Who This Book Is For
This article is a part of the book “Information Architecture and Entrepreneurship: Interaction Patterns for Successful Startup Ecosystems.”
The primary focus of the following chapters are for people who run entrepreneurship programs at colleges and universities, whom I refer to as “Community Leaders”. The tools recommended in this book are constructed out of cheap materials — -posters, flyers, stickers, spreadsheets, and emails. Even if you are a Community Leader at a college or university without a large endowment, 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 in their community.
This book can also be useful for individual entrepreneurs. Founders are often bombarded with “hustle porn” and told they need to have a “growth mindset,” “get on the grind,” “always be selling,” and such phrases. This book offers more specific techniques on how to build information networks around themselves that will have a higher likelihood of helping them develop profitable companies.
Urban planners might also find 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 navigation, the mental maps that we hold around relationships, jobs, family, and food all are impacted and impact in return the physical spaces around us. Understanding how people develop information maps around food can help planners reshape the urban environment to help people live healthier lifestyles, or understanding people’s mental maps around community can help create a more engaged citizenry.
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 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 the University of Michigan which has an already strong entrepreneurial ecosystem. 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 and Stony Brook University students, 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. I likely have gotten many things wrong, but I hope that I have gotten enough right to be useful.