In a world where it seems everyone is talking about innovation, ecosystems, and collaboration (when they aren’t talking about supply chain challenges or inflation), the level of true collaboration can vary greatly—and, as a result, so can outcomes. Disappointing outcomes are often the result of less-than-enthusiastic collaboration efforts by ecosystem members. This lackluster support is often driven by misaligned goals or fear of not receiving credit, leading to competition amongst the members of the ecosystem who need to collaborate for all parties to thrive.
The innovation ecosystem is an intricate concept that comprises big companies, founders, startups, venture capitalists, and other organizations. Every party within the larger ecosystem has its expertise, and collaboration across the board is the key to a successful open innovation program. By themselves, these organizations are likely to plateau, finding themselves unable to grow efficiently.
However, through collaborative efforts, organizations within the ecosystem can support each other, assisting with growth through promotion, idea exchange, etc. It is through successful collaboration that we see a successful, open innovation program. This doesn't change when moving into the startup world-- startup ecosystems require collaboration as well. In collaborative efforts, startups and entrepreneurs can foster innovation in their local community – be that a specific city, a region, or a complex of buildings – and use the pool of resources available to them to create and scale new businesses.
The very definition of ecosystem reiterates the necessity of collaboration for success; the Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines ‘ecosystem’ as “something (such as a network of businesses) considered to resemble an ecological ecosystem especially because of its complex interdependent parts.” The key word here is interdependent. One member of an ecosystem cannot thrive without the others because they’re linked in a mutually beneficial relationship.
In his book Startup Communities, entrepreneur and author Brad Feld suggests that vibrant innovation ecosystems are:
- Orchestrated by entrepreneurial leaders committed to the long-term
- Active and engaging for the entire spectrum of participants
In a word, vibrant innovation ecosystems are collaborative. They are not the product of credit-seekers but are the products of those who are willing to give ideas and take feedback, help use their strengths to support another- those who are true collaborators. These true collaborators help bring about a greater diversity of ideas by including a greater diversity of people—people from a variety of disciplines, departments, cultures, ages, mindsets, motivations, and orientations.
Startups do not and cannot exist in a vacuum. They are born in a specific context as parts of an entity – a network, a system – much bigger than themselves. Entrepreneurs are supported by a community of people, organizations and other startups that surround them. This innovation ecosystem is at the very core of our collaboration endeavors. It must thrive for any of us to thrive.
At TEDCO, one of our goals is to help the ecosystem grow and flourish, something that can only be done through collaboration. Thankfully, we are uniquely positioned as a state-wide entity to help stitch together key members of the ecosystem, helping them align their goals, and encourage true collaboration while fostering innovation across the state. Recognizing our unique role, we’ve aligned as a team behind the vision of helping Maryland to become recognized as a globally preeminent innovation ecosystem.
Leading by example, the entire TEDCO team emphasizes collaboration both internally and externally. We understand that ecosystem collaboration is not only conducive to innovation, but it is crucial for making the ecosystem stronger and more resilient against future disruptive events.