Examining entrepreneurial ecosystems close to home and abroad

June 28, 2023

The spring EnCompass trip to Scandinavia brought many firsts for students—first time traveling abroad, navigating a foreign city, tasting espresso, riding a train. It also provided a rich foundation for understanding a community’s impact on innovation and quality of life.

EnCompass is University of Richmond’s flagship program that provides access to international experience for those least likely to study abroad. Faculty members lead courses to global destinations they know well and can share deeply. Doug Bosse, professor of management, and Somiah Lattimore, senior director of Creativity, Innovation, & Entrepreneurship, paired their experience and knowledge for the spring cohort of Entrepreneurial Ecosystems: Communities Supporting Startups.

Bosse has decades of experience teaching classes and consulting on innovation and entrepreneurship and Lattimore is a regular in Richmond’s entrepreneurial landscape, currently serving on several committees dedicated to entrepreneurial ecosystem development for the Greater Richmond Region and the Commonwealth of Virginia.

Students in the program had hands-on experiences with people and entrepreneurial support organizations (ESOs) in Richmond, Va., Copenhagen, Denmark, and Stockholm, Sweden. They began the course visiting Richmond-area organizations including the CarMax Innovation Campus, Phlow at the Virginia BioTechPark, and the Michael Wassmer Innovation Center to learn from entrepreneurs and experts in the field.

They then traveled abroad for ten days. Copenhagen is now known as the “Silicon Valley of Food” for its entrepreneurial innovations in food and beverage production, pioneering methods to rethink the food system and reduce harm to the environment. Stockholm is also known on the world stage as an entrepreneurially advanced city with universities, companies, governmental agencies, and social programs working together to encourage and support entrepreneurship.

“Copenhagen and Stockholm have made purposeful investments in supporting entrepreneurship,” Bosse said. “Both cultures take sincere ownership in helping to address the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Their cultures accept the need to work together to address hunger, waste, pollution, and other environmental crises, and it is very common for startups to align their purpose with the SDGs.”

As a health studies major and entrepreneurship minor, Usra Karar was interested in the opportunity to try something new. “I learned that there is a network of people ready to use the resources at their hand to build something impactful,” Karar said, “Entrepreneurial ecosystems can be used to solve issues you are passionate about.” She has plans to use her education and experience to open her own dental practice in the future. 

It took coordination among several offices across campus, including the Office of International Education, the Robins School, Career Services, and Alumni Relations to design the best experience for students. “The big takeaway was the excitement the community and students had in a future offering to engage students in the entrepreneurial ecosystem,” Lattimore said. As an extension of the EnCompass program, the Creativity, Innovation, & Entrepreneurship initiative plans to pilot offerings with CarMax and RVA Tech next academic year. 

For more information on EnCompass, visit the program website.