Case Study: NorCal Entrepreneur Hub Launch

The NorCal Entrepreneur Hub enables innovators, startup founders, and small business owners to find and connect with the right resources for their business, including investors, universities, mentoring programs, networking groups, training programs, and more.

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Case Study: NorCal Entrepreneur Hub Launch

A Boomerang Back to Sacramento

Cameron Law’s path through the entrepreneurial ecosystem mirrors that of a boomerang.

Born and raised in Sacramento, Cameron was determined to see more of the world after graduating UC Davis with his undergraduate degree in Managerial Economics. He set his sights down under with an MBA program at the University of Queensland in Brisbane, Australia.

Although at first Cameron didn’t plan to come back to Sacramento “until he was 40-50”, his time in Brisbane expedited that timeline.

Brisbane’s startup community was booming, and the Australian state capital served as a constant reminder of the potential of the Capital Region back home.

After graduating, Cameron swung back to Sacramento with a mission to help catalyze that potential. And he got to work growing his network and capacity.

Cameron Law at the Carlsen Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship
Cameron Law at the Carlsen Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship

He worked as a Venture Fellow and Innovation Associate for Impact Venture Capital, where he spearheaded ecosystem building initiatives such as 1 Million Cups (1MC) Sacramento. Afterwards, Cameron served as Executive Director for the non-profit Social Venture Partners of Sacramento, where he worked to connect non-profits, social enterprises, and venture philanthropists to secure greater economic opportunities for the current generation of students.

Then in Fall 2019, Cameron joined the recently-founded Carlsen Center for Innovation & Entrepreneurship at Sacramento State as Executive Director. He was attracted by the nascent center’s mission to serve as the premiere hub for regional innovation & entrepreneurship by being a connector of the broader entrepreneurial community in the Greater Sacramento Region. And in order to do that, Cameron first needed to understand what was actually out there.

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The NorCal Entrepreneur Hub

One of the myriad initiatives/organizations that Cameron is involved in - the Sacramento Entrepreneurial Growth Alliance (SEGA) - had its sights set on bringing a dynamic tool to help track all of the burgeoning growth happening throughout the ecosystem.

While they saw many champions and initiatives popping up to support entrepreneurship in the NorCal region, but no one-stop-shop for an entrepreneur to actually understand all of the resources that are available to them.

Enter EcoMap.

The Carlsen Center - along with Sierra College and Tahoe Prosperity Center - worked with our team to bring the NorCal Entrepreneur Hub to life.

The NorCal Entrepreneur Hub contains data on over 400 resources and nearly 150 organizations throughout the region, in addition to events, news, and jobs that are updated throughout the year.

This platform is designed to enable innovators, startup founders, and small business owners to find and connect with the right resources for their business, including investors, universities, mentoring programs, networking groups, training programs, and more.

All of this is in support of their mission to build and sustain a vibrant and inclusive entrepreneurial community that increases the volume and success of local founders fueling economic growth in the Greater Sacramento region.

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Initial Platform Rollout

The NorCal Entrepreneur Hub was unofficially launched in late August with the Growth Factory’s opening event in conjunction with the start of the academic calendar.

Resource database for NorCal Entrepreneur Hub
Resource database for NorCal Entrepreneur Hub

Given the wide audience that this platform is meant to serve, a full rollout will involve multiple stakeholders to ensure each segment is getting the value they need out of the platform.

  • SEGA is promoting the platform as a tool that can be used by innovators all across the Capital Region.
  • Sac State is working with the student entrepreneurship club - The Hive - to make sure students are aware of the tool in order to take advantage of entrepreneurial resources both at CSUS and beyond.
  • Sierra College is interested in the workforce development aspect of EcoMap and plans to utilize the jobs portal more heavily as the year goes on.
  • And the Tahoe Prosperity Center is seeking to grow out the ecosystem mapping initiative in this platform to create more asset coverage between Sacramento to Tahoe.

Every ecosystem has a unique way to roll out their EcoMap platform, but Cameron and the team hit on a best practice we've found over time. It's crucial to engage a variety of stakeholders that have a trusted connection with a subsection of the population that the platform is seeking to serve.

By getting buy-in from these stakeholders, it is much more likely that the ecosystem will see this as a platform for all rather than an initiative put on by just one organization.

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A Story Worth Telling

By fostering a greater connectivity and awareness of resources throughout the Greater Sacramento Region, Cameron is hoping to effectively tell the story of the region’s rapid growth over the last five years.

He had completed Forward Cities’ E3 Scorecard Assessment - a tool meant to identify the health and equity of an entrepreneurial ecosystem - and found that Sacramento was lacking most in Identity + Storytelling. The pieces of the puzzle were starting to fit together, but the narrative wasn’t yet in place.

E3 Scorecard Diagram  by Forward Cities
E3 Scorecard Diagram  by Forward Cities

And according to Cameron, there is so much to say.

He is proudest of the quantity and quality of initiatives being propped up in Sacramento - especially as it relates to inclusivity in entrepreneurship.

Examples of that include the Sacramento Chamber of Commerce making $50,000 grants available to support Latino small business in Sacramento County, the SBDC’s Inclusivity Project to support Black and African-American entrepreneurs with capital and mentorship, and FourthWave which is an accelerator for women-led technology businesses.

Each of these resources has the potential to be a game-changer for the entrepreneurs who have the ability to take advantage of them.

The trick is knowing that they exist in the first place.

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What’s Next?

We will check back in with Cameron and the NorCal Entrepreneur Hub early next year to follow-up on the platform’s progress and how the narrative has evolved in Sacramento.

In the meantime…

Want to check out the NorCal Entrepreneur Hub yourself? Click here.
Interested in bringing an EcoMap to support your own ecosystem? Click here.
Want to just learn more about our company and our mission? Click here.

Kevin Carter

Head of Business Development