I attended the 2014 Twin Cities Venture Capital Conference in downtown Minneapolis. The event brought in investors to listen to business pitches from prospective start-ups. The format included both on stage pitches to the attending audience and investors, as well as, 1:1 networking through the booths provided for the start-ups. This created an organic structure for networking and awareness of individual businesses.
This event is an example of regional assets that need to continue to be developed and become part of a large business lifecycle supporting economic development. Stand alone functions are interesting, but lack the maturity and follow on of fully developed systems. They tend to have their moment but lack sustainable momentum in the ecosystem.
Looking at other ecosystems around the world you can see where combinations of programs and events are linked together providing on going support and creating an established tempo of business development. The integration strengthens and multiplies the impact of the single event moment though programs that develop participants prior to the event. Big data supporting the activity and aligning investors. Ongoing programs that support the maturation of the start-ups along with integration to commercialization programs. Ongoing networking programs are often a key to keep business moving. Relying on only organic systems of “connecting” are rarely consistent or can be counted on to attract participation.
Some universities start to hint at broader business services that could be included in a ecosystem level economic development program. In many cases this falls short of the need given many of these systems are only inward looking to serve the university and not the community in which they serve. Funding is also poorly aligned around university systems that lack external governance. In most cases private businesses are best positioned to develop and manage the ecosystem development and integrate independent events and services into a more cohesive whole.