Free Resources & Strategies for Higher Ed Entrepreneurial Ecosystem Building. The C•CUBE Toolkit from UWO & Venn Collaborative sponsored by the Kauffman Foundation

Metrics and Measurement: Determining What Success Looks Like

Equitable entrepreneurial ecosystems are dynamic —innovation is central, and measuring something that is always changing is a challenge. In one sense, the success of an ecosystem and the measures that gauge success are specific to the role that the organization or individual doing the measuring plays: regional economic developers will likely be counting new businesses and their survival rate, or jobs created; universities may track research commercialization or contributions of talent to the regional workforce.

Researchers in the Netherlands have begun to develop an Entrepreneurial Ecosystem Index, which takes elements of an ecosystem —culture creation, network strength, leadership, funding, market demand, etc. —and looks for existing data and tracking mechanisms that can be a lens for ecosystem assessment. As you’ll see in the tools section of this website, we recommend determining the questions you want to ask first —based on the stage of ecosystem development and the key themes that are most salient in your context, and then look at existing and potential data sources to answer the questions that your ecosystem needs insights on.

Each ecosystem and ecosystem builder’s approach to metrics and measurement is going to be different, but there are some common considerations:

Understanding Diverse Goals and Objectives — Recognize that different stakeholders within the ecosystem may have varying goals and objectives. While some may prioritize job creation and economic growth, others may focus on fostering innovation or addressing social impact. Metrics should align with these diverse objectives.

Practicing Patience and a Adopting a Long-Term Perspective — Building a thriving entrepreneurial ecosystem is a long-term endeavor. Metrics should be chosen and interpreted with a long-term perspective in mind, as ecosystem development often takes several years to yield significant results.

Going Beyond Economic Metrics for Holistic Measurement — Avoid solely relying on economic indicators, such as GDP growth or job numbers, to measure success. While these are important, a holistic approach also considers metrics related to innovation, diversity, inclusion, and sustainability.

Blending Both Qualitative and Quantitative Data — Recognize the value of both quantitative and qualitative data. Quantitative metrics, such as the number of startups or funding raised, provide numerical insights, while qualitative data, including success stories and feedback from ecosystem participants, offer a deeper understanding of impact.

Looking Beyond Outputs for Indicators of Ecosystem Health Indicators — Focus on ecosystem health indicators, such as the density of connections and collaborations among stakeholders, the availability of mentorship and support networks, and the overall culture of innovation and risk-taking.

Ensuring Inclusivity and Equity by Selecting the Right Metrics — Metrics should account for inclusivity and equity. Consider indicators related to the participation and success of underrepresented groups, as well as the reduction of economic disparities within the ecosystem.

Iterating Metrics Based on Feedback and Adaptation — Be willing to adapt and refine metrics based on feedback and changing circumstances. The metrics chosen initially may evolve as the ecosystem matures and new priorities emerge.

Mapping the Ecosystem — Before selecting metrics, thoroughly understand the ecosystem’s structure and dynamics. Identify key players, relationships, and areas where interventions can have the most significant impact.

Respecting Data Accessibility and Data Privacy — When collecting data, ensure that it complies with data privacy regulations and that sensitive information is handled responsibly. Transparency in data collection and reporting is vital.

Involving the Community Involvement — Engage with stakeholders in the ecosystem to gather input on the selection of metrics and the definition of success. Involving the community fosters buy-in and a shared sense of purpose.

Monitoring Progress with Regular Assessment — Establish a system for regular assessment and reporting. Tracking progress allows for timely adjustments and helps measure the impact of ecosystem-building efforts.

Comparing to Peers through Bench-marking — Consider bench-marking against other similar ecosystems or best practices to gain insights into what success looks like in your context.

Communicating Findings for Transparency — Share the results of your metrics openly and transparently with stakeholders. Effective communication helps build trust and aligns expectations.

Ensuring Longevity, Sustainability, and Resilience — Metrics should also consider the sustainability and resilience of the ecosystem. Assess whether it can weather challenges and adapt to changing circumstances.

Using Metrics for Continuous Improvement — Metrics should not be used solely for reporting and accountability purposes. They should also serve as powerful tools for continuous improvement. Regularly analyze the data to identify areas where the ecosystem can enhance its performance, remove barriers, and optimize resource allocation.

Ecosystem builders and their supporters should approach the identification and measurement of metrics with flexibility and adaptability. Success in entrepreneurial ecosystem building is not solely defined by numbers but also by the positive impact on the community and the ability to create an environment where innovation and entrepreneurship can flourish.

Have we missed anything in this metrics and measurement in ecosystems? Do you have something you’d like to share? 

Close up of person at laptop computer typing. A circular graphic with numbers on it is displayed on the computer.