The LSU Stephenson Entrepreneurship Institute is launching a project to map the Baton Rouge entrepreneurial ecosystem—an effort administrators hope will lead to a better understanding of what exists locally to help both local entrepreneurs and LSU students.
The effort has been in the discussion stage for about a year and began when several faculty members drafted an informal graphic of the local entrepreneurial ecosystem—more as an exercise born of intellectual curiosity than anything else—and tacked it up on a wall in the office of Ed Watson, director of the institute.
“It was a real incomplete and primitive drawing but people kept coming in to see it and take pictures of it on their phone,” Watson says. “There has been a lot written about entrepreneurial ecosystems, but I realized we don’t have anything that is a very practical graphical representation that we can use to teach our students what an ecosystem is and how as young entrepreneurial minded people they can leverage it and be a part of it.”
An entrepreneurial ecosystem has several components that affect a community’s ability to cultivate healthy entrepreneurial enterprises. Those components include things like access to capital, business incubators, tax incentives, a trained workforce, infrastructure and both public and private R&D facilities.
The Baton Rouge entrepreneurial ecosystem has been much discussed over the past 20 years, but nailing down some of the key components necessary to a healthy ecosystem have continued to prove elusive. In 2017, Business Report interviewed a panel of local experts about where the local ecosystem excels and what it lacks.
An overarching theme that stood out was the need for the city to ramp up outreach, increase awareness and bridge the gaps between entrepreneur networks and resources.
Watson says once the map is complete, he hopes it will be easier to see where connections can be strengthened and what specific gaps need to be filled in.
“We want to be more helpful to young entrepreneurs and old entrepreneurs and maybe we ultimately have some insight and figure out what we could be doing better because ultimately our ecosystem is our greater community and it’s all interconnected.”
He says it’s too soon to predict when the project will be completed.