Who Is This Book For?
This article is a part of the book “Information Architecture and Entrepreneurship: Building Patterns for Successful Startup Ecosystems.”
This book talks a lot about how important it is to cut down on wasted effort for entrepreneurs. To practice what I will preach in the chapters to come, I want to save you time by being clear about who will benefit most from this book.
The primary focus of these chapters are people who run entrepreneurship programs at colleges and universities. The tools recommended in this book are constructed out of cheap materials — -posters, flyers, stickers, spreadsheets, maps. Even if you are a college or university without a large endowment, I believe you can have a high degree of success with these techniques.
This is not a book on how to build an entrepreneurship program from scratch or how to programmatically design an accelerator. There are many fantastic resources already out there for those who want to accomplish this task. This book looks more at techniques that can turn average programs into great ones by understanding often unseen forces in physical and digital design of these programs that influence the success of students within them.
Many of these ideas can easily be expanded to cities and their economic development programs, as well as to smaller communities. A librarian might use strategies outlined in this book to increase community resource sharing. A person who works at an economic development corporation might use some of the ideas on entrepreneurial way-finding to develop new strategies for economic development.
This book can also be useful for individual entrepreneurs. Although many tactics are focused around how to build entrepreneurial maps within communities, they can also be adjusted to help individuals build strong entrepreneurial maps wherever they may be.
Urban planners might also find the contents of this book useful. While many urban planners are familiar with Kevin Lynch’s ideas on how to build city environments for legibility in terms of navigating the physical environment, there is less understanding of how mental maps impact aspects of people’s lives that interact with but are not directly connected with their physical environment. For example, how people’s mental maps on food are created is a combination of travel patterns, job roles, household income, and cultural background. Understanding how people develop information maps around food can help planners reshape the urban environment to help people live healthier lifestyles.
Information architects and user experience designers might also learn valuable theories that can apply in their work. How people start and navigate through an entrepreneurial ecosystem has parallels for how people identify with products and services and navigate their way through the customer lifecycle.
If you are none of the above but curious about how aspects of your life from where you go for entertainment, where you shop, and where you work are controlled by the information maps you have access to, please keep reading. To consciously reshape your information maps is to create a new story in your day to day life. This book looks at how people notice and identify potential pathways, where people get stuck moving forward, and how people come to build the landscape of their potential opportunities. The general theories can be applied to several facets of your life.
The bias within this book is that most of my interviews were conducted at a prestigious institution, the University of Michigan, and so many of the problems students grappled with was how to navigate through a wealth of resources instead of how to get any resources at all. To rectify this bias several interviews were conducted with Wayne State students as well as students at Stony Brook University, but the majority of this research was focused on students at the University of Michigan.
I am also a white woman, and so there are likely many aspects to the entrepreneurial experience that I am missing. I tried to get a diverse set of interviews, which I believe I accomplished for students at the beginning of the entrepreneurial pipeline. As students moved through the entrepreneurial pipeline, the demographics increasingly lean white, male, and with technical backgrounds. While there are likely racial and gender elements to how entrepreneurs experienced the University of Michigan entrepreneurial ecosystem, this book does not have the bandwidth to give such considerations their fair space.
Why I decided to show people’s stories instead of data points was because the more interviews I conducted, the more complexity I found in people’s experiences. Whether a person worked or lived off campus, the major they chose, their personality, all factored into their navigation through the ecosystem. I tried to pick out stories that highlighted common threads amongst many students, and to build resources that would help everyone.