Ecosystem as the Source of Entrepreneurial Opportunities.
The present paper aims to develop an understanding of interconnections between the entrepreneurial ecosystem and entrepreneurial opportunity. The first step of this research was to disclose the development of the ecosystem within two higher (efficiency- and innovation-driven) stages of economic development and the transition between them according to the World Economic Forum, based on the model by Dutch researcher Erik Stam. The Estonian entrepreneurial ecosystem was analyzed as an example. Secondary data on Estonian entrepreneurial ecosystems were collected and analyzed.
In its second step, this research follows a case-study design. The start-up period of the studied Estonian companies represents different degrees of the maturity of the ecosystem: Regio and Mobi Solutions – efficiency-driven, GrabCAD – the transition from efficiency to innovation-driven, and Bolt (Taxify) – an innovation-driven economy.
The example of the Estonian ICT sector proves that the most important contributors to the talent growth, the knowledge base, and framework conditions of the entrepreneurial ecosystem are the state through its infrastructure decisions and educational programs along with successful entrepreneurs who shape the role models known in Estonia today as the Skype-effect. Decisions on digital telecom infrastructure and e-society in the early stage of the transition in tandem with enterprise encouragement created a subsequent boom in ICT-based ventures in Estonia 10-15 years later. The processes resulted in achieving an innovation-driven society and the highest level of opportunity-driven entrepreneurship in Europe in 2017. With that, new venture funding has replaced the former development engine – foreign direct investment (FDI).
Examples of ICT-based new ventures have demonstrated that the growing maturity of the ecosystem increased venture investment from “bootstrapping” to millions of euros of seed-funding and shortened new product development cycles from 5-7 to 1-3 years. The study shows that maturing ecosystems shorten business development processes, thereby increasing the integration of different ecosystems. The start-up success stories enhance trust in the particular business environment, and they both increase investments and accelerate the entry of new ventures, making better use of the emerging windows of opportunities.