Thanks to Mark Zuckerburg, it is not necessary to define a social network. Whether through the movie, the recent IPO filing news or the many different businesses (such as LinkedIn) developed around the concept, nearly everyone understands the potential value of a social network. While the concept is understood, the process by which players are attracted to, retained within, and connected to other parts of the social network are less clear. Yet, these processes of attracting, retaining and connecting are critical if the entrepreneurial network of Greater Cincinnati is to realize its full potential.
Attracting Players to the Entrepreneurial Network
Many different organizations in the entrepreneurial network of Greater Cincinnati contribute to bringing new entrepreneurial individuals and organizations to the area. For example, funders and accelerators often require start-ups to re-relocate to Cincinnati. Both the Brandery and CincyTech act as magnets that attract excellent ideas and people to the region. Venture for America, thanks to the work of Eric Avner of US Bank / Haile Foundation, will bring talented college graduates from around the country to connect them to the entrepreneurial scene in Cincinnati. And universities – including three in the area ranked in the top 25 undergraduate entrepreneurship programs in the country – attract younger entrepreneurial talent from across the state and the country. One important question is whether the area is attracting and / or training the necessary technical skills. As longer term solutions emerge, shorter term solutions may include the growth of programs such as Code Academy.Retaining Players within the Entrepreneurial Network
Once the entrepreneurs have arrived, how do they become embedded in the entrepreneurial network of Greater Cincinnati? The term ‘embeddedness’ refers to the degree that individuals or organizations become enmeshed in a social network through both social and economic connections. A local start-up and portfolio company of CincyTech, Blackbook HR, works with corporate clients to help their employees and interns develop deep connections to the Cincinnati area. It may be possible to leverage the Blackbook HR approach and apply it to the entrepreneurial transplants of the Brandery, Venture for America or universities to develop deep connections to the local entrepreneurial network. Recently, Blackbook HR even teamed up with a student consulting team from a local university. The net result: Blackbook HR received dedicated focus on a project they lacked time to explore and the student team received deep immersion within the start-up culture in Cincinnati. By the end of the project, all five student team members – from areas other than Cincinnati – suggested they could see themselves staying in the Cincinnati entrepreneurial network.
Connecting parts of the entrepreneurial network
An important element of embedding entrepreneurs in Cincinnati involves working collaboratively. In Silicon Valley, entrepreneurs move seamlessly within and between different start-up organizations and networks. In Cincinnati, it may be useful to encourage more seamless interaction between members of the entrepreneurial network. For example, some work has begun on mapping the network of organizations involved in entrepreneurship. Additional work is needed to facilitate the interaction and strengthen the bonds between players within the same domain – such as universities – and between players that cut across different domains – such as funders and technical talent. In the same vein, it may also be useful to avoid duplication – or reinvention of the wheel such as accelerators when such expertise already exists – and instead develop a value proposition that considers both the organization and the overall entrepreneurial network. Such an approach furthers the goal of maximizing our region’s potential by attracting, retaining and connecting entrepreneurs to the Greater Cincinnati network.