Ecosystem Connections Mapping


Rhett Morris              Valerie Mocker                 Brent Perkins           Victor Mulas
Director                     Principal Researcher       Senior Manager       Program Lead
Endeavor Insight      Nesta                                MaRS                        World Bank




Endeavor, MaRS, Nesta and the World Bank forged the project, setting the research goals and parameters. To map cities in Africa, Latin America, and the Middle East, they have been joined by the Inter-American Development Bank, and Mercy Corps.



The Ecosystem Connections Mapping Project aims to advance both understanding and support for entrepreneurs by creating the largest and best-maintained database of connections among key actors within startup ecosystems around the world. For policymakers, in-depth analysis of city-level ecosystems provides a basis for developing action plans aimed at supporting the sustainable growth of entrepreneur- and innovation-led economies.

Through GERN-certified survey questionnaires, data is collected directly from key ecosystem stakeholders. One survey focuses on entrepreneurs and collects information that includes:

  1. Educational history (formal, vocational, informal, e.g. bootcamps)
  2. Employment history
  3. Founding history
  4. Support program history (e.g., accelerators, incubators)
  5. Connections with mentors
  6. Connections with investors
  7. Origin of each connection (to identify networking assets)

Other survey questionnaires collect data from key ecosystem stakeholders (investors, entrepreneur support program leaders, etc.) and from traditional sector industries to assess innovation absorption. The data facilitates the development of a snapshot of a respective ecosystem's performance, allowing the ecosystem to be benchmarked (for example, as advanced, maturing, incipient, etc.). To address ecosystem gaps, policymakers utilize examples of applied policies that have been successfully deployed in peer or more advanced ecosystems (per the benchmark) collected through the Startup Nations Atlas of Policies or by the World Bank.

The World Bank also collects geographic location data of founders and key stakeholders – to assess how facilitating connections advances ecosystem development – and added temporal questions to the standard set that include: the time it took to establish a startup, and the time it took to obtain a loan from a bank, and the time it took to obtain investments from an angel and institutional investor.

To build a comprehensive map of connections within ecosystems, the methodology also incorporates data from AngelList, CrunchBase, and LinkedIn. An easy-to-use, open access visualization tool created with the data allows users to discover large-scale patterns of connectedness among specific actors – entrepreneurs, investors, mentors, among others – that characterize a particular entrepreneurial ecosystem. Further, researchers and practitioners are able to query the database along multiple analytical dimensions.

Endeavor launched the project by piloting an initial map of New York City, and then, in partnership with MCEgypt, MEPI, and Mercy Corps, developed a map of Cairo, Egypt. It is currently creating a map of Singapore and – with the support of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation – is planning maps of a number of Sub-Saharan African capital cities that will include Johannesburg and Nairobi.

With an iterated methodology, MaRS is mapping Toronto's ecosystem and Nesta is building maps of three UK cities: Cambridge, London, and Oxford.

The World Bank is deploying its iteration of the methodology to map startup ecosystems in Arusha, Beirut, Bogota, Buenos Aires, Cali, Dar es Salaam, Medellin, Mexico City, Mombasa, Santiago, and Sao Paulo. For a more detailed description of its methodology see, Boosting Tech Ecosystems in Cities by Victor Mulas, et. al.

Using the GERN-certified methodologies will result in the creation of the first-ever comparable set of multi-ecosystem connections maps. Nesta is supporting the development of a Connections Mapping Methodology Guide, currently in progress, to further this objective by facilitating the work of other organizations that apply the methodology.

The datasets that underlie each map are licensed to GERN, and are available to members (for non-profit purposes) upon request. Please send your request to Cristina Fernandez (

Our goal is to map 100 cities around the world within the next five years. If you are able to contribute to this groundbreaking work, we would be delighted to hear from you.