Startup Community: Why the ecosystem should be seen as a living organism - The Post

Startup Community: Why the ecosystem should be seen as a living organism

There may be a few detours ahead, but the journey continues (photo: iStock)
February 14th, 2016 7:00 pm| by Thomas N Horsted
Stop me if you’ve heard the term ‘startup ecosystem’ or ‘entrepreneurship ecosystem’ or something similar before. But what does ecosystem really mean in the startup context and does it even makes sense to use it? I believe it does, but let’s dive a little deeper into the actual meaning of the word!
Biological community
The word ‘ecosystem’ is used to describe a complete system in nature complete with all the living organisms and non-living elements. From a biological viewpoint, it is a ‘biocenosis’ – a biological community that describes organisms living together in a habitat.
These organisms need to be able to adapt and survive in an ever-changing environment. It is an open system with a life cycle that consists of many different ‘species’ with different roles and needs. However, what all these species have in common is that their survival depends on the ability to acquire resources to sustain existence. Sound familiar?
The startup species
A startup ecosystem is formed by people (organisms) and includes startups at different stages together with various types of support and funding organisations, universities, corporates and service providers (species).
They all interact as a system to create new startup companies that can allow ideas to flourish and growth to happen. They all need different resources (capital, knowhow, manpower, technology) to exist and co-exist.
Just like a biological ecosystem, startup ecosystems can be fragmented and hidden from newcomers. This is detrimental to growth and can inhibit a community from thriving. It takes a city to raise a startup – it needs to be open and accessible to attract talent, investments and new startups.
Why mapping matters
Startups are going to need various resources, some more than other, at different stages of their startup journey. By mapping what the best startup ecosystems like Silicon Valley, Tel Aviv, New York, London and Berlin are doing correctly (and there are many different factors to look at), it is possible to try and replicate that.
And even though the Copenhagen startup ecosystem will probably never be able to compete with those aforementioned cities, there is a lot to learn from them and be inspired by in terms of infrastructure, culture, regulations and more.
In the words of Dr Frankenstein … “It’s alive!”

Thomas N Horsted

Thomas (@thomas_hors) is the co-owner and managing partner of Startup Guide (, working to inspire and empower people to become entrepreneurs through in-depth guides to some of Europe’s most prominent startup cities – including, so far, Berlin, Aarhus and Copenhagen. As an entrepreneur with an academic background from media studies and kaospilot, he understands the combination of praxis, reflection, creativity and theory needed to bring startup projects to life.