Babson Entrepreneur Experience Lab

Elements of the Entrepreneur Experience


The Importance of Place

Despite the ubiquity of digital technology and increased mobility both physical and virtual, entrepreneurship remains very place-based. Many people startup and practice where they live, drawing from whatever resources exist within their local area. Others choose location with intent, based on a place’s entrepreneurial reputation or the “feel.” We can draw a circle around the interactions of people, organizations, and infrastructure and look at how they combine to heighten or diminish entrepreneurial activity; in any particular place, there might be several of these circles or ecosystems.

Ecosystems by nature are place-based. In thinking about ecosystem development, the focus is often on institutions and resources, but the less tangible notion of culture is equally, if not more, important. To  cultivate an entrepreneurial culture, the ecosystem needs to be local, visible, and accessible in the day-to-day interactions of entrepreneurs. 


  1. How can we make entrepreneurship visible more in mainstream environments and systems?

  2. Can ecosystems be created with intention?

  3. How can we empower entrepreneurs and other stakeholders to highlight and leverage existing resources—to gather rather than create?

  4. How can we better connect less developed with more developed ecosystems?

  5. How can we create a sense of an entrepreneurial place in larger enterprises and institutions?

Creating Culture

Creating Culture


Laura describes the entrepreneurship culture in San Francisco, literally bumping into founders on the street and getting advice.


Janice believes that there is a very collaborative environment for supporting small businesses and entrepreneurs in her area.


Owen talks about the importance of physical proximity in an entrepreneurial environment.


Mark feels that there are not the right mentors or resources that other developed entrepreneurial areas have.


Mark doesn't believe that the support networks for entrepreneurship are developed in his area.


Brian thinks Boston social networks keep to themselves, and it's harder to go out and meet startups.


According to Brian, entrepreneurship is just what people do in the Bay Area.


In his area, a lot of minority entrepreneurs are doing really well, and there is a supportive culture for minority entrepreneurs.


Kevin believes the culture is really supportive of entrepreneurship.


In this audio-only interview, Dave talks about the different generations of entrepreneurs reinvesting back into the local community.

Around the country, entrepreneurs cited numerous examples of what makes for a great environment. Along with networks, capital and mentorship, all mention cultural aspects of the place where they’re building their ventures. People need to see what’s possible. In places like Silicon Valley, San Francisco, and Austin, the culture of entrepreneurship is visible in the environment. In Mountain View, the fast food and retail signs you’d expect to see on the strip are replaced with startup names. In Austin, coffee shops cater to entrepreneurs by setting up communal conference rooms with self-service sign-up sheets. In Omaha, co-working spaces advertise on the street to those looking for a place to join others as they work outside of the established system of jobs and employment. Entrepreneurs like a place with a density and proximity of entrepreneurial communities. In some locations, entrepreneurs literally bump into each other in the street. In other locations, the event scene provides multiple opportunities to meet and network with other entrepreneurs. A sense of affiliation is important. Places where starting a business is the norm create a strong sense of community, identity and purpose. And entrepreneurs are very aware that it takes generations who succeed and fail, and who reinvest in their local ecosystem to build the appropriate culture.

The multiplicity of ecosystems

The multiplicity of ecosystems


From Laura's perspective, Laura's shouldn't compete with each other. Instead they should be competing to have more startups overall.


Hall talks about drawing bigger circles around life sciences; state level rather than city level.

Entrepreneurs form communities organized around sectors or knowledge areas that have different needs and behaviors. For instance, in a particular region there might be entrepreneurs working in life science, gaming and food. Developing a strong gaming ecosystem, a life-science ecosystem, and a food ecosystem, creates a density of entrepreneurs within a place. While different communities do have different needs, there is value placed in some degree of cross-pollination and the strongest ecosystems support healthy connections across a variety of communities.

Entrepreneurs often move between cities and regions. Ecosystems that provide seamless entrepreneurial services and support at city, region and state levels are tremendously helpful. Laura, a social media entrepreneur, found this out when she moved her startup to Cambridge, Massachusetts from Boston because public transportation issues were making it impossible for her employees to get work. Rather than the cities working together to support her and her company, she found them creating a culture of competition.

Look at what you have got

Look at what you have got

Working within a system that’s short on people, organizations, infrastructure and culture, can make entrepreneurship a very isolating experience. Early on, Mark, a founder of two e-commerce startups turned VC, felt that others around him in Omaha were immersed in a culture of success through employment. The norm was securing a high-level position in a big corporation. Others found his entrepreneurial behavior to be highly risky, if not borderline crazy.

Entrepreneurs and other stakeholders who assess, catalog, and disseminate information on the existing organizations and resources within a place provide a clear picture of the local entrepreneurship ecosystem and a platform for enabling people to easily see and access these myriad resources. In the process, entrepreneurs themselves and other stakeholders in the system learn to be collaborative, transparent and proactive in growing their unique ecosystem.

When Hall launched the Austin Entrepreneur Network his goal was not to create an entrepreneurial network from scratch but rather to catalog and connect the existing organizations and resources within Austin. Another stakeholder in the Austin community, Bijoy, visually mapped the scene and used this map to link particular resources to components of the entrepreneurial process. And in Nebraska, the founder of a fan analytics application recalls how the entrepreneur community in Omaha was really galvanized by a single person taking the initiative to connect isolated elements within the ecosystem.