Accelerator/Incubator

Empowering Innovation Ecosystems: A Conversation With Charles Ross, CEO of the International Business Innovation Association (InBIA)

Building Value In Innovation Ecosystems Conversation Series


In innovation ecosystems, success often hinges on the collective power of collaboration and shared knowledge. The International Business Innovation Association (InBIA), a nonprofit global network, has been at the forefront of fostering such collaboration among entrepreneurial support organizations and other ecosystem players worldwide.

In a recent episode of OneValley's Building Value in Innovation Ecosystems series, host Sabah Baxamoosa had the opportunity to sit down with Charles Ross, the CEO of InBIA, to discuss the evolving landscape of innovation ecosystems and the organization's role in shaping it.

 

InBIA’s Diverse, Global Network

  • Membership: InBIA has around 1,000 members from over 20 countries.

  • Services: The organization provides access to industry resources, education, and events for incubators, accelerators, and entrepreneurship programs.

  • Collaboration: It also facilitates collaboration and best practice sharing among its members.

 Challenges and Opportunities for Startups and Ecosystems

As innovation ecosystems worldwide continue to evolve, InBIA is working to address emerging challenges and trends. 

  • Post-COVID Landscape: There has been an increased demand for entrepreneurial support services post-COVID.

  • Technology Focus: There is a rising interest in emerging technologies such as AI.

  • Common Hurdles: Common challenges include securing program funding and delivering relevant programming for entrepreneurs.

To address these challenges, InBIA facilitates collaboration through various channels including in-person and virtual events, online community platforms, and topic-focused "community huddles." Additionally, the organization enables connections between members and other stakeholders, such as investors, corporations, and universities, fostering a vibrant and interconnected ecosystem.

Strategic Priorities: DEIA and Data Benchmarking

Looking ahead, InBIA's strategic priorities include launching new Communities of Practice focused on diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility (DEIA) and specific sectors and roles within the entrepreneurial support landscape. Ross emphasized the importance of intentionally embedding DEI principles throughout the organization's activities, recognizing the critical role diverse perspectives play in driving innovation.

Furthermore, InBIA aims to provide more comprehensive data and benchmarking through industry reports, enabling members to measure their progress and identify areas for improvement. By continuously expanding its global reach and fostering collaboration, InBIA is hoping to amplify its impact on innovation ecosystems worldwide. 

“The Four Steps to the Epiphany” and Final Thoughts

As the conversation drew to a close, Ross shared his favorite book on innovation and entrepreneurship: "The Four Steps to the Epiphany" by Steve Blank. This seminal work offers a roadmap for navigating the entrepreneurial journey while emphasizing the importance of nurturing founders. Ross highlighted the book's emphasis on the founder's perspective, underscoring the importance of supporting entrepreneurs through successes and failures alike.

Fostering innovation within and across ecosystems requires a collaborative effort, and organizations such as InBIA play a pivotal role in enabling that collaboration. By bringing together diverse perspectives, sharing knowledge, and providing access to resources, InBIA empowers its members to create thriving and inclusive ecosystems that drive economic growth and positive societal impact worldwide.

 

About Charles Ross 

Over the past 15 years, Charles has worked with communities of various shapes and sizes to build and sustain vibrant entrepreneurial ecosystems. His experience spans across several innovation-related disciplines to include entrepreneurship, business incubation, economic development, and investment management. He has provided strategic leadership for organizations within the public, private, and nonprofit domains and has directly mentored and coached founders/CEOs at over 30 high-growth companies.

Before joining the InBIA management team, Charles was responsible for driving economic impact for local communities through senior leadership positions at Kennesaw State University and the Georgia Institute of Technology. In these roles, Charles connected universities’ talent, know-how, and assets to businesses and communities to increase economic prosperity and to improve quality of life.

Prior to his assignments in higher education, Charles directly worked with entrepreneurs to launch and grow technology businesses. As Vice President of the Telecommunications Development Fund, Charles sourced, structured, and managed investments in several early-stage communications companies, and as a Director of Ameritech’s venture capital division he identified and executed strategic technology investments.

Charles joined InBIA as a member in 2006, was elected to its Board of Directors in 2011 and served as Chair in 2017. Charles holds an undergraduate degree in electrical engineering from Marquette University and an MBA from Indiana University.

 

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