Undeniably, tech startups are changing the way we live and work. But as early as the 14th century in Florence, Italy, there was evidence that if you mixed together a diverse group of creative people – and added money – you could change the world. Investors were integral to key developments in architecture, engineering, art and more, and helped fund the works of visionaries like Michelangelo and DaVinci.
About 300 years later, the Industrial Revolution changed this economic formula. Interest shifted to developing top-down management systems and corporations that focused on efficiency, standardisation and mechanisation.
But fast-forward to the modern era in Silicon Valley, and you see the same ingredients that changed the world during the Renaissance. Innovative and independent thinkers have taken risks, set off on their own and helped shape some of today’s most successful companies, including Apple and Intel.
Communities invest in entrepreneurship for a variety of reasons. While business has long been seen as an engine for economic growth, entrepreneurship can also provide a solution to social problems. A strong entrepreneurial ecosystem leads to knowledge spillover, and the resulting opportunities influence a region’s ability to attract and retain the best talent.
So what do we mean by an entrepreneurial ecosystem? The idea of an ecosystem is borrowed from the biological sciences and can be defined as a community of interacting organisms and their physical environment. Ecosystems are robust, scalable and can solve complex, dynamic problems.
Any ecosystem has three components – the community, the system and the outcome. The recipe for an entrepreneurial ecosystem is the same. Identify entrepreneurs, add educational institutions and entrepreneurial support organisations and mix in investors, and the desired outcome is a strong and vibrant economy. However, the real magic is in finding the formula for the system, which fosters interconnectedness.
The system relies on a sense of place to operate. Like Harvard Square – which has been recognised as a hotbed of innovation because it is a gathering place for diverse, intelligent people – communities today are offering programs that increase opportunities for interconnections. Universities and business colleges have increasingly become the places where people meet and work together to solve big problems.
This can be seen at The University of Tampa, where the Lowth Entrepreneurship Center houses more than 40 student and community startups. Guided by a team of advisors and investors, they’ve launched a broad range of businesses focused on issues in technology, medicine, horticulture, food service and more. In the last year, these companies have raised more than $1.5 million in seed funding and generated nearly $2 million in revenue.
This is just one example of the power of community to cultivate and launch economic drivers and inspire creative solutions. Beyond campus, Tampa offers a dynamic environment with all the key ingredients for business creation, and is fast becoming a vibrant entrepreneurial ecosystem. Let’s continue to work together to encourage and support entrepreneurship and innovation. EG