To you, what is an Ecosystem Builder?
An Ecosystem Builder is someone working to make resources available to support entrepreneurs in their community.
What motivates you as an ecosystem builder?
Short answer: I believe that by helping people start business we build communities of people that care about each other’s welfare instead of people focused on how they can exploit one another for personal gain.
Long answer: I actually believe that we can achieve world peace through entrepreneurship. Tesla once wrote “War cannot be avoided until the physical cause for its recurrence is removed and this, in the last analysis, is the vast extent of the planet on which we live. Only through annihilation of distance in every respect, as the conveyance of intelligence, transport of passengers and supplies and transmission of energy will conditions be brought about some day, ensuring permanency of friendly relations. What we now want is closer contact and better understanding between individuals and communities all over the earth, and the elimination of egoism and pride which is always prone to plunge the world into primeval barbarism and strife… Peace can only come as a natural consequence of universal enlightenment…” (Nikola Tesla, “My Inventions: the autobiography of Nikola Tesla”, Hart Bros., 1982. Originally appeared in the Electrical experimenter magazine in 1919.)
The internet with all of its promise to connect us through our voices has in fact created vast socio-economic distances between people, communities, and nations. Major innovation hubs have drained the human and capital resources from the communities on the periphery of their network. We are living in a time of immense division because our communities have been divided from one another. However the development of civilization has always followed the network models of trade between people; from river deltas, to seaports, to rail, highway, and airport hubs. We have an opportunity to adopt a new infrastructure, modeled on the mesh network of the internet itself where we each become collaborative nodes that support one another.
It all starts with choosing to give people a hand up.
What is the most successful/impactful program/event/thing you do/have done in your ecosystem?
We’ve organized countless programs and events, but our biggest impact is really the byproduct of simply surviving; sustaining and taking our role seriously in the community so that we can continue to offer services, make connections, and give entrepreneurs something they can believe in. Through that we’ve helped over 100 entrepreneurs grow and create more 1,000 jobs as an independent non institutionally funded nonprofit.
What is the biggest challenge you face as an Ecosystem Builder?
Our biggest challenge is continual impostor syndrome. No matter how many entrepreneurs we support and jobs they create, our state and local government only care whether we create a major tech company that employs 100-1,000 people.
What is your biggest frustration as an ecosystem builder?
No matter how many entrepreneurs we support and jobs they create, our state and local government only care whether we create a major tech company that employs 100-1,000 people.
What ecosystem building skill/knowledge do you want to gain?
I would love to improve my work in getting investors to support pre-revenue ventures.
What are the most important things that need to happen to advance the field of ecosystem building?
Ecosystem Builders need a sustainable business model. The vast majority of the people we support cannot afford services. Investors don’t understand the value of financially supporting the entities that provide them with dealflow, and foundations pit each of us in competition with one another for a limited pool of resources.
What others are saying about Eric
Eric Parker is one of the leading Innovation Architects in the nation. His work with numerous top research institutions and technology incubators, elite Universities, and Fortune 500 companies, has been published in Bloomberg Business Week, and featured in the Stanford d.school publication “Make Space: How to set the stage for creative collaboration”. He is a frequent national public speaker, panelist, and writer in support of innovation in small and midsize communities. He is currently building a mesh network of grassroots collaborative incubators in mid-size communities across the Southeast to develop a more inclusive regional economy and improve investment dealflow. In addition, he and his team have secured over $2,000,000 in foundation grants to support an equitable and just ecosystem for other ecosystem builders and entrepreneurship who are unemployed, underemployed or interested in eliminating the cycle of poverty through job creation and re-training.
- He also founded and leads theClubhou.se which is a fiscally self-sustaining independent non-profit innovation development organization responsible for the formation and growth of the Augusta, GA technology and startup community. He single handedly launched a movement in his hometown to accelerate the ecosystem for entrepreneurs only 7 years ago. He grew this $15,000 personal philanthropic investment to help 60 entrepreneurs to grow 70 businesses responsible for 900 jobs in the Augusta region.
- Managed and cultivated diverse relationships with government, investor, academic, entrepreneur, and community technology leaders at the local, state and federal level as a volunteer and had invested 1000’s of hours and personal income to grow this endeavor.
- Catalyzed region’s first angel investment group and co-founded an educational technology startup to teach kids to code and train STEM teachers in underserved schools.
- Developed broad programs to support entrepreneurship and education attended by over 20,000 people, and has been invited to the White House multiple times over the past five years (Obama and Trump Administration) to discuss national policy issues related to economic development, generational wealth inequalities and maker movement endeavors.