Self-Awareness for Startup Ecosystems, and How to Build It.

The notion of ecosystems and networks is raising interest globally, and it is for a reason. Companies must make significant changes to how they are structured to survive in this dynamic world. One of the solutions to overcome this challenge is to work as a thriving ecosystem. This means working with multiple stakeholders to fill their gaps and accelerate the speed of their new projects and new ventures. 

To create new connections in a network, you first need to know that these relationships can be made. A strong network starts with self-awareness, passion, and curiosity to connect with others.

When I chat with many of passionate people who are involved with the startup ecosystem, everyone asks me: 

“Ok; but where should I start? What can I do today and tomorrow?” 

After reflection and especially after having written the book: “Today’s Superpower: Building Networks,” ; the first step to take to build an ecosystem (or networks) around an individual, a company, or a city; is to start with self-awareness. 


  1. How a city –  Boston – transformed itself from an academic hub to the leading world’s biotech Hub

I co-published the academic paper, “What Corporates Can Do to Help an Innovation Ecosystem Thrive— and Why They Should Do It in the Journal of Commercial Biotechnology.” I co-wrote the publication with Susan Windham- Bannister (the former CEO of the Massachusetts Live Sciences Center, a one-billion-dollar investment fund for biotech innovation) and Diana Joseph (founder of the Corporate Accelerator Forum in the San Francisco Bay Area). This paper provided a framework for how Boston successfully built its “innovation capacity” in the life sciences and became one of the most innovative places in the world in just twenty years. In 2008, then-Governor Deval Patrick and the Massachusetts legislature created a ten-year, one-billion-dollar initiative to transform Massachusetts from a leading life sciences academic research hub to a world-leading life sciences innovation hub, where new technologies could be translated, developed, and commercialized.

Susan – the funds CEO – knew Innovation capacity is dependent upon five enablers: Academic culture, entrepreneurial culture (including risk capital), workforce, infrastructure, and, crucially: a thriving ecosystem. 

Dr. Windham-Bannister’s first step as CEO was to conduct a situational analysis to identify where there were major gaps in these key enablers of innovation capacity and how these gaps were hindering Boston/Cambridge, with all of its world-class research firepowers, from operating as a globally recognized life sciences innovation hub. The situational analysis, including interviews with more than 100 key players, was a first step in developing a shared understanding and recognition of mutual goals among key stakeholders in the life sciences community. 

By identifying the gaps; Susan was able to develop strategic pillars and propose key actions to fill them 

2. How a company – such as Apple – was able to be the most valued company in the world?

Everybody knows Steve Jobs, and how many of you know Steve Wozniak – co-founder of Apple – the tech guy behind Apple’s brilliant technology? 

I had to chance to be on a Zoom call with him; and he said to me and other book creator’s students: “I wanted to be an engineer for life and avoid all the visibility and politics of big organizations. I am an introvert who wants to create” (Wozniak, 2021).

Steve Wozniak was the engineer, Steve Jobs was the operating talent (the ones capable of attracting funds; talent; and building the brand. The combination of complementary skills makes Apple successful. 

The real success of Apple is based on ecosystems, ecosystems of talents, and business models based on ecosystems (Apple Store), and now the entire Apple Products are connected, which pushes users to fall in love with all their products. 

To be where they are today, Apple, identified their gap and strengths; it started with the co-founder’s self-awareness to admit what they were good at or not and attract the talents from there. 

3. What can an individual – like you – build networks and ecosystems, to change the world?

  • Know thyself; who are you? Are you the engineer? The marketing person? Based on that assessment. Target people, communities, and organizations to fill your gaps 
  • Do a Clifton strength analysis:
  • Now, from an ecosystem perspective, identify the backbone organization of your city supporting startups and entrepreneurship. E.g for Berlin, for Boston, for Basel, Switzerland. Which one is the one in your town? Contact them and ask for relevant players you would like to connect with (Incubators; accelerators; Startups, Big Corporates, and Research organizations) 
  • Once identified, jump to Eventbrite; or Meetup and start attending those events; to meet them and person. Start Building relationships by giving first and offering your help (mentorship; capital; expertise, contacts), etc. 
  • One day, you’ll be able to leverage the created network to change the world for the better. 

An interdisciplinary set of skills, in the age of exponential technologies, has never been so important. This is why building networks is a superpower. What do you think about those solutions? Can you relate? If you want to connect, feel free to message me ; connect on LinkedIn or Instagram. Feel also free to subscribe to the bi-weekly ecosystem Newsletter.


Joseph, Diana, Susan Windham-Bannister, and Mikel Mangold. “What Corporates Can Do to Help an Innovation Ecosystem Thrive-and Why They Should Do It.” Journal of Commercial Biotechnology 26, no. 1 (March 16, 2021). 

Wozniak, Steve. “Steve ‘Woz’ Wozniak – Creator Speaker Notes (Summer 2021).” Interview by Eric Koester. Creator institute. June 23, 2021. Video, 29:02.




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