University of Wisconsin–Madison

Grant to Study Entrepreneurial Ecosystems in Madison

Jon Eckhardt
Executive Director, Weinert Center for Entrepreneurship; Wisconsin School of Business

Jon Eckhardt, executive director of the Weinert Center for Entrepreneurship has received funding from the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, a nonpartisan foundation that supports entrepreneurship and education nationwide, to study how to improve how university entrepreneurial ecosystems can drive economic growth.

Even as state and local governments have increasingly focused on creating policies or programs that support entrepreneurship, there is currently limited research on entrepreneurial ecosystems at the city or regional level.

The funding awarded to Eckhardt, an associate professor of management & human resources, will support research that will ultimately better inform policymakers and entrepreneurship support organizations seeking to build a fertile environment for new and growing companies at universities.

Similar to an ecosystem in nature, an entrepreneurial ecosystem is composed of both entrepreneurs and the environment in which they are starting their businesses. The success of these entrepreneurial communities is determined by a number of factors, including access to capital, talent, entrepreneurship support organizations, pro-entrepreneurship public policy and educational institutions or established businesses that embrace entrepreneurship.

Understanding these entrepreneurial communities and how to help them grow is a key component of Kauffman’s mission to eliminate barriers to entrepreneurship, grow the economy and improve people’s lives.

Eric Martell (left) and Matt Howard, two of the founders of EatStreet, in their offices in 2014.

Funding will be used to build metrics and measures that will be used to study how to improve the impact of student driven entrepreneurship. Student startups are not necessarily modest endeavors. For example, in 1979 then-student Judy Faulkner founded the electronic medical record company Epic after taking the UW course Computers-In-Medicine. Today, Epic employs nearly 10,000 people in Wisconsin and contains the medical records of 54% of patients in the U.S. EatStreet, founded in 2009 by UW-Madison students Matt Howard, Eric Martell, and Alex Wyler now employs over 1,000 individuals and serves customers across the United States.

“Building inclusive ecosystems for all entrepreneurs requires information that is responsive and representative,” says Evan Absher, Program Officer in Entrepreneurship at the Kauffman Foundation. “The researchers in this portfolio will merge cutting-edge technology with sound methods and perspectives to create knowledge that is immediately useful for entrepreneurs and the people that support them.”

“The University of Wisconsin-Madison is at the forefront of using data to help academic institutions manage and improve their entrepreneurship ecosystems,” says Eckhardt. “We are looking forward to working with the Kauffman Foundation on advancing this work in ways that would not be possible without the Foundation’s support and insights.”

The Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation is a private, nonpartisan foundation that works in education and entrepreneurship to create uncommon solutions and empower people to shape their futures and be successful. The Kauffman Foundation is based in Kansas City, Missouri, and uses its $2 billion in assets to collaboratively help people be self-sufficient, productive citizens. For more information, visit www.kauffman.org.

By Peter Kerwin