I spent the last few years reading about startup ecosystems thanks to our friend, Brad Feld. He helps shed some light on how these scenarios may develop.
Typically, the role of an entrepreneur who is brought into an ecosystem as a partner is to provide access to the products or services that are naturally output through the entrepreneur’s businesses. Likewise, anything naturally output by the ecosystem is up for discussion when initially scoping out the partnership. There are helpful forms and frameworks for this process that can be found online -there are so many different types of exercises for this very process simply because it’s such a complex interaction – people have been running into friction with this interaction for many years. We rarely hear about this in practice, though.
Interestingly enough, collective impact is one of the most widely known strategies that require partnership agreements for the process to work.
If I run a program that offers mentorship and training as part of my business model, then I would provide those services to be strategically used by the ecosystem. In exchange, I have an environment to grow my business with direct access to other service providers whom produce things I would typically have to expense to receive. Our businesses grow for various reasons, but the network effect is typically the most potent and produces more companies that get traction to scale.
The benefits an entrepreneur will receive from growing within an ecosystem reach far beyond the one sale or recurring sale that many ignorant entrepreneurs attempt to propose any prospect. Not thinking long-term in this capacity can be costly. Until recently, I often thought of my proposal of services in a uniform capacity. Regardless of the prospect, xyz is my offering. I learned the hard way, that when you approach an ecosystem it means it’s time to roll up my sleeves and forget about what we did yesterday. We need to design a partnership that is mutually beneficial based on data.
A great method to facilitate the establishment of a partnership is to start with a scoping conversation where you agree on what it is you want to do together. I would say the goal of an initial scoping meeting is to
create a foundation to launch a partnership, agree on shared objectives and build working relationships