The Cluster Facilitator & the Venture Capitalist

Tenemos de nuevo la visita de Ifor Ffowcs-Williams con esta nota interesante que publicó ayer en su blog

Ifor hace unas reflexiones interesantes sobre el rol del gerente o facilitador de cluster y propone que estos asuman algunas de las características de los administradores de fondos de capital de riesgo.


IforWelcome to e4 on competitiveness. This is E4 writing, aka Ifor Ffowcs-Williams, CEO of Cluster Navigators Ltd in New Zealand.

Cluster facilitators come in various guises.  Some cluster facilitators, particularly in Scandinavia, are logically called ‘Process Leader’; others in Europe are titled ‘Cluster Manager’ and in the USA the term ‘Executive Director’ is often used.
Certainly, a cluster facilitator should differentiate from an ‘Industry Association Manager’ yet many see their role in such a (limiting) light, and utilise the availability of underpinning public funding for their clustering initiative to cautiously advance a limited array of initiatives.
Other cluster facilitators view their roles as boundary less, and these unconstrained people have much in common with venture capitalists.
Both professions in their complementary ways are nurturing high growth companies, and both take a long-term perspective in turning dreams into reality.  Both are engaged in accelerating the ‘product to market’ process and in   ‘professionalising’ the firms they work with.
Taking this comparison further, successful cluster facilitators and successful venture capitalists both:

  • Focus their efforts on the opportunities rather than the problems;
  • Actively explore new opportunities at the fringes … novel technologies, new technology applications, new markets, new combinations;
  • Learn from the positive deviants … the pioneers that are pushing out the boundaries exploring new ground;
  • Carefully search for, and then empower, talent to take the lead;
  • Avoid the tire kickers, the time wasters, the energy drainers;
  • Generate multiple options, learn by doing, view strategy as an emerging process with tight feedback loops;
  • Don’t debate new agendas that are backed by passion … they just test them;
  • Both establish a broad portfolio of activities, spreading the risk; both accept that not all the initiatives undertaken will succeed, and are aware that they can be wrong for most of the time, but need to be absolutely right some of the time;
  • Both work in teams, appreciating that a broad competency of capabilities are needed;
  • And finally  …  what venture capitalists do has received very little academic scrutiny; what cluster facilitators do has received even less. And evaluating the performance of both has yet to evolve.

And what might be some differences? Well, here is one:  E4 has yet to meet a female venture capitalist; but many of the outstanding cluster facilitators he has met and trained just happen to be female.  Sorry guys!

Cluster facilitators … go well with your venturing!  Safe travels, E4

P.S.  This blog draws on insights from Gary Hamel, and from Hellmann & Puri, who all breathe the air in Silicon Valley.

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