World Bank research says random encounters are actually super important for startup success - DC


May 5, 2017 7:32 am

World Bank research says random encounters are actually super important for startup success

These chance encounters are termed “collisions” — and they may be the secret ingredient to a thriving startup ecosystem.

I see collisions.

(Photo by Tajha Chappellet-Lanier)

What goes into creating a thriving tech and innovation ecosystem? It’s a question we here at are always considering and always curious about.

Which is why we were excited to head to a Information Technology and Innovation Foundation event on Learning From the World’s Leading Startup Ecosystems earlier this week. There were talks from people like Jill Ford, special advisor to Mayor Mike Duggan in Detroit, and Katie Stebbins, assistant secretary for Technology, Innovation and Entrepreneurship in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. But the talk of Victor Mulas, who leads research on innovation and entrepreneurship in cities at the World Bank Group’s Trade and Competitiveness Global Practice, really stood out to us.

Mulas’ team looks at a deceptively simple question: What do leading innovation ecosystems have in common? And how can this provide some pathways for other cities around the world?

Turns out, when you narrow it down, there are a few simple things that innovation ecosystems have in common. They have human talent, infrastructure (roads, public transportation, etc.), investment capital and an “enabling ecosystem” that might include things like incubators and coworking spaces and more. Ok cool, makes sense.

But there’s another thing that top innovation ecosystems have that is a little more nebulous and hard to pin down — Mulas’ team calls it “collisions.”

By this they mean random, chance encounters with new people, encounters that might happen through a meetup or at a hackathon or over lunch at a local coworking space. These encounters lead entrepreneurs to develop stronger networks, Mulas said, and his research has found a strong correlation between an entrepreneurs’ network and their eventual funding.

(Editor’s note: It calls to mind an extended happening going on as we speak in Philadelphia: the Philly Tech Week 2017 presented by Comcast. Talk about a massive venue for serendipitous connections!)


I don’t have to tell you, #dctech, that our innovation ecosystem is event- and coworking-space-heavy — or in other words has many of the necessary components to enable “collisions.” In a town where you could easily attend multiple tech or entrepreneurship-related events every night of the week, it can be a challenge to strike a balance between getting out there and, you know, actually working on your company.

And while some balance is certainly important, Mulas’ research suggests that you, dear entrepreneur, shouldn’t always be holed up in your office, working away. You should be out, attending meetups and pitch competitions and hackathons and becoming better networked — you never know who you might meet.

Organizations: World Bank


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