Unsung Hero Spotlight: Dustin Shay

To you, what is an Ecosystem Builder?

An ecosystem builder is someone who creates meaningful connections that support the interests of both founders and the groups that work with them – professional services firms, investors, other ecosystem builders, etc. We’re intermediaries that actively make this system work better for the people that are creating the new economy.

What motivates you as an ecosystem builder?

Equity. The dream I was sold on as a kid was that America – and the world – is a place where you work hard and should be able to get ahead. But that doesn’t happen for most people in most places, and I do this work to change that.

What is the most successful/impactful program/event/thing you do/have done in your ecosystem?

As part of Village Capital, my role in developing the partnerships necessary to launch VilCap Communities has enabled our organization to develop the tools and processes necessary to back over 60 other accelerator organizations around the world with proven tools that help founders scale their investment, revenue, and team size. I also developed our Finance Forward initiative, bringing together several of our leading partners to create a global initiative supporting founders with contextualized support in five regions globally.

Outside of Village Capital, I host “RealTalk” events that bring founders and funders together for meaningful discussions of the place of entrepreneurial innovation and technology in addressing big problems. I also sit on the board of Left Tackle Capital, which connects investors and capital providers to funds led by first- and second-time fund managers of color.

What is the biggest challenge you face as an Ecosystem Builder?

Consistent, flexible financial support to address the critical work of partnerships development and maintenance.

What is your biggest frustration as an ecosystem builder?

The arbitrary and opaque nature of fundraising.

What ecosystem building skill/knowledge do you want to gain?

I’d like to understand how to build effective multi-year plans that inspire and engage both funders of my own organization (and/or myself!) and the community of founders, investors, and other ecosystem builders I work with.

What are the most important things that need to happen to advance the field of ecosystem building?

Specialization: Many groups are good at doing certain things (ie: partnership development, investment readiness, etc.), but few are familiar with and lean into those specialties. This is a critical aspect of development for this field. If we don’t do this, we cannibalize the limited support available and make a more confusing path for founders.

Organization: We need a clear vision of what the path to success looks like and what resources (capital, professional services, etc.) are appropriate at which stage. Without this, we will never align our work in a strategic manner.

What others are saying about Dustin

Dustin is a super networking, thought leader, unbelievable connector, and someone who always says ‘what can I do for you?’

 

Anika Horn

Anika Horn is an ecosystem builder for social change, social enterprise advisor and storyteller. She is on a mission to equip ecosystem builders with the insights, resources and community to lead fulfilling lives and purpose-driven careers. Learn more about her work at SocialVenturers.com and AnikaHorn.com.

Ecosystem Builder
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