Tuesday, October 18, 2011

"Ecosystem" or "Ecosphere"?

"Ecosystem" or "Ecosphere"?

Warning: Cool... and important... trivia ahead!

As I type this I'm somewhere in the air en route to another expedition, this time to visit Chalmers University of Technology in Gothenburg, Sweden. They have a killer program for university-based technology commercialziation, partly stolen from.. us! (My old INL/BSU "TEAMS" program)  However, it's only a small part of their overall effort. And... they want to expand and do even more. Should be fun! (I also get to teach and engage the local ecosystem and work with junior scholars to help them with research, teaching & community involvement. Funny how the formerly ivory-tower European schools now get it that teaching, research & community outreach are synergistic and that they get the synergies only if they get fully immersed in the ecosystem!)

Recent debate has bubbled over whether we have beaten the term "entrepreneurial ecosystem" into oblivion. (We now have more than 100 formal definitions of "cluster".. are we headed for that?) The reality is that the entrepreneurial world really IS an ecosystem in the biological sense with many implications we still need to wade through. On the other hand, where it really ISN'T is already leading us astray... needlessly. What might be different? Consider these cool stats:

1) Did You Know? In the last 12 months, ~48 million people were hired for a job? That 47 million people in the last year left an existing job? An awful lot of action for a net of +1 million jobs? The magnitude of that 'churn' is:
a) Normal and
b) Healthy
We're just a 'bit' low on job creation (the norm is a net of nearly 3 million new jobs.) 

2) That every year, more people QUIT their jobs than are fired/laid off? That is, at least 50% of people leave their jobs... voluntarily. I did not know this (or #1) but apparently this is common knowledge in workforce development circles. Think about it: Even during a recession, 23-24 million Americans chose to leave a paying job. And it's normal. Wow.

3) EMSI (data rock stars in Moscow, Idaho) recently discovered that the US has at least 40 million "1099 workers" - who are not formal employees of a registered business. Some are business owners, some are independent contractors, etc. This number is growing nationally through good times & bad and Idaho has an above-average number of these. They maty not be entrepreneurs but they are most likely entrepreneurial.

4) Data from the NETS database & elsewhere show that existing middle-market forms (20-500 employees) are by far the biggest generators of net new jobs and of innovation, of patents, of exports, etc. Startups are still incredibly valuable but the real economic powerhouse for jobs & GDP are entrepreneurial growth firms, typically over 20 employees. 

Just as policy makers need to find ways to help -and not hinder - startups, especially high-potential startups... policy makers need to remove barriers to job creation by their older cousins. Labor regulations appear to be a particularly horrendous barrier.

There is such a thing as an "entrepreneurial ecosystem" but it has some amazing properties that make it both more like biological ecosystems and more unlike them.  (I'm still wrestling with inventing a new term like "ecosphere")... so what do YOU think?

          About "ecosphere" versus "ecosystem"?

          About the 4 realities listed above?

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