’t Need This Book officially went on sale April 1st!

To commemorate this milestone, here’s the story of how I rolled everything I know about entrepreneurship into 37,456 words that spans just 200 pages.

Inspiration

Over the past 15 years, my own entrepreneurial, intrapreneurial and community building experiences created a baseline of understanding. Along with my own journey, I’ve extracted insight from thousands of students, entrepreneurs, intrapreneurs, mentors, investors and entrepreneurial ecosystem builders.

With all that bottled up brain power, I started to feel as if I may regret not passing my experiential wisdom on.

Catalyzed

This book started as an outline on my phone. Each of the chapters represented a pillar of entrepreneurship. It lingered there for around six months. As you’ll read in the Foreword of my book, Victor Hwang and I were talking about this literary project back in 2019. He shared a poem with me that really resonated. My interpretation was that everyone has a story to tell. When it starts to keep you up at night, it may be time to put pen to paper. I had reached this tipping point so on January 1st, 2020, I opened a blank Word document, dropped in my outline and began to write.

Composition

For the next few months, I focused on finding 1-3 hour blocks to write. Some authors jump around and write into areas they feel most confident about before stitching things together. I chose to write from start to finish in what felt like the most common path for an entrepreneurial experience. The ease at which this story started coming together energized the work and made me even more determined. Along with writing, I learned as much as I could about book publishing. Seth Godin’s advice for authors guided me, but a growing collection of bookmarks kept the research going. The COVID-19 pandemic hit so I leaned on more wisdom from Seth Godin to find my inspiration at home. EDM kept flowing in my ears and my written words continued to construct the story. After around six months I had reached my goal of 25K words, but then the hard work began.

Refinement

With my first draft written, I brought everything into software to simplify, clarify and embolden the manuscript. I also focused on removing duplicative thoughts and optimizing the overall flow. This process took way longer than I expected, but the result was a dashing manuscript ready for review. My brilliant wife read it first. I knew that if the most intelligent/thoughtful person I knew approved, I could move forward. She loved it and helped me improve the readability even more. I then sent the manuscript and a book summary to family, mentors and other early readers. I implemented their feedback and kept building into this document that really started to feel like a book.

Polish

With a solid manuscript in place, I reached out to Victor Hwang and asked if he would do me the honor of writing the Foreword. When he said yes, I asked Brad Feld if he would like to contribute into the Entrepreneurial Ecosystem section of the Community chapter. As you’ll read in the Acknowledgements, jamming with these rockstars was a special treat. Having two thought leaders complimenting the manuscript provided me confidence and their contributions added some remarkable credibility to the book.

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The manuscript was written without the Oxford Comma. Based on Brad Feld’s comments, a quick Twitter poll and both of the editor’s suggestions, the serial comma got woven in right before publishing.

As these contributions came together, Brad Feld introduced me to the developmental editor who worked on Techstars books in the Startup Revolution library. Collaborating with Pete Birkeland resulted in the addition of my Introduction section and the 20+ personal sidebars you’ll see throughout the book. I then asked Michael McConnell to be my final copy editor. He had worked with authors like Seth Godin and Todd Henry, so it was neat working with an expert to a polish every single word to make the manuscript ready to publish.

Publishing

It took an entire year for the manuscript to emerge. I had been talking with different publishers and researching the publishing process as the manuscript came together. With a project that became so personal, I often felt paralyzed by this foreign process. This paralysis was not from a lack of options, but instead, so many options that it made me question so many decisions that had to be made. To navigate through the fog, I kept asking questions, digging deeper and decided to create my own publishing company to wrap around this project.

I then began collaborating with Nathan T. Wright on cover art. This was a magical experience that became icing on the cake. With so much influence from Seth Godin, I also decided to reach out to my hero for the very first time. This interaction with my favorite thinker is something I’ll always remember and the epic result was the only blurb you’ll see on the back of my book! With caffeinated cover art in place, I learned how to design every interior page to give readers a exceptional experience. Pour Over Publishing unlocked preorders four weeks before the official launch, as I worked with Amazon and IngramSpark to finalize the softcover and eBook that are now about to ship worldwide.

Results

Whether this becomes a bestseller or not, You Don’t Need This Book: Entrepreneurship in the Connected Era is now something I can be proud of for the rest of my life. It was an unbelievable amount of work, but I’m thankful for the support of so many people which allowed me to persevere. I enjoyed sharing this first look video and have activated community-driven marketing as we prepare for launch day.

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Wanna help spread the word? Here’s a media library to make your posts pop. To say thanks, feel free to use the friendly coupon codes as well!

Publishing my first book and watching sales roll in provides a sense of accomplishment, but I’m most excited to hear how YDNTB makes an impact with people like you. I simply cannot wait to hear how this synthesized narrative helps you build that new business, improve an existing company, fire up a side hustle or evolve your own entrepreneurial ecosystem!

In addition to more caffeinated conversations, now that I’ve navigated the fog, there may be more ways to accelerate others by helping hidden leaders write their own book. I’ll leave you with an open invitation. If the story in your mind starts to keep you up at night, let’s chat about evolving your ideas into reality.

Table of Contents

We’re only one week from the official April 1st launch of You Don’t Need This Book!

Special thanks to ALL who have locked in their preorders. To celebrate the book release, here’s a sneak peek at the Table of Contents for You Don’t Need This Book: Entrepreneurship in the Connected Era.

FOREWORD

INTRODUCTION

CHAPTER ONE IDEATION
– Train Your Brain
– Find Problems
– Broaden the Horizon
– Listen
– Early Moves
– Talk
– Idea Burnout
– Die Empty

CHAPTER TWO COMMUNITY
– Entrepreneurial Ecosystems
– Communities of Practice
– Plug In
– Be Yourself
– Show Up
– Break Ice
– #givefirst
– Stand Out
– Follow Up
– Coworking
– Lead
– Event Management
– Connectors Become Connected
– Entrepreneurial Ecosystem Builders
– Career Nirvana

CHAPTER THREE TEAM
– Lone Wolf
– Co-Founders
– Friends
– Family
– Mentors
– Advisors
– Investors
– Acquiring Talent

CHAPTER FOUR SIDE HUSTLES
– Balance
– Transparency
– Patience
– Be Realistic
– The Headline Trap
– Intrapreneurship

CHAPTER FIVE RESEARCH
– Lightweight
– Middleweight
– Heavyweight
– Reflections

CHAPTER SIX TESTING
– Early Adopters
– Stealth Mode
– What to Test
– Pivoting
– Incubators
– Accelerators
– Stay Curious
– Pure Wonder

CHAPTER SEVEN MARKETING
– Name It
– Logo Design
– Branding
– Content Creation
– Skill #1 – Writing
– Skill #2 – Photography
– Skill #3 – Videography
– Skill #4 – Graphic Design
– Skill #5 – Creativity
– Skill #6 – Organization
– Web Development
– Email Marketing
– Social Media
– Print
– Word of Mouth

CHAPTER EIGHT SALES
– Launch
– Early Action
– Don’t Sell
– Slow Down
– Stay Committed
– Travel
– Trade Shows
– Pitch Competitions
– Grants > Loans
– Jet Fuel

CHAPTER NINE RESULTS
– Milestones
– Celebrate
– Tweak
– Expand
– Exit
– Hobbies That Pay

CHAPTER TEN PERSISTENCE

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

RESOURCES

Connectors Become Connected

In the connected era, building an engaged network is everything. This doesn’t mean you exchange a bunch of business cards at random networking events. An engaged network is activated when your connections care about you and you care about them. This mutual respect leads to improved collaboration through a genuine interest in one another. As we go beyond our immediate self-interest, it becomes clear that the only way forward is together.

One of the best ways to unlock your engaged network is by introducing people to each other. This triangulates you into more relationships. The more people you connect, the more connected you become.

Connectors eventually become the people who know everyone. When you know everyone, people start introducing themselves to you more often. This creates a cycle that inherently feeds itself. The social currency that comes with being a connector earns you the ability to keep connecting others. Over time, this cultural connectedness translates into an invitation to lead.

Connectors who decide to lead should continue to help others succeed while allowing new leaders to surface. Being an active leader and the go-to connector won’t last forever and that’s a good thing. It can be hard to let go of a leadership role, but your work will not be forgotten and proactive succession is healthy for the community. Let others lead knowing you’re not losing control, power or influence. You’re gaining the freedom to pursue new ways that make an impact as the entrepreneurial ecosystem is refreshed and given the latitude to grow.

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My new book debuts April 1st!