Ecosystem Connections Mapping



Rhett Morris              Brent Perkins           Valerie Mocker                 Victor Mulas
Director                     Senior Manager       Principal Researcher       Program Lead
Endeavor Insight       MaRS                      Nesta                               World Bank




Endeavor, MaRS, Nesta and the World Bank forged the project, setting the research goals and parameters. To map cities in Africa, Latin America, and the Middle East, they have been joined by the Inter-American Development Bank, and Mercy Corps.



The Ecosystem Connections Mapping Project aims to advance both understanding and support for entrepreneurs by creating the largest and best-maintained database of connections among key actors within startup ecosystems around the world. For policymakers, in-depth analysis of city-level ecosystems provides a basis for developing action plans aimed at supporting the sustainable growth of entrepreneur- and innovation-led economies.

Through GERN-certified survey questionnaires, data is collected directly from key ecosystem stakeholders. One survey focuses on entrepreneurs and collects information that includes:

  1. Educational history (formal, vocational, informal, e.g. bootcamps)
  2. Employment history
  3. Founding history
  4. Support program history (e.g., accelerators, incubators)
  5. Connections with mentors
  6. Connections with investors
  7. Origin of each connection (to identify networking assets)

Other survey questionnaires collect data from key ecosystem stakeholders (investors, entrepreneur support program leaders, etc.) and from traditional sector industries to assess innovation absorption. The data facilitates the development of a snapshot of a respective ecosystem's performance, allowing the ecosystem to be benchmarked (for example, as advanced, maturing, incipient, etc.). To address ecosystem gaps, policymakers utilize examples of applied policies that have been successfully deployed in peer or more advanced ecosystems (per the benchmark) collected through the Startup Nations Atlas of Policies or by the World Bank.

The World Bank also collects geographic location data of founders and key stakeholders – to assess how facilitating connections advances ecosystem development – and added temporal questions to the standard set that include: the time it took to establish a startup, and the time it took to obtain a loan from a bank, and the time it took to obtain investments from an angel and institutional investor.

To build a comprehensive map of connections within ecosystems, the methodology also incorporates data from AngelList, CrunchBase, and LinkedIn. An easy-to-use, open access visualization tool created with the data allows users to discover large-scale patterns of connectedness among specific actors – entrepreneurs, investors, mentors, among others – that characterize a particular entrepreneurial ecosystem. Further, researchers and practitioners are able to query the database along multiple analytical dimensions.

Endeavor launched the project by piloting an initial map of New York City, and then, in partnership with MCEgypt, MEPI, and Mercy Corps, developed a map of Cairo, Egypt. It is currently creating a map of Singapore and – with the support of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation – is planning maps of a number of Sub-Saharan African capital cities that will include Johannesburg and Nairobi.

With an iterated network mapping methodology, the World Bank has assessed Beirut and Dar es Salaam. Led by Victor Mulas and Kathy Qian, the studies compare these two cities to the other cities already mapped and make a significant contribution to our knowledge of how startup ecosystems are formed, their internal dynamics, and what makes them grow and achieve sustainability. The Bank is currently deploying its methodology to analyze startup ecosystems in Arusha, Bogota, Buenos Aires, Cali, Medellin, Mexico City, Mombasa, Santiago, and Sao Paulo. (For a more detailed description of its methodology see, Boosting Tech Ecosystems in Cities by Victor Mulas, etal.)

In addition, MaRS is assessing Toronto's ecosystem and Nesta is building network maps of three UK cities, Cambridge, London, and Oxford.

Using the GERN-certified methodologies will result in the creation of the first-ever comparable set of multi-ecosystem network maps. Our goal is to extend the methodology to 100 cities around the world during the next five years. To further this objective and facilitate uptake of the methodology by other organizations, Nesta is supporting the development of a Connections Mapping Methodology Guide, which is currently in progress. 

To connect with the team about this project, please email


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