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August 25, 2020 | Tom Ballard

Role and importance of ecosystem builders examined during “36|86 Festival” panel discussion

Have you ever thought about or tried to define the role of a start-up ecosystem builder? Well, that was one of the topics yesterday afternoon during a “36|86 Entrepreneurship Festival” panel discussion that included Marcus Shaw, Chief Executive Officer of CO.LAB, and three other individuals.

Titled “Start Up Anywhere: Building Entrepreneurial Ecosystems,” the session was moderated by Jay Clouse, Co-Host of upside, a podcast about start-up investing outside of Silicon Valley, and included Allie Felix, Platform Developer at Embarc Collective in Tampa Bay, and Yuval Yarden, Creator and Co-Host of The Keystone Podcast.

Because her podcast is about the stories, challenges and learnings of those building ecosystems, Yarden was tasked at the outset with providing the definition. She said it is someone “who looks at the ecosystem as a whole and makes it work for everyone. It’s someone who does not have an allegiance to any one organization (and) who works with, but not for everyone.”

Yarden said it was a unique position although more and more communities see the value of such an individual. One of the key roles of an ecosystem builder is to network, not just across the community, but also across multiple communities.

“If you are ecosystem building and are not looking at others, you are missing an opportunity,” Felix said. Much of her focus in Tampa Bay is on talent where she has created an informal network of boomerangs and expats who are returning to the community.

As noted by Shaw, effective ecosystem builders can help improve access to capital for local start-ups, access to other markets where they can sell their products, and expanded networks that offer diversity.

“The proverbial flywheel of success hasn’t hit here yet,” Felix said. “We don’t have many models for success,” so she is seeking out operators in other markets that can be a resource for Embarc Collective companies.

What’s the value for entrepreneurs from those larger ecosystems connecting to a Tier 2 or Tier 3 community like Tampa Bay and its start-ups? Felix cited expanded opportunities to sell their products and services.

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