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News & Press: Colorado Technology Industry

Front Range wants to tap Boulder's startup mojo

Tuesday, December 6, 2011   (0 Comments)
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Front Range wants to tap Boulder's startup mojo
By Michael Davidson| BCBR ARTICLE

November 28, 2011 --
BOULDER - Cities up and down the Front Range are trying to grab some of Boulder's entrepreneurial mojo, and leading figures of the local entrepreneurial community are looking to enlist help.

Startup Colorado kicked off on Nov. 9 with a "public launch" at the Wolf Law Building on the University of Colorado campus.

Startup Colorado is a regional initiative devoted to promoting entrepreneurs along Colorado's Front Range. Its goal is to take some of the lessons Boulder entrepreneurs have learned and export them to Denver, Fort Collins and Colorado Springs.

"Boulder's got the model. We can help Denver, Colorado Springs and Fort Collins take that playbook and make it work," CU Law School dean Phil Weiser said.

Those lessons include getting experienced, successful entrepreneurs to commit to nurturing new talent and taking leadership roles in their communities, said Brad Feld, Foundry Group managing director and a Startup Colorado co-chairman.

The traditional business community, venture capitalists or government agencies cannot create the mutually beneficial relationships and institutions entrepreneurs can draw ideas and talent from, Feld said.

"Entrepreneurial communities have to be led by entrepreneurs," Feld said.

The group's immediate attention is getting entrepreneurs in each city connected with each other. People in Colorado Springs and Fort Collins realize they can learn from Boulder and want to replicate its success, said Jan Horsfall, a Startup Colorado co-chairman who lives in Colorado Springs. He is a founder and president and CEO of Gelazzi Inc.

"Boulder has established an entrepreneurial fabric that is working, and we have to acknowledge that," Horsfall said.

Startups in Colorado Springs have started hosting events similar to the Boulder Denver New Tech Meetup, with up to 50 people attending the most recent event, Horsfall said. Organizers of the Colorado Springs and Boulder meetups have talked about building on the early interest.

The encouragement has been helpful and welcome.

"They have gone out of their way to make sure we're doing things in other cities. We do need some help down there," he said.

Startup Colorado has a list of six goals it wants to accomplish within a year, including the creation of a summer camp in Boulder for college students from around the state who want to learn about what it takes to start a company.

It also wants to create a user-friendly website and database that provides entrepreneurs resources and helps them make connections.

"We're not just trying to be a lot of hot air. We want to make an impact and execute," Startup Colorado executive director David Mangum said.

Some ideas might work better than others, but the key is identifying entrepreneurs who are taking the initiative to keep momentum going, Feld said.

"I would like to look back a year from now and feel that we accomplished tangible things," Feld said. "It will be clear there's a motive force leading these communities, and they'll have a long-term view."

While Feld and Weiser are big names in Boulder, and the launch event attracted prominent speakers such as U.S chief technology officer and White House adviser Aneesh Chopra, Startup Colorado is fundamentally community driven.

"We are not leading this enterprise," Weiser told the standing-room only crowd in the Wittemeyer courtroom. "If this succeeds, it's because you all engage and make it succeed."

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