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By Tom Chapman
Director of Entrepreneurship & Innovation
Greater Omaha Chamber of Commerce
Edited & Abridged by Amanda Styron
© Copyright Tom Chapman, 2011. All rights reserved.
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A more in-depth version of this paper is available and recommended for economic development professionals and others looking for a deeper dive into Omaha’s ecosystem and the behind-the-scene stories of Tom’s approach. Download and discuss it at: http://www.slideshare.net/seedhere/building-an-entrepreneurial-ecosystem-lessons-from-omaha-full-version-draft-4
Tom Chapman is working to build a stronger entrepreneurial ecosystem in Omaha and across the Silicon Prairie (an area Chapman roughly defines as covering Minneapolis to Oklahoma City from north to south and Nebraska to Chicago east to west, though there is not a generally agreed upon definition) from his position as director of entrepreneurship and innovation at the Greater Omaha Chamber of Commerce. In this paper Tom lays out the three major steps of his methodology for supporting entrepreneurs (knowing and being honest about the area’s strengths; helping players connect; and building stronger teams) and then dissects five core elements of entrepreneurial ecosystems (human capital; financial capital; deal flow and other metrics; a knowledgeable community; and infrastructure) and four things communities should not do.
Tom’s people-centric approach to building the ecosystem is focused on understanding the ecosystem’s strengths, taking action to support its health, focusing on building better startup teams and connecting players appropriately. He sees the role of economic development organizations as connectors who can help develop a clearer understanding of the current startup landscape, convene conversations among players, spread information and success stories, support transparency and lead helpful government policy initiatives. His approach is infused with humility and honesty.