Building an Entrepreneurial Ecosystem

by Stuart Gutwein

Earlier this week, I met with the Greater Lafayette Regional Plan Steering Committee to lead a discussion on the entrepreneurial ecosystem in the Greater Lafayette area as part of a series of topic meetings aiding in the strategic plan development process. Our conversation can be broken up into four parts: 1) Why is a strong entrepreneurial ecosystem important? 2) What creates a strong ecosystem? 3) What is the current status of the ecosystem? 4) What strategies should be implemented moving forward?

Taking time to review these topics is an essential practice to any growing community. A thriving entrepreneurial ecosystem positively impacts more than just the founders and investors. For the government it means job creation and tax revenue; for large companies it means talent attraction and acquisition opportunities; for universities it means funding and brain gain; for service providers it means clients; and for communities it means opportunity. There is no right answer for what ingredients create a strong startup community, but there are a couple of factors that help. Coworking spaces and incubators are a great place to start, providing entrepreneurs with resources and mentorship opportunities they may not otherwise have access to. Within the community, it is important that a certain culture is cultivated – one that understands risk and failure, as these are inevitable aspects of an entrepreneurial environment. Ultimately, there should be an availability and intersection of talent, ideas and capital.

Once a strong startup community is cultivated, it must be sustained. As Brad Feld outlined in Startup Communities, entrepreneurs must lead the startup community and maintain a long-term commitment. The startup community must be inclusive of anyone who wants to participate in it and have continual activities that engage the entire entrepreneurial stack. Moving forward, it will be important that all members of the ecosystem play a role in building up the community. Large companies can participate by looking out for potential acquisitions, providing sponsorships, hosting events and buying products and services from local providers. By supporting initiatives to make Lafayette a better place and advertising local resources, government can offset “brain drain” and encourage outsiders to take interest. Service providers, whether lawyers, accountants or marketers, can provide our startup community with resources and education to help founders grow their business without draining their wallets.

In April, I wrote an assessment on the Greater Lafayette and Purdue Startup Community and am excited about the growth I’ve seen since. Having industry leaders, such as those in the Regional Plan Steering Committee, take interest in our entrepreneurial ecosystem is a great step towards a thriving community of innovation. In the words of Peter Drucker, "Entrepreneurship is neither a science nor an art. It is a practice."

If either I or anyone else from Gutwein Law can do anything to help you in your entrepreneurial endeavors, whether it be help you get connected, point you to resources, or make an introduction, please contact me.  


Stuart Gutwein is co-founder and attorney at Gutwein Law.  His career encompasses over a decade of experience in several areas of business including mergers and acquisitions, business formation, and product development. He currently serves on the Indiana Business Law Survey Commission, serves as a board member of M25 Group and is an active member of the Ag Law Council of the Indiana State Bar Association.