Applying the Ecosystem Metaphor to Entrepreneurship

Date01 December 2016
Published date01 December 2016
Applying the Ecosystem
Metaphor to Entrepreneurship:
Uses and Abuses
Daniel J. Isenberg*
This article uses a comparison of the generic features of natural ecosystems and the popular use of the
term ‘‘entrepreneurship ecosystems’’ and identifies five mistakes in the way the ecosystem metaphor is
applied from the natural sciences: the creation mistake, the centralized control mistake, the geography
mistake, the intention mistake, and the entrepreneur-centrality mistake.
entrepreneurship, entrepreneurship ecosystems, entrepreneurshi p policy, economic development,
economic policy
I. Introduction
Since the appearance of How to Start an Entrepreneurial Revolution
in the Harvard Business Review
six years ago, the use of the term ‘‘entrepreneurship ecosystem’
has become commonplace : A
January 2016 Google search yielded 10 million results.
The World Economic Forum has published
*Babson Executive Education, Wellesley, MA, USA; Columbia Business School, New York, NY, USA; and Harvard Kennedy
School Center for International Development, Cambridge, MA, USA
Corresponding Author:
Daniel J. Isenberg, c/o Babson Executive Education, Babson Park, MA 02457, USA.
1. Daniel Isenberg, How to Start an En trepreneurial Revolution,HARV.BUS.REV., June 2010, at 51– 60. See also Daniel
Isenberg, What an Entrepreneurship Ecosystem Actually Is,H
ARV.BUS.REV., May 2014,
2. Sometimes also called an ‘‘entrepreneurial ecosystem.’’ In my view, entrepreneurship ecosystem is preferred because the
ecosystem is itself not ‘‘entrepreneurial’’; rather, it fosters entrepreneurship. But the terms are used interchangeably.
3. See Collin Mason & Ross Brown, Entrepreneurial Ecosystems and Growth Oriented Entrepreneurship (Org. Econ.
Cooperation & Dev. Background Paper, 2014),; and Erkko
Autio & Jonathan Levie, Management of Entrepreneurial Ecosystems (Imperial College Bus. Sch. Working Paper, 2015)
(on file with author).
The Antitrust Bulletin
2016, Vol. 61(4) 564-573
ªThe Author(s) 2016
Reprints and permission:
DOI: 10.1177/0003603X16676162

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