Untapped Opportunities for Partnership within the Entrepreneurial Ecosystem

Reading Ryan Lilly’s blog post made me think about the importance of sharing and the untapped opportunities for partnership within our industry. As a member of InBIA and a firm believer in the power of entrepreneurship to bring out the best of people, I’ve always encouraged others to collaborate, to reach out, and to find alternative solutions to known problems. However, I’ve noticed that even though I’m living and breathing in the startup support industry where helping others and thinking “outside the box” is, allegedly, the norm; I sometimes find myself very much “in the box” and strategizing about outcompeting the competition.

Could it be possible to help a startup, grow more and do better by collaborating with local partners?

The more co-working spaces, makerspaces, incubators, accelerators, and other innovation centers, which house startup companies, pop up all over the world; the more it seems that the entire startup support industry is steadily racing to the bottom in terms of making ends meet. Offering more services for less money is making it harder and harder for existing organizations to remain in business and for newcomers to compete with the incumbents. It looks like entrepreneurship centers are facing a difficult decision – to be among the top providers in a particular space, let’s say co-working, or to transfer into super-hubs, a relatively new concept popularized by Kirstie Chadwick in a previous article published on this blog. Super-hubs are organizations that provide most if not all of the entrepreneurship support services under one roof in an attempt to really move the needle for their clients.

Becoming the best in the world at something is undoubtedly hard, but offering too many services all at once and remaining in business by doing so, could prove even harder. On the other hand, it looks like a lot of the value that can be extracted in the industry is located namely in these two extremes, while everything in between (e.g., insufficient mix of resources or an operation that is underperforming when compared to the industry leaders) could lead to a dangerous rendezvous with unsustainability.

The Missing Link

But what can be done by those who are not industry leaders or who don’t have the means to build a super-hub of their own? I think that the answer to this question is hidden in plain sight – small co-working spaces, makerspaces, and incubators exist, and the expertise is already out there.

What’s missing is an organization that could connect these local resources and serve as the catalyst that glues the community together into many local clusters of innovation. Building those is where I think InBIA could have an even more dramatic impact on the world’s entrepreneurial ecosystem.

Following Ryan’s advice, I would like to encourage other InBIA members to share their thoughts on these issues and to reach out to potential partners and InBIA members in their local community. At the end of the day, the more resources we can provide to our clients, the more people would become interested in starting a business and growing it in our region.

About the Author: Todor Raykov

Raykov works as a Venture Services Manager at NextFab, where he manages the organization’s business incubation program and runs the RAPID hardware accelerator, a twelve-week program during which hardware startups achieve their product-market fit through customer development, hands-on technical product development, and business coaching.

Todor has been a member of InBIA since 2014 and obtained his Business Incubation Management (BIM) certificate in 2016. The views expressed in this article are his own and do not necessarily represent the position of NextFab.