A national IMPACT Index to measure metrics that matter

In my role as the President of InBIA, it is an incredible privilege to visit a diverse array of thriving entrepreneurial ecosystems across the globe. Within the United States, the media persistently promotes Silicon Valley and Boston as hubs for technology entrepreneurship. While there is no question these two regions dominate the US with respect to regional venture capital investments and startup buzz, there are robust entrepreneurship centers and ecosystems in every state. In the past six months, I have visited thriving entrepreneurship centers in unexpected places such as Buffalo, Sioux Falls, Omaha, Birmingham, Tampa and the Appalachian Region.

One of the most common themes I hear from folks in the trenches that are leading quality entrepreneurship centers is an expectation from local stakeholders that they can magically transform their community into the next Silicon Valley or Boston. These expectations often come from local government or economic development leaders that do not understand the complexities involved in growing thriving entrepreneurial ecosystems.

Foundational community assets that are critical for growing successful new business ventures include a qualified workforce, access to capital, local industry clusters, a strong educational system and an active network of “been there, done that” entrepreneurs. Every community has a unique blend of core assets, which means that every entrepreneurial ecosystem is different.

Instead of focusing on Silicon Valley as a benchmark ecosystem, I think it’s much healthier for economic development leaders to benchmark their communities against other communities with similar asset maps. It is not realistic, for example, to compare the economic impact of an entrepreneurship center in rural West Virginia that is focused on redeployment of coal workers with an incubator in Dallas. Likewise, large urban areas such as Dallas, Miami or Phoenix have many challenges to overcome before they can comparatively benchmark their entrepreneurial ecosystems against Boston or Silicon Valley (both of which have been at this for 60+ years).

I am very excited to announce that InBIA is conducting a national research project sponsored by the U.S. Economic Development Agency to help ecosystem builders in every type of community or geographic region in the United States comparatively benchmark entrepreneurship centers with centers located in communities with similar asset maps. The purpose of this project, called IMPACT Index, is to develop an interactive national dataset of economic impact metrics for entrepreneurship centers such as incubators, accelerators, and coworking spaces in communities across the United States.

The IMPACT Index will consist of a deep dataset that includes regional geographic metrics, entrepreneurship center profile metrics (size, staff, educational programs, capital access, etc.) and longitudinal performance metrics on companies served by entrepreneurship centers.

If you’re interested in benchmarking your entrepreneurship center against centers similar to your own, I hope you will consider taking the IMPACT Index survey. Participating entrepreneurship centers will be provided with complimentary access to the resulting dataset, which will include the ability to create customized benchmark reports highlighting the strengths and potential improvement areas for their programs and services.

Our goal with the IMPACT Index is to highlight the economic impact of entrepreneurship centers at a national scope, help identify trends in center models and best practices, and provide vetted third-party economic performance metrics that might assist with program funding and sponsorships. The IMPACT Index will also be a resource to assist community leaders in identifying entrepreneurial demographics and economic trends that are unique to their regions.

You can learn more about IMPACT Index and access the online data collection survey here. All personal and organizational identifiers will be kept confidential, as contributed performance data will be blended anonymously within the overall dataset.

I hope you will take the time to join your peers in developing this urgently needed resource, and take advantage of the IMPACT Index to help you measure the impact your entrepreneurship center is having in its mission to serve entrepreneurs in your community.

Author: Kirstie Chadwick

President & CEO, InBIA

Kirstie has over 25 years of experience at technology companies including Sun Microsystems, Mentor Graphics and Lockheed Martin. She has also held executive roles at five venture-backed technology startups, including her role as co-founder and CEO of DigitalOwl. She raised over $15M in venture capital for these companies, and is the former Executive Director of the Winter Park Angels – a 50+ member angel investment group.

In addition to her experiences as an entrepreneur and investor, Kirstie led the financing and management of Florida’s Igniting Innovation and Starter Studio Technology Accelerators, which together directly resulted over $50 million in follow-on capital by participating companies.

Kirstie is the recipient of the Orlando Business Journal’s Women Who Mean Business Award, the Working Woman Entrepreneurial Excellence Award, and the Dr. W. Judson King Entrepreneurship Memorial Award. She graduated Summa Cum Laude with a B.S. in Computer Science from UCF, and holds an MBA from UCF.