An ecosystem is an environment that contains interacting organisms. An entrepreneurial ecosystem (EE) consists of people affiliated with organizations interacting within a physical environment with the goal of promoting entrepreneurship. This case study describes the EE in Durham, North Carolina – the people and organizations primarily located downtown who embrace this mission. I interviewed the individuals acknowledged in Appendix A and drew from reports, blog posts, newspaper articles and data sources to write the case study.
I frame this study in two ways. First, while important in their own right I do not examine social ventures or local ventures – startups that serve and entirely depend upon the local market. Instead, I focus on successful startups that can grow to have major impacts on the city’s economic base. Since these new firms tap regional, national and/or global markets, they are not constrained by the size of the local market. These companies exemplify growth entrepreneurship.
Second, Durham is part of the growing Research Triangle region. The region’s EE developed before the EE in Durham and continues to support it in various ways. The people and organizations located in downtown Durham help budding and established entrepreneurs thrive. In an era of internet-based social media and virtual communication, I underscore the importance of having a vibrant downtown, and I consider how its density, compactness, connectivity and walkable design have enhanced growth entrepreneurship.