The Mindset, Traits, and Skills of an Ecosystem Builder

Facilitating connections, resilience, inclusivity, altruism, empathy — these are a few of the key values, and traits most esteemed by ecosystem builders.

Connecting and Relationship-Building

The most common trait or skill mentioned has to do with being a connector. Dustin Shay in New York City wrote, “Our primary role, as ecosystem builders, is to facilitate connection and network access for entrepreneurs. At the ‘pioneer gap,’ where we act, that means helping entrepreneurs access customers, strategic partners, and/or investors that they need to grow and scale their businesses. The ability to make those connections, though, is predicated on the establishment, active engagement, management, and continued development of a relevant and meaningful network. We exist to balance the arbitrage of the venture community and make it closer to what it claims to be: a meritocracy.”

Resilience

Let’s face it. Ecosystem building can be exhausting, grueling, and demoralizing. It’s often thankless. For many of us, it’s always under-funded. It’s full of failures. It takes stamina, grit, and resilience to keep doing the work. This sentiment was expressed in many of the responses I collected.

Inclusivity, Empathy, Openness, Altruism

Many of the traits valued most highly by the responding ecosystem builders are deeply rooted worldviews—fundamental, ingrained perspectives and beliefs that drive how people think, their understanding of the world, and why they adopt the values that they have.

Additional Insights

In addition to the common themes above, the group identified several other skills and traits that they deem critical to the work.

Systems Thinker

Due to the complexity of ecosystem building, there is increasing awareness of the need for systems thinking. This has now reached the mainstream thanks in large part to Brad Feld and Ian Hathaway’s book, The Startup Community Way.

Growth Mindset, Curiosity, Listening Skills

People that have a growth mindset believe that they can continuously learn, grow, and develop new skills and abilities. Kate Jackson called out this mindset as critical to the work. “IF we believe we can affect change and find solutions to system problems given time and effort, then we will.”

Engaging the Entire Entrepreneurial Stack

One of the key four pillars of Brad Feld’s Boulder Thesis is that successful ecosystems have events and programs that engage the entire entrepreneurial stack. Peter Cimini riffed on this concept, saying “Programming — no not coding! But that could be part of it! What I mean is that they have to have stuff that outsiders of the ecosystem would be drawn in by. One month it could be coding, next month it could be legal, then a founders meetup, then a happy hour and an educational event sprinkled in to fill the year with events. Or just one type of event every week, month or quarterly, but either way, the community needs advanced notice so they can decide to participate, as well as sponsors and speakers!”

Forget the noun. Do the verb.

To conclude, I think a great parting shot of advice comes from a quote referenced by Cecilia. Austin Kleon’s book, Keep Going, is a treasure trove of great insights and advice. Cecilia included one of my favorite passages from the book.

Entrepreneurial Ecosystem Builder | Editorial Director at Ecosystem Builder Hub | Cofounder & President of StartupSac | Writer & Digital Media Content Creator

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