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The Nebraska Business Development Center partnered with the Center for Public Affairs Research at the University of Nebraska at Omaha to advance knowledge on entrepreneurship in the State of Nebraska. This study identifies the context, setting, players and behaviors of the entrepreneurship ecosystem. It also provides evidence of the challenges they experience and develops a series of “calls to action” to increase the pace of entrepreneurship development in Nebraska.

In 2019, the Blueprint Nebraska report defined the Nebraska economy as having “low levels of entrepreneurship… and innovation”. The report explains, “To remain a vibrant place for business, the state must create an environment that better enables entrepreneurs and their companies to succeed”. The report goes on to outline a series of institutional-level efforts to increase entrepreneurship. Since the release of the report, several state-wide efforts have been made to advance entrepreneurship in Nebraska. However, it has become clear that the tremendous impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the small business community will necessitate further action and support.

As a result, the Nebraska Business Development Center chose to invest in a study to understand not just the institutional and policy-level actions that can occur, but a micro-level study focused on the people and behaviors of those currently working to support entrepreneurship in the state – the entrepreneurship ecosystem.

Nebraska’s entrepreneurship ecosystem is defined here as the myriad of organizations that exist to support, drive, and grow entrepreneurship in Nebraska. The Entrepreneurial Ecosystem Building Playbook Version 3.0, an electronic resource that grew out of national efforts by the Kaufmann Foundation to support entrepreneurs, explains, “Entrepreneurship drives economies, but the success of entrepreneurs depends on those around them. That’s why we build ecosystems – or communities – for entrepreneurs.” The ecosystem includes entrepreneurs themselves, along with government agencies, academic institutions, non-profits, and private sector actors. The efforts of the ecosystem have been shown by the Kaufmann Foundation and numerous other studies to have a significant and profound effect on entrepreneurship development.