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Building an Ecosystem Anywhere

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of

There is a lot of interest in building entrepreneurial ecosystems. A lot of the interest stems from the job market being so dreadful. I don’t care what the numbers say, it’s clear there are a lot of people out of work and asset values have been depreciated. Even though the stock market is up, the dollar value of those stocks and the purchasing power of them have been terribly diminished over the past few years.

Over the past two years I have received a number of calls from people all over the country on how to ignite the entrepreneurial fire in their communities. It’s been interesting speaking with all of them, and interesting to hear about different approaches. What’s immensely clear, there is something going on.

While it’s not rocket science to start an ecosystem, there are certain things you can do to make the path a lot smoother. In Chicago when I co-founded Hyde Park Angels, there wasn’t much organized activity taking place. I can recall all the deal flow I saw when I was in the trading pit. Deals flowed in and out of there and 99.9% of them were idiotic. However, the founder of Mr. Skin was a clerk that worked nearby me, so not all the deals were bad!

But, an angel group isn’t the only answer, it’s one piece of the puzzle. There are a lot of mistakes people make in setting up the group, and in interacting with the broader community. There are a lot of bridges that need to be built. Sometimes, bureaucracies get in the way, and so you have to navigate that.

Across the country, and the world, people gaze with huge amounts of envy at Silicon Valley. Then they try to replicate it. That’s also the wrong way. No one will ever be able to copy the Valley. It’s a unique ecosystem all in it’s own. When I talk to, and listen to entrepreneurs that have been in it I always learn something.

At the last Built In Chicago event I was at, Dag Kittlaus relayed his experience leaving Chicago to build Siri. It was pretty fascinating and amazing how the company went from a 2007 idea in a Mundelein armchair to a company that Apple ($AAPL) purchased in 2010.

It can be done in other parts of the world. However, it takes some thought and careful planning. Happy to come to your community and talk with you about it if you are interested.

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