Creating A Statewide Entrepreneurial & Innovation Ecosystem Other States Will Envy
As the infrastructure to the core of Illinois’ statewide entrepreneurship-related innovation ecosystem and as a link to the state’s 200+ innovation hubs (incubators, accelerators, co-working and maker spaces) and their thousands of housed startups, the Illinois Business Innovation Association is currently beginning a statewide planning effort to build on Chicago’s notable entrepreneurial and innovation momentum and success by creating border-to-border programs and resources to build an enviable ecosystem with the help of many partners.
We are now identifying the right public and private sector, and government, media and education leaders to invite to spend some months deciding and defining the key programs and systems of an ecosystem to foster Illinois entrepreneurship and innovation. Our focus will be on identifying current and creating new programs that deliver the funding, relationships and expertise our startups need in order to become significant entities. In some cases, we will expand programs now in Chicago and elsewhere to reach the entire state. This new ecosystem will enable future startups throughout Illinois to not only receive info and services from the innovation hub they are housed in, as startups do today, but also from our statewide programs that will augment and increase the impact of what their hub provides. And startups that are not housed in a hub will also be able to access the statewide ecosystem’s resources and programs. Additional results of having this statewide ecosystem will be talent retention and the attraction of numerous businesses of all sizes and shapes.
We also will access the best entrepreneurial and innovation ecosystem ideas from across the country through four national networks the Illinois Business Innovation Association actively contributes to:
• Kauffman Foundation’s workgroups that are defining (by late 2020) the essentials of entrepreneurial ecosystem building as part of its 4-year ESHIP program involving 800+ experienced ecosystem builders from all 50 states
• Startup Champions Network, an invitation-only group of 100 of the most accomplished entrepreneurial ecosystem builders in the US
• The International Business Innovation Association (InBIA), the worldwide professional association of 2,000 business incubator and accelerator leaders
• An informal network of the other state incubator associations which we are building to connect with regularly for collaboration and sharing of ideas, resources and industry news and developments (as an example, we are in the midst of co-producing, with the Michigan and Wisconsin state associations, our third annual 2-day Great Lakes innovation summit about best practices for incubator leaders from five states and Canada).
We’ve begun identifying and evaluating some of the high-potential projects for the Illinois ecosystem planners to consider (and we’ve started developing a few of these):
• Legislation and programs that will encourage startups, startup funding and talent retention in Illinois
• A year-round means to attract out-of-state venture capital which extends and amplifies the impact of the 2- and 3-day pitch events that have been bringing investors to Chicago annually
• Coaching about funding modes and opportunities
• A statewide mentor database
• An improved system for startups to attract university interns and new graduates
• A registry of startups so a website and a standby personal navigator can help each founder to identify and connect with the right state resources
• Archived digital recordings of all the events and programs at the state’s hubs to stop the repetition and duplication of effort and to capture the expertise for later on-demand access
• Archived digital information that reflects the association’s and certain hub leaders’ expertise for on-demand access
• Digital trainings and resource sharing
• A promotional platform to help our startups attract clients/customers within Illinois, especially among the state’s government and education entities
• Entrepreneurship education programs that span all grades and levels of the education system
• Relationships with other states’ and other regions’ ecosystems in order to collaborate and remain aware of their newest leading-edge programs that we might adapt and adopt here
• Multi-state introductions that connect our innovation hubs and startups with peers in their industry
We are seeking volunteers plus recommendations of people (and organizations) to include in this planning effort who want to help Illinois develop a world-class entrepreneurial and innovation ecosystem that fuels our economy. We are also seeking funding of $50,000 that would ensure we reach out to and work with ALL the right people and to launch a PR campaign to invite additional individuals and entities to contribute ideas and resources to the planning effort.