Orange background with text that reads "Ecosystem Talks: Ecosystems are Everywhere: From Collectibles to Communities with Sherrod Davis and Tom Droege"

Ecosystems Are Everywhere: From Collectibles to Communities

From tackling racial disparities in access to capital to fostering connections among stamp collectors, Tom shows how EcoMap's vision of accessible ecosystems can be both monumental and niche.

EcoMap has a vision of making every ecosystem accessible to everyone, everywhere, ensuring anyone can easily navigate what is going on, find the resources they need, and connect with new partners.

It gives everyone an equal playing field. And while that may seem like an ambitious goal, co-founder of Resilient Ventures, Tom Droege, helps us realize ecosystem building can be as monumental as building bridges for Black founders or as niche as connecting collector connoisseurs.

Tom is a lifelong entrepreneur and investor who is committed to disrupting disparities in access and delivering opportunities for African American entrepreneurs. He is also the mastermind behind philately.live, the first AI-powered global resource for stamp collecting, fostering connections for collectors everywhere.

He joined me on Ecosystem Talks to recount his journey from recognizing racial prejudice on a personal level to understanding racism as a systemic issue, and how that inspired him to found Resilient Ventures and make a substantive change by investing in underrepresented founders. We also dive deep into how the ecosystem he created for stamp collectors is one great example of how any community, no matter how small or niche, can bring people together.

He has seen it come alive even within the robust ecosystem of philatelists. Philately.live acts as a center of gravity for those in this interest area, streamlining and amplifying connections across the globe. Every passion or interest area has the potential to develop into a vibrant ecosystem with the right tools and leadership. 

“Having a tool like [EcoMap] that would take a list of websites and then create this map for you was a very alluring enterprise for me because I’ve done it before manually, and it’s a lot of work,” Tom said. 

But a worthy investment. Tom believes in ecosystem building as a business strategy. He advocates for creating connections and providing resources to allow ecosystems to enhance the entire sector’s performance and sustainability.

Tom had a unique childhood in that he grew up with a computer in his home in the 1960s. His father built computers at Princeton University and the University of Pennsylvania, and his mother taught computer science at Rutgers University. His household was steeped in technology and entrepreneurship during the 1960s.

When it came time to build his own impact, Tom explored how leveraging technological tools could create impactful social changes, particularly through ecosystem mapping and data aggregation. By utilizing platforms that collate and map data, he believes it is possible to connect resources and individuals within various communities more effectively.

He was committed to building something to lift up Black founders because of his childhood, the connections he had made over time and his own learning about systemic racism.

“Racism is not prejudice; it was purposely created,” Tom said.

This shift in perspective happened over decades, starting from his interactions in the 1990s with colleagues who helped him see beyond individual prejudice to the structural components of racism. He highlighted specific historical policies and practices, such as the 13th Amendment and the creation of the prison system, which informed his understanding of systemic racism. This knowledge deepened his commitment to using entrepreneurship as a tool for social justice.

“The germ of the idea behind Resilient was, ‘what if we could move money across the color line in a significant way and purposely invest in Black founders,” Tom said. 

Looking ahead, Tom has plans to expand his impact, including replicating this successful model in other regions and sectors, using the lessons learned to inform future projects. The team also recently secured a significant government grant, which validates the fund’s strategy and mission, and will be pivotal in scaling the impact of ventures focused on social equity.

No matter what ecosystem Tom finds himself in next, he will bring the concept of ecosystem mapping along with him. 

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