Mapping Your Ecosystem

Below is the ‘Tip of the Week’ transcript from the Podcast Ep38: Cross-Border Investing (Michael Goldberg)

All this talk today about gaining knowledge and comfort in international ecosystems, got me thinking about my own ecosystem. Surprisingly, I find it rare that peers are fully integrated into the startup environment where they live. And before one decides to invest across borders, it is probably a good idea to understand the landscape in their own region.

Recently, I was on the phone with a young Venture Capitalist in Boston. She asked me how I first figured out how to meet and connect with both other investors and with startups looking for capital. While I wasn’t very intentional in my approach, I did start piecing together a visual map of the Chicago Startup Ecosystem and it’s major players. This process began with identification of the major categories within the ecosystem. My category list included:

* Venture Capital Firms
* Angel Groups
* Capital Connectors: These are similar to Angel Groups but they merely link the investors w/ startups as opposed to organizing and making investments themselves.
* Seed, A and B funded startups
* Other Large Tech Companies w/ great talent
* Dev Shops
* Dev Training Companies
* Startup Hubs and Co-Working Spaces
* Incubators
* Accelerators
* Universities & tech schools
* Startup or innovation Media Players and Newsletters
* Meetup Groups
* Tech & Startup Event Calendars
* Large startup, tech or innovation events and hackathons
* Legal Players in venture
* Government & Tax

To complete the map, I took each category and attempted to list out all of the players in the region. So for the Angel Groups category I identified Hyde Park, Cornerstone, West Loop, Heartland, Irish, etc. For the Accelerators I found TechStars, Impact Engine, MATTER, TechWauk, HealthBox, Lightbank Start, etc. Within a day I had a long target list of industry players to connect with and network. From there it was a matter of finding individuals to meet with or attending valuable events that included a number of these folks. And I still have not made my way through the entire list, which continues to grow, so it’s still providing value for me after two years of doing this.

So, while this program has been an excellent way for me to connect with investors and startups, my number one source of syndication and dealflow is still the Chicago ecosystem. And if one is looking to really get involved, before launching a cross-border investment strategy, why not map the home ecosystem and create a foundation of support and partners, in your own backyard.