Ecosystem Development

Ecosystem Development. What is it. Why you want your team to do it. And what skills you need if it interests you. A tl;dr.

What is it: 

It’s a function (individual or team) usually embedded within a corporate venture capital or corporate development team. They are what should be the eyes and ears of the company. They know what is happening before it’s publicly announced (i.e., a fundraise, a sale, an exclusive event, a private demo day, a specialized and intimate conference). They are the team that knows all the founders + people you want your company to have tight connections with (from Berlin to Boston).

Why you want your team to do it: 

If run properly, this individual or team will bring you the GPs you want to speak with about their portfolios; a unique view on the ‘X’ landscape; a founder thinking about raising which aligns with ‘Z’ thesis, or ‘Y’ strategy; and written reports that you and the C-Suite will consume to inform inorganic strategy.

What skills you need if it interests you: 

Leading or being a member of an ecosystem development team for a CorpDev, or corporate venture capital (CVC) group requires a unique set of competencies. These skills are picked up after having been in specialized roles:

1/ Strategic thinking: you will need to think strategically about how to build and nurture an ecosystem that aligns with the company’s goals and objectives. That may include flying to almost every demo day and worth while industry conference buget allows. You should be able to develop a clear vision, which overlaps with your company’s objectives.

2/ Relationship management: you should be able to establish and maintain strong relationships with key stakeholders, including startups, investors, and industry influencers. This includes GPs at both VC and PE shops, MDs at banks, to MDs at accelerators. The important piece here is that you should be have an ability for getting others to give you their limited time.

3/ Technical expertise: a deep understanding of technology and industry trends. You should be able to evaluate startups and their technology, as well as provide guidance to partners on how to leverage + connect for mutual benefit. In this day and age, it incorporates knowing how to work through a terminal or even knowing one or two coding languages.

4/ Writing and Communication: you should be able to communicate complex ideas clearly and concisely to both technical and non-technical stakeholders. You should also be able to create compelling presentations and pitches to attract and engage. After all, the role requires information dissemination for others at your company to consume.

5/ Analytical skills: you should be able to use data to track performance, identify trends, and make decisions; it includes (at a minimum) being an ace on Pitchbook, CB Insights, 451, CapIQ, and other alt-data providers.

6/ Personality: it helps if you’re an extrovert, but being an introvert that can switch on and off, is just as good. 

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