Startups are an industry
The title ‘ecosystem professional’ may sound contrived, but the fact is many people make a living working with startups as opposed to at startups. An interconnected jungle of interest groups, accelerators, incubators, co-working spaces, consultants, and public sector organizations surrounds the startup industry, living off it and giving it life.
Purists argue that most of these people don’t provide value. You don’t need to care either way. They exist and the somewhat religious discussions ignore the fact that some these people can help you. The industry surrounding startups is big, diverse, and full of opportunity for those who can navigate it.
Who are they?
Someone pays these to achieve a certain result: create jobs, promote an industry, attract talented people, scout startups, etcetera. They work for accelerators, incubators, lobbyists, non-profits, government, startup labs, ‘growth clusters’, or sometimes just themselves. They go to a lot of conferences and drink a lot of coffee, just like startups.
Many of them have been corporate or public sector all their lives. Others are former entrepreneurs working a stable job between startups. Picking the right person to work with relies less on what they’ve done before, and more on what they can offer and what you need.
They know the industry and the economy that has grown up around startups. The public sector has discovered startups. Corporates have discovered startups. The professional service industry has discovered startups. All of them want to do business with startups and most of them have ‘special offers’ for startups. Finding the right program or person isn’t easy.
F6S.com is an online platform that helps match startups with the right offer amidst the overwhelming wealth of ‘opportunities’. It does a good job, but covers just a fraction of what’s out there. Denmark, for example, has well over 100 public programs for startups. No one person can tell you who the right people are.
Focus your ask
The people who work in the ecosystem are often your best bet for advice on how best to navigate the system. They’re the people who know the deadlines for the best competitions and projects. They can help you pick the right programs and avoid the dogs. They know who can help you write grant applications. They can get you into the right events.
Their titles often sound vague. Yes, there can be great variation in the real help they actually provide. They go to a lot of conferences and they drink a lot of conferences. Sometimes, however, the best person to help guide you through the startup jungle is someone who makes a living being part of that very same jungle.