Building the regional entrepreneurial ecosystem

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The goal of—and path to—a healthy entrepreneurial ecosystem is a high quantity and quality of aspiring and successful entrepreneurs. Yet the journey of entrepreneurship is not an individual endeavor and its many facets require nurturing and support.

Some of that support is rooted in tangible and quantifiable activities. For instance, providing early funding to startups and fostering a network of active local angel investors. And cost-effectively providing some of the basic tools and resources needed by young startups, like office space, prototyping equipment, legal services and access to subject matter experts.

Yet, at least of equal importance are the less-tangible elements of a healthy ecosystem. To overcome the frequent setbacks and frustrations of startup life, entrepreneurs need to truly believe that they can build a successful company in their city. That mindset needs to be rooted in reality, such as abundant examples of similar entrepreneurs in the area who have already done the same thing. And it requires a thriving network of peers, mentors, advisers and connectors that energize entrepreneurs, in addition to providing other support when needed. 

The creation of these tangible and intangible elements falls to the builders of our regional entrepreneurial ecosystems. Last week I spoke with two key leaders doing this work in our region: Marnie LaVigne, CEO of Buffalo-based LaunchNY, a nonprofit venture development organization spanning the 27 westernmost counties of Upstate New York, and Nasir Ali, CEO of Upstate Venture Connect, a nonprofit focused on building a regionwide startup community.

They offer superb insights on Rochester and the surrounding region, and describe what their organizations are doing to help entrepreneurs be successful in upstate.

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