A Startup Week In Boulder
In April, I accepted a position at Iron Yard Ventures managing our new Hospitality and Gaming Accelerator in Downtown Las Vegas. The new role comes with perks such as access to invite-only events. So, I used up my travel budget (another perk of the job) for May and flew to Boulder for Startup Week and Techstars Demo Day, which includes an awesome invite-only pitch event.
The people of Boulder are friendly and helpful, as I’ve heard from so many others, both residents and tourists. Boulder is a small town, and has that small town feel. Being from a small town myself, I immediately felt at home. Boulder is beautiful. The city, the mountains, the creek, everything. It snowed the morning I arrived, but the weather cleared up and was perfect from Day 3 on. (Remember, I grew up in Wisconsin, so cold and snow are tolerable, but my tolerance is a bit lower since moving away in ’09.)
Startup Week was jam-packed with events from 6am (hiking) to 11pm (after-parties, past my bedtime). Throughout the week, I sat in on talks with industry vets discussing topics ranging from angel investing, to mental health, to running accelerators. I met a ton of awesome people and got a lot of ideas that I will borrow (read: steal) for our accelerator starting up September 12th in Las Vegas.
Wednesday morning was the invite-only pitch event during which 10 teams circulated rooms, pitching 6–8 investors in each room. After each pitch, the teams held a quick Q&A for investors to dig into their business model. I found the format of this event to be much more beneficial than the traditional pitch format because of its intimacy and low-pressure atmosphere.
The Techstars Demo Night on Wednesday evening had an amazing turnout. I think they packed over 600 people in the Boulder Theater. It’s no wonder companies from Boulder do so well; they have seemingly unlimited support from the community, local businesses and investors.
While in Boulder I was thankful to meet up with some great people, including Fletcher Richman of Galvanize. He was gracious enough to meet me for lunch and introduce me to some others from the Galvanize team. Not to mention, he found me a place to work for a few hours. (Thanks, Fletch!)
On Thursday morning, I was able to snag some time with Brad Feld. Brad is Brad and will always be Brad, which is exactly why I enjoy everything about this man. He’s the most authentic person I’ve ever met, and I strive for that authenticity in everything I do. Brad and I talked about my new career, and about mental health, depression, recovery, and relapse. I came away filled with knowledge and reassured that I was on the right life path, that my happiness in life was authentic (and obvious), and that I still have a good friend that I can talk to about anything. I also got to meet most of Brad’s awesome team from the Foundry Group. Seth and Jason are amazing humans, and I hear the same of Ryan, but unfortunately I can’t confirm that yet — soon, I hope.
Brad introduced me to some of the other tech leaders doing great things in Boulder. Enter, Tom Higley. Tom runs 10.10.10 which is an incredible organization that works with talented, second-time founders to solve real problems.
Toward the end of my trip, I met Andrew Hyde, the founder of Startup Weekend, Startup Week. Over coffee, we talked about the Boulder community, Boulder small businesses, how life has changed. It was especially cool because we met at Trident Café, the thriving coffee shop that Andrew recently purchased.
Many thanks go out to the GAN group who organized several events, including lunches and dinners, and picked up the tab for the entire group. If you run an accelerator or thinking about applying to one, you need to know GAN. Patrick has formed an incredible team around him and they have big plans. Keep an eye out. GAN introduced me to some great people running accelerators all over the country, including Jose Vieitez, of Boomtown, an accelerator in Boulder. They’re doing some cool things and I’m sure Jose and I will share some opportunities, teams, and many stories in the coming months.
I’m still processing my experience in Boulder, but I’m grateful for the generosity and the brilliance of the people I met. As I refine my own vision for the Hospitality and Gaming Accelerator in Las Vegas, I’m sure I’ll continue to reflect on the great things already happening in Boulder.
(Thank you, David & Kyle for editing drafts of this post)