The Unsung Heroes of Ecosystem Building was a storytelling campaign spearheaded by Anika Horn, Jeff Bennett, and Jessica Edwards in 2020 to raise the profile of entrepreneurial ecosystem builders around the country.

After receiving 70 nominations in a mere two weeks, the team got to work and interviewed 40+ entrepreneurial ecosystem builders from Puerto Rico to Tuczon, AZ. Over the course of seven months, the campaign team introduced all seven ESHIP Goals along with three to five Unsung Heroes each on a monthly basis. From academics to economic development officers, entrepreneurs, investors, nonprofit leaders, corporate employees and grassroots activists, the first season shone a spotlight on Unsung Heroes that work across all levels of systemic change.


In 2023 Anika Horn has resumed the campaign meeting really brilliant ecosystem builders–online and in-person–and sharing their awesomeness with the ecosystem building community at large. Check out her most recent podcast episode to learn about her most recent unsung hero interviews, Nida Ansari in Indianapolis and Sammy Popat in Maryland.


Unsung Heroes of Ecosystem Building 2020

In total, the Unsung Heroes of Ecosystem Building campaign highlighted over 40 ecosystem builders. In addition to those showcased above as part of the Kauffman Foundation’s ESHIP Summit content, the campaign highlighted dozens more. Check out the full list below and click through to their spotlights.

Adam Arredando

Beth McKeon

Beth Zimmer

Buddy Palmer

Candice Matthews Brackeen

Carina Boston Pinales

Christina Theodoraki

Clark Rinehart

Daniel Heron

David Jay

Denisse Rodríguez Colón

Dustin Shay

Ellen Bateman

Eric Parker

Eric Renz Whitmore

Eric Stam

Gabe Munoz

Harshita Girase

Heather Metcalf

Henry Rael

Jacob Miller

Jacqueline Summers

Jeannette Balleza Collins

Jess Edwards

Jordan Walbesser

Kim Louis

Lauren Mehler Pradhan

Mara Hardy

Mark Lawrence

Mel Lambert

Melanie Lenci

Nia Richardson

Nigel Adams

Noa Gafni

Norris Krueger

Paul Riser

Rodney Woods

Steven Rodriguez

Taj Ajmad-Eldridge

Tom Chapman

Vince Schutt

Zen Trenholm