We often get asked why Venture Centre is so focused on building an ecosystem for entrepreneurs to support them to start new enterprises. Here’s a wee slice of an explanation why.

When it comes to education, for the most part, we’ve basically been working along the same lines and similar styles for too long. We learn from textbooks and worksheets, memorising formula or facts by rote, in order to be tested on stuff we may never use again – if a bus has seven people in it and it’s travelling down the road at 55kmh, how many apples did the driver have for breakfast?

We still don’t know the answer to that one (we may never know) but what we do know is that education – and the way it’s being done is changing.

Why? Well, the world – and the future of work, is changing – dramatically.

Few punch a time clock, the idea of work hours means less and less, people work from wherever they happen to be and are constantly learning and contributing to progress. It looks very different to the Industrial Age where workers were required to be compliant and do repetitive tasks consistently, the idea around which our education system was built.

Business has been kind of the same. There used to be a limited range of business and delivery models, structures and management styles used in order to deliver those consistent results. However what we’ve witnessed in action more recently is that the really great stuff in business happens when people break the rules we’ve been subconsciously following. Where once only efficiency ruled, being effective by being intentionally different, not following the status quo is now the sort-after outcome in order to remain competitive. Those folk who do amazing stuff? They’re called disruptors for a reason.

So now we’re in a place where people all over the world are starting to realise that maybe those old institutions aren’t supporting our innovators and game-changers the way we need them to anymore. Of course, there will always be a place for them and people who need them, but they’re not necessarily serving everyone the way they once did. There are people running businesses and with great ideas who don’t fit with them.

And that’s where Venture Centre comes in. We’re here for the change-makers.

Internationally, entrepreneurs – and their investors – have realised the benefits of having a support system around them, an ecosystem that not only helps them test their ideas, but also provides diversity of thought, expertise and resources and pushes them in new directions. That’s what we’re building here in Bay of Plenty.

We were reminded of the importance of these entrepreneurial ecosystems recently, when watching the wonderful speech USA football icon, Abby Wambach, gave at Barnard College’s graduation recently. Here is our favourite excerpt:

In 1995, around the year of your birth, wolves were re-introduced into Yellowstone National Park after being absent for 70 years.

In those years, the number of deer had skyrocketed because they were unchallenged, alone at the top of the food chain. They grazed away and reduced the vegetation, so much that the river banks were eroding.

Once the wolves arrived, they thinned out the deer through hunting. But more significantly, their presence changed the behavior of the deer. Wisely, the deer started avoiding the valleys, and the vegetation in those places regenerated. Trees quintupled in just six years. Birds and beavers started moving in. The river dams the beavers built provided habitats for otters and ducks and fish. The animal ecosystem regenerated. But that wasn’t all. The rivers actually changed as well. The plant regeneration stabilized the river banks so they stopped collapsing. The rivers steadied—all because of the wolves’ presence.

See what happened here?

The wolves, who were feared as a threat to the system, turned out to be its salvation.

See, we know that change can be scary. And that plucky upstarts can be seen as a threat to the way things have always been done. But here at Venture Centre, we firmly believe the plucky upstarts who we support are going to be key to our society’s survival as we face the massive challenges posed by ubiquitous connectivity, automation and the fourth revolution.

Building an ecosystem, to support our brave citizens who chose to take the entrepreneurial path less travelled, to connect them to experts – also locals – and other businesses in our community, is the key to our salvation. Supporting other businesses is not a threat to your business, or the way you’ve always done business. We’re stronger when we work together. When we see each other as key networks, not competition. There’s room for us all to succeed in this amazing Bay of Plenty community of ours.

A strong, dynamic, connected ecosystem benefits us all.

P.S. You can see all of Abby’s bad-ass speech by clicking here.


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