Network-Centric Entrepreneurial Assistance

Since many of EntreWorks Consulting’s customers and partners are interested in providing more effective support to local entrepreneurs, I spend a lot of time reading the latest on effective business support and assistance programs.   I learn a great deal from this literature.  But, I must confess that most studies seem to do a good job of summarizing the current status quo but fail to point us in promising new directions.   That’s why I was so excited to read a new report from my colleague Rohit Shukla at Los Angeles’ LARTA Institute.

Rohit’s paper, “Supporting High Growth Entrepreneurs:  The Network-Centric Approach to Entrepreneurial Assistance,” recommends a new paradigm for supporting entrepreneurs.  He notes that today’s entrepreneur faces a world of unprecedented opportunity along with unprecedented competition.  Talent is everywhere, barriers to entry are low, and markets change at a ferocious pace.

In this environment, entrepreneurs need to think globally and have “just in time” access to market knowledge and intelligence.   However, they lack the time and capacity to amass their own global networks of expertise or connections to  needed resources. That’s where entrepreneur support organizations fit in–by connecting entrepreneurs into new global networks  The entrepreneur will not be supported by a single counselor or coach, but needs access to dozens of functional or domain experts.   These could be mentors, other firms, academic experts, etc.   Effective entrepreneur support is about growing and managing these networks.

The report contrasts this method with traditional “cluster” strategies that seek to “find all the pieces and put them together in (one place).”  Shukla argues that this approach serves to shelter entrepreneurs, leaving them less able to compete in fast-changing markets and less prepared to capitalize on non-local opportunities.   Instead of sheltering firms within a regional cluster, Shukla calls for an approach that finds and uses “people resources just in time wherever they may be, uncover(s) market opportunities across conventional boundaries, make(s) oneself visible to a range of partners and customers, and obtain(s) feedback to constantly refine and calibrate one’s offerings.”

This brief summary doesn’t do justice to the full report, but hopefully piques your interest.  This report is definitely worth a read for those looking for new thinking in regional economic development approaches.

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