Unsung Hero Spotlight: Eric Renz-Whitemore, Albuquerque, NM

To you, what is an Ecosystem Builder?

I’ve seen more than a few types of ecosystem builders, but I think there are a few common traits or aspects that unite us all:

  • Putting the system first – when I have my ecosystem builder hat on, I think about what’s best for the community before whatever program/activity I’m working on
  • (Potential) Entrepreneur focus – we’re always thinking (and checking in, verifying) about whether our entrepreneurs are getting the best access to the resources they need
  • Always Be Connecting – nearly all ecosystem builders are almost always thinking about how they can connect entrepreneurs and the organizations that serve them with people and resources that could help them
  • Long Term & Short Term – we know that these are long term efforts AND that what happens now is in the context of that. Most ecosystem builders seem to be able to keep both in mind. 

What motivates you as an ecosystem builder?

Seeing potential entrepreneurs find the help and resources they need to move forward and grow; getting the sense that our communities/ecosystems are becoming healthier and providing better support for entrepreneurs, and seeing strategies I’ve had a  hand in pay off are all motivational.

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

One of our highlights was having Rise of the Rest visit Albuquerque on one of their tours. That and the work around it, really improved our self-perception as a potential startup hub. 

What is your biggest challenge as an ecosystem builder?

In general, it’s funding and other support for ecosystem building activities – the work and various meetings that lead to more collaborative efforts – and stronger relationships among ESOs – in our ecosystem.

What is your biggest frustration as an ecosystem builder?

When partners don’t follow through and an entrepreneur feels unsupported.

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

Right this second, I wish I had great project management skills.

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

  • A commonly accepted definition
  • A common set of principles
  • Better data and stories around ecosystem building efforts that have been successful

How can we support you in your work?

One of the stories I’d love to get to is having key leaders in a city promote the value and impact of authentic ecosystem building efforts.

What others say about Eric

Eric is constantly spending tons of time organizing tech events in Albuquerque. When he worked for the City of Albuquerque, he pushed really hard to get the City onboard with WordCamp (a WordPress multiday event.) It was difficult wrangling all the volunteers, and getting everything together, and Eric provided stability from the perspective of the City. With his new position in Forward Cities, he is still a cornerstone of 1,000,000 Cups – a weekly event where entrepreneurs talk about the challenges in their business. He helps promote Deep Dive Coders – a coding bootcamp that caters to underserved/diverse groups to learn coding skills. I always ask Eric before starting a new venture for recommendation on who to talk with. He’s the only person I know that has “ecosystem builder” consistently as a legitimate job description.

Learn more about Eric’s work at Forward Cities.

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.

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