The International Conference on Business Incubation is known for its exceptional networking opportunities, radical keynote presentations and incubation tours around the host city; but the real meat and potatoes of this event are the unique conference sessions that challenge our attendees to think outside of the box. This year’s conference is no different in that InBIA has developed riveting topics that speak to specific industry sectors & entrepreneurial trends such as SuperHubs and advanced business incubation models. InBIA has paired up with industry experts from around the world to speak to these topics and allow fruitful collaboration within each conference session.

We set up interviews with some of our session speakers on a wide range of topics. Get to know a little bit more about them with the Q & A below – you might be surprised how much you have in common with these industry leaders! Also, be sure to click the Session Grid below to view which sessions they’re leading so you can plan your conference experience accordingly.

1. What is the most significant project you have done – past or present – to contribute to your regional entrepreneurial ecosystem? 

I changed TechFW from a space-based to a programs-based incubator. And then four years ago, I created an angel network as one of our programs.

-Darlene M Boudreaux, TechFW

Launching Purpl as the first shared workspace in our region and facilitating an experience that breeds growth and insight for our members has created a hub of creativity and entrepreneurialism that didn’t exist in our area previously.

-Sarah Hinawi, Purpl

In the last two years, we created two important projects: 1. Philadelphia Immigrant Innovation Hub  providing culturally/language sensitive incubation services to immigrant startups 2. West Philadelphia Micro Business Incubation Program: Incubating neighborhood underground businesses into viable and sustainable enterprises

-Herman Nyamunga, Welcoming Center for New Pennsylvanians

The growth of the Detroit Kitchen Connect program from a city specific program to a regional program.

-Anika-Kafi Grose, Eastern Market Corporation

 

Building entrepreneurship infrastructures from the ground up, leveraging existing resources in the communities in which we work and then using our research, consulting and tools to find and fill gaps and measure impact along the way. It’s a big one, but telling the story and sharing the impact of entrepreneurship is key. We’ve figured it out. For example in Kansas City we increased capital pools by 290% in 18 months due to research, action plan and intentional collaboration.

-Maria Meyers, University of Missouri, Kansas City

The establishment of City Startup Labs has raised awareness about the importance of inclusive entrepreneurship.

-Henry Rock, City Startup Labs (CSL)

Developing the CO.STARTERS model to support nontraditional creative entrepreneurs made a significant difference in shifting our culture in Chattanooga to be more open and collaborative

-Enoch Elwell, CO.STARTERS

Right now we are leading our region in bridging entrepreneurial gaps, by reaching into the rural counties surrounding Pittsburgh, facilitating an exchange of information, and enabling the transfer of technologies and innovations developed in the city to farmers who want to increase efficiencies, production, and sustainability on their farms.

-Nicole Muise-Kielkucki, Idea Foundry

I have been involved in the incubation industry for 3.5 years. Originally hired by an economic development alliance made up of a public/private partnership for the second largest county in Illinois, I began the tech coworking space and incubator for this area and serve as the first CEO.

-Nic Zito, Rev3 Innovation Center 

2. Has this project changed your perspective on what is most effective in helping startups achieve success? If so, please explain how your change in perspective has impacted the way you do your job.

Entrepreneurs are perhaps the most agile learners any educator will deal with and make for a highly discernible audience. With a company to build and only limited cash and time they only respond to content that is relevant in the moment. Everything we do is now tailored to that reality

-Jon E Worren, MaRS Discovery District

Creating and being involved in an angel network has give me much greater insight into how the investors view the entrepreneurs we are coaching and mentoring. It helps me to help the entrepreneurs prepare for the world they plan to enter.

-Darlene M Boudreaux, TechFW

It takes a vibrant business community, successful investors, non-profit organizations and vision for entrepreneurship to help emerging startups launch. Relationships matter, mentoring is critical and a team approach is most effective, as we’ve experienced in Durango, CO

-Jasper Welch, Four Corners Management Systems 

Yes, through these two projects, we have come to appreciate how important “Invisible Capital” that immigrants and minorities bring to the table dictate their entrepreneurial success. Hence through these two programs we have developed tools to help us understand it and use it as an important building block in our entrepreneurial support system

-Herman Nyamunga, Welcoming Center for New Pennsylvanians

We’ve redefined what entrepreneurship is because we know the numbers behind who creates companies and who creates jobs, at a very local level. And because we know the who, we’ve redefined the how. If your aim is to build an ecosystem, you have to build an infrastructure first and you can’t measure that be end-game metrics like jobs and starts. You have to benchmark progress along the way to know if you’re going to hit those big goals, and that comes through monitoring the infrastructure through an Entrepreneur Dashboard.

-Maria Meyers, University of Missouri, Kansas City

Every ecosystem is unique. Supporting ecosystems with widely varying characteristics has made clear that ecosystem-building strategies need to be adapted to each ecosystem and evolved over time.

-Eric Paul Smith, U.S. Economic Development Administration

The project confirmed our insights into the special needs of entrepreneurs in various industries. We predict that themed incubators will begin to appear more in well served ecosystems and begin to dominate the incubation space.

-Paul Salvini, Accelerator Centre

After working for 5 years in Chattanooga, Cincinnati, and Detroit, we found that while our program model was effective, the biggest value was related to the collaborative community that developed and took on a life of its own. This shift of focus made us redesign our entire process to accelerate collaboration opportunities. We now firmly believe that our focus is on helping individuals thrive most of all. We are accelerating community growth through business.

-Enoch Elwell, CO.STARTERS

Definitely! We learned that it really takes an ecosystem to raise an entrepreneur and bring real solutions to complex problems. It is near impossible to achieve the results of this program, if we were to do this without any of the partner organization. This project made us adopt a more collaborative approach that we take towards developing an entrepreneurial ecosystem and supporting entrepreneurs.

-Nilay Goyal, York University

Entrepreneurs, whether in the high tech sector, or running a Main Street business, all need supporters who can lend an outside perspective, be an objective sounding board, and help think things through in a systematic way. Working with a wide range of startups has shown me that in general, entrepreneurs have the capacity to lead others with amazing, creative visions and novel problem solving techniques, but need methodical people around them who can help focus and execute, and more importantly, to pause and slow down when needed.

-Nicole Muise-Kielkucki, Idea Foundry

People and companies do not thrive in a vacuum. In today’s global and connected marketplace this has never been more true. My world has opened up incredibly, which in turn brings opportunities to my community and the people and businesses we serve. My motto: Think big. Keep it simple. Make it happen.

-Sara Hand, Spark Growth

Absolutely. To be an entrepreneurs in the food industry is incredible challenging. I used to believe strongly in the saying “Jack of all trades, master of none” but now I know you need to be a jack of all trades to master the one. Entrepreneurs have to wear several hats due to lack of funding and assistance. As a result they need resources readily available to them and a basic understanding of several disciplines to help them launch and grow their businesses.

-Natalie Shmulik, The Hatchery Chicago

Yes, Instead of offering assistance to startups generally and generically we work more focused, individually. With this, we understand better the pain points of each entrepreneur and we can be much more proactive.

-Leandro Bento Pompermaier, RAIAR – PUCRS

3. What encouraging words would you share with an entrepreneurship center struggling to build a lasting entrepreneurial ecosystem and for those industry professionals who are just starting out?

Don’t expect to change the ecosystem all by yourself or overnight. It takes a great deal of cooperation with other entities and people in the community. The important thing is not to try to “take over the world,” but to start with changing the corner of the world that you live in. Just do what you do best and be friends with the others who are doing what they do best.

-Darlene M Boudreaux, TechFW

Listen to the needs of your clients and entrepreneurs and make sure they have a need for the resources you are offering.

-Elissa Bloom, Philadelphia Fashion Incubator

“All together now!” is what is necessary to improve the dynamism of entrepreneurial ecosystems. There is no individual component of the innovation system that could generally improve the conditions for entrepreneurship ecosystems to flourish as a stand-alone activity. All actors within the ecosystem (policy, venture capitalists, industry, networks, research and education, and of course founders themselves) should be aware of the significance of start-ups in regional economic power and must work closely together.

-Bettina Voßberg, HighTech Startbahn Network Association

My best piece of advice would be to find your why and stay focused on that as you plan your how. For the WT Enterprise Center, our purpose is to help people build great companies. All of our strategic plans, programs, services and partnerships focus on that purpose. It’s also much easier to gain new partnerships and support from other ecosystem organizations when you can communicate your purpose and how it plays an integral role for entrepreneurs in your community.

-Kyla Frye, WT Enterprise Center

For those just starting, join InBIA, visit peer ESO’s (Entrepreneurial Support Organizations), learn how the Business Model Canvas works, and develop strategic partnerships with key organizations in your community.

-Jasper Welch, Four Corners Management Systems

Entrepreneurship–building a startup and building an ecosystem–is a team, full contact sport. Realize that it takes time, patience, collaboration and a willingness to question your assumptions and let go of ownership. Be a part of the community and the solution and understand that an ecosystem can’t be build by one program or one group.

-Maria Meyers, University of Missouri, Kansas City

Don’t reinvent the wheel. Leverage the available expertise from successful incubators and then understand the uniqueness of your own environment to customize your programs and services.

-Paul Salvini, Accelerator Centre

While significant community change may seem slow, difficult, or impossible at times, it is helpful to remember that all change starts small. Even a handful of committed people who are dedicated to seeing positive change happen can spark a movement. Even if your impact seems limited to a few, that doesn’t make it less valuable. Quality over quantity… 

-Enoch Elwell, CO.STARTERS

The keys to creating a lasting entrepreneurial ecosystem are (1) being efficient , (2) agile, (3) approachable. An ecosystem which replicates similar resources, rather than providing a diverse range of resources is not efficient and cannot provide comprehensive support. An ecosystem needs to be agile, in understanding the market’s needs and able to quickly adapt to changing economic landscapes and needs. The ecosystem should be flexible enough to allow for changes to happen organically as it grows. For an ecosystem to thrive, it needs its players to be easily approachable to all its stakeholders and need to be able to communicate with each other to enable collaboration.

-Nilay Goyal, York University

Build partnerships – you cannot do it all. A biological ecosystem has many interacting organisms and a physical environment. Likewise, a thriving entrepreneurial ecosystem needs several organizations in inter-dependent relationships.

-Deepak Gupta, Centennial College

Think like you’re a startup too. Provide the most possible value you can to your community. Again, don’t focus too much on the shiny entrepreneurs. The sandwich shop and the bike shop help to make it a more vibrant community and you’ll be able to attract more talent to the area. Also, don’t expect them to come to you. You will have to go out and find them.

-Zack Miller, Hatch

It does not happen overnight. It is built one relationship, one conversation, and one step at a time. Know your end goal, and accomplish it through your actions — strategic and tactical — everyday.

-Katherine Cota, University of Northern Iowa

Build the network and don’t be taken in by the hype of some of the noise in the market place. Work with companies and entrepreneurs that have the potential to create jobs, not just livestyles.

-Charles D’Agostino, LSU Innovation Park

4. If you focus on a specific sector, how did you identify it and how did you test your center’s capabilities to see if it would survive in the community? 

Fashion was identified by Center City District, our business improvement organization along with Macy’s and the City as an area that was lacking proper business resources and incentives for emerging designer.

-Elissa Bloom, Philadelphia Fashion Incubator

We have been working with minorities and immigrants for some times. Over the years we realized that the traditional incubators and accelerators were not well equipped to serve this clientele. There were challenges ranging from fees, language and lack of credit to access traditional financial tools. This created an opportunity for us to develop a focused incubation system primarily focusing on the two sectors.

-Herman Nyamunga, Welcoming Center for New Pennsylvanians

We are pioneering the concept of Social Enterprise in our region—the idea that companies can deliver benefits to society and/or the environment while also being profit-focused and market-oriented. We began to focus on this emerging sector of entrepreneurship about 5 years ago, when we noticed more and more applicants to our programs proposing ideas for companies that were driven by a desire to address a pressing social or environmental issue. We realized by piloting with a handful of these companies that because these companies were focused on becoming good businesses first and foremost, our framework for proving and developing more traditional technology and innovation-based companies applied here as well. Today we’ve helped launch more than 60 social enterprises, which have generated over $130mm in economic impact for our region.

-Nicole Muise-Kielkucki, Idea Foundry

The Hatchery was born out of a major demand in our industry. We established a food business incubator due to the lack of affordable production facilities and the dispersed resources in the food and beverage space.

-Natalie Shmulik, The Hatchery Chicago

My program is technology focused. We commissioned a feasibility study 15 years ago to determine the optimal focus for our program, which was life science. We have followed the initial recommendation and expanded the technology focus over time to include medical device, engineering, and life science IT.

-Sandra Cochrane, WMU Homer Stryker MD School of Medicine

We have a far reaching mission and industrial sector based on the strengths of our community and the strengths of Louisiana State University. This specifically is energy, engineering, environmental sciences, coastal resources, food, agriculture, information and cyber security and advanced materials.

-Charles D’Agostino, LSU Innovation Park

We focus on students because they were underserved when we started in 1996 and they are our future entrepreneurs. It survives because we operate entrepreneurially — we test programs, we pivot, we grow, we change.

-Katherine Cota, University of Northern Iowa

High-tech start-ups are extremely heterogeneous, it’s harder for them to find a matching partner in a highly diverse investors’ pool. Their capital requirements, due to higher development costs and product launch times, exceeds those of other sectors. The successful funding of high-tech start-ups requires sound market knowledge and an effective, expeditious establishment in the supply chain with access to customers and suppliers. Industry customers have complex and lengthy decision paths, even in Corporate Venturing. To make a faster market entry for European high-tech start-ups it is necessary to establish targeted formats and programs.

-Bettina Voßberg, HighTech Startbahn Network Association

5. What are some of the biggest challenges your center faces when it comes to helping entrepreneurs achieve success, and what advantages does your center have? 

Our biggest challenge is finding stable financial support to do what we do. We have the benefit of longevity and a reputation that has been built carefully over time.

-Darlene M Boudreaux, TechFW

The biggest challenge is always securing the appropriate amount of money to launch a new business and see it through to the first 3 to 5 years, where it moves past the start-up phase.

-Clifford Rose, Maharishi University of Management

Biggest challenges: campus culture is slow to change. Many things are out of our control in such a large place. Advantages: we are the front door to our ecosystem. Students generally come in our door first, so our ability to impact them and to make the right connections for them is dramatic.

-Ian Haase, Western University

Biggest challenge is working with designers that are so set in their business vision and not able to take in other ideas or concept to help with their business success. Advantages are that we have 4 fashion schools in the city, and a rich history of fashion and manufacturing. Our incubator is a creative storm with the civic, academic and corporate sectors coming together for one main mission and that is to support emerging designers in Philadelphia.

-Elissa Bloom, Philadelphia Fashion Incubator

We have to remind ourselves that we can not want more for our client companies than they want for themselves. The companies which are most successful participate at a higher level in the services offerings than those who may not be as successful.

-Jeff Reid, WT Enterprise Center

The biggest challenge is always sustaining funding for operations. It is hard to get good metrics around community building. Telling the story and educating stakeholders has been difficult.

-Joe Maruschak, RAIN Eugene Accelerator

Our biggest challenge is having enough space for incoming businesses while supporting those that are at their end of their time in our facilities/program.

-Anika-Kafi Grose, Eastern Market Corporation

When considering who is likely to become an entrepreneur – black male millennials aren’t at the top of the list. So we have a number of other barriers to overcome first, before attending to the fundaments of starting a new venture. While many are the same issues confronting any new entrepreneur, we also have to contend with the realities of being black in America. So our program’s success has a lot to do with how well we address those challenges on the front end.

-Henry Rock, City Startup Labs (CSL)

Our biggest challenge recruiting entrepreneurs early enough in their journey so we can guide them to make good choices all the way through their journey. We have the distinct advantage of of having access to students and recent grads from the University of Waterloo and having outstanding, innovative, early stage (ideation) programming.

-Paul Salvini, Accelerator Centre

We are a publicly funded organization and hence have limited resources. Hence, we need to allocate our resources efficiently in order to achieve the maximum impact. We do that by minimizing replication of resources and complementing the resources and services provided by other members in the ecosystem. By leveraging upon the strengths of our partners and enabling access to resources provided by them, we are able to expand our services to entrepreneurs in different sectors and at different stages.

-Nilay Goyal, York University

Challenges include rounding out a team and usually a key piece is having a startup person with experience on the team. An advantage is our mentors and interns. Mentors bring a wealth of experience and connections and our interns execute of projects such as competitive analysis and market overview.

-Karl W. Mundorff, Oregon State University

Challenges: government + social mind set. Advantages: working together with University and close to research trying find disruptive solutions.

-Leandro Bento Pompermaier, RAIAR – PUCRS

6. What pain points and opportunities should entrepreneurial ecosystems prepare to face in 2017?

Many of the large economic sectors that define the developed world are coming under increasing pressure – education, health, public services – because the world around them are changing at a rate much higher than they can keep up with. Entrepreneurial ecosystems that understand how they can play a valuable role not just for entrepreneurs, but in addressing those pain points will find the most opportunities.

-Jon E Worren, MaRS Discovery District

There are a lot more players now than there were before. Everyone calls themselves an incubator or an accelerator, but most don’t know what that means. This results partly from so many people seeming to believe that entrepreneurs will be a great source of revenue for those who consult for them. They fail to realize that entrepreneurs are the one who do NOT have money in the early days, and that is the time that they need the most help. The opportunity is to find a way to be the place that provides the assistance that they need at a cost they can afford.

-Darlene M Boudreaux, TechFW

I believe that isolation and burnout are pain points that are going to be increasingly present as the independent and entrepreneurial workforce grows. Ecosystems serving these individuals would do well to have systems in place to facilitate not just grouping the organizations, but building longstanding and trusted relationships that can alleviate these pain points.

-Sarah Hinawi, Purpl

I am optimistic about 2017 and believe there will be a lot of opportunity for start-ups as well as business expansions. I think we need to do a better job of informing our communities about the positive benefits of a vibrant entrepreneurial ecosystem.

-Jeff Reid, WT Enterprise Center

Federal funding won’t disappear, but its priorities will shift. That leaves new opportunities such as new funding pursuits, partnerships with corporations, etc. and means the need for ECs to explore new models of funding and service offerings as we wait to see federal funding trends.

-Andrea Wesser-Brawner, IMPACTA inc.

How to keep alumni engaged, being forward thinking in the ever changing retail marketplace.

-Elissa Bloom, Philadelphia Fashion Incubator

This coming year I think there will be more questioning of the value of a strategy focused on “high growth tech startups” in midsized and small communities. Organizations running programming that requires a steady stream of high quality investable startups may need to readjust expectations or expand their focus. Politically there might be more support for rural entrepreneurs, which could provide an opportunity to help align resources for often overlooked communities

-Enoch Elwell, CO.STARTERS

It’s a global market, you are not competing with the city next door, you are competing with the world. Helping leaders understand that you need a healthy blend of regionalism and place-making at the same time. Understanding that although busy places have a lot of noise as you try to get your voice heard, a lot of noise means movement and growth. Critical mass to exponential growth is messy.

-Sara Hand, Spark Growth

The opportunity is of course the ever-growing demand for flexible workspace of all kinds by entrepreneurs and SMEs. The pain point will be not having enough space of the right type to accommodate them. Growing your own Coworking and shared offices business becomes more complex as more locations are added, so design your system and processes for scale from day 1.

-David Kinnaird, President, essensys North America