There are many ways that live “corporate whales” can cultivate entrepreneurship ecosystems.

When a whale dies, the 30-100 ton body — or “whale fall” — slowly, silently sinks to the ocean bottom where it becomes the wellspring of a complex new microcosm of seabed flora and fauna that can thrive for well over half a century. These new ecosystems with their hundreds of species from flesh-eating sharks to sulphur-metabolizing worms also include “innovative start-ups” — previously undiscovered new sea animals that have naturally selected to flourish in the unique ecosystem.



There are many ways that live “corporate whales” can cultivate entrepreneurship ecosystems — as investors with capital for ventures to grow, as customers who buy innovative products, or as marketing partners to give the small dynamic firms global reach. I am a big believer of the symbiotic necessity of large companies and entrepreneurial ventures living side by side: You simply cannot have a flourishing entrepreneurship ecosystem without large companies to cultivate it, intentionally or otherwise.

But one of the deep, dark secrets of the flourishing of entrepreneurship in parts of the world as diverse as Israel, India, Colorado, and Denmark has been “corporate fall” — the death or shrinkage of large corporate incumbents whose detritus feeds the entrepreneurship culture. We don’t have far to look for current examples: Today Finland is witnessing an upsurge in entrepreneurship now in part because corporate giant Nokia is in the midst of shedding 10,000 high-quality jobs. As it happens, the “Nokia Bridge Program” is a socially minded strategy for both easing the pain of layoffs, and intentionally supporting the more talented.

Photo credit: Le Quebec Maritime

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