Boulder’s Culture of Entrepreneurship

by Foundry

If you saw our prior post about what Jason and Ryan learned by moving to Boulder, you read about the vibrancy of Boulder’s entrepreneurial spirit. We decided to follow that post up with some specifics regarding the startup culture of Boulder and some of our related activities within it.

TechStars: If you are a frequent reader of Brad’s blog, you’ve probably seen some of his posts on TechStars. Brad’s not the only Foundry Group partner, however, who is involved. We are all mentors along with many other local and nationally known entrepreneurs and venture capitalists. It’s been great getting to know the TechStars teams and help build some interesting businesses. As part of our “evil plan” we figured that many of the teams would fall in love with Boulder and then decide to permanently relocate here. We’re happy to report that our evil plan is succeeding. We think it’s been important to the continued vibrancy of the Boulder community to not only grow, but to also import great entrepreneurial and software development talent. TechStars has also become a large hub of activity to stay in touch with the great Boulder community.

Boulder Open Coffee Club: Following on the success of Saul Klein’s creation of the London based Open Coffee Club, we decided to give a Boulder version a try. The premise was simple: get a group of people together who were all interested in technology, entrepreneurship and the like and have coffee every other week before work. The meeting would be short on agenda (e.g. “none”), but hopefully the energy of the group would prove to make for interesting meetings. There were a couple of challenges going in: 1) it was unknown whether the idea of a regular, non-agenda meeting with a bunch of people who may have never met would attract high-quality folks and be sustainable over time and 2) Jason, who took the lead in creating the group, doesn’t drink coffee. One year later, we are happy to report the BOCC is alive, well, thriving and growing in both quality and size. Jason, however, still sticks to fruit smoothies.

So what is the BOCC? It’s a regular gathering place for entrepreneurs, technologists, service providers, investors and voyeurs of all the aforementioned to come hang out and chat. Sometimes, someone raises an interesting topic (are patents evil? should Microsoft buy Yahoo!?), or perhaps comes with a problem (my company is experiencing “X” what do I do now?), or maybe uses the forum as the first time they pitch their new idea in public. And, of course, it’s a great place to meet new people and expand connections in the Boulder entrepreneurial ecosystem.

Perhaps the best quote from a regular BOCC attendee: “The great thing about these events is that you can just be yourself. Unlike the neighbor’s barbecue party, everyone here will not only ‘get you’, but they’ll probably even understand you, ask intelligent questions and create an engaging experience.”

We are already on our third coffee shop, as we’ve needed to upgrade in size. We’ve had several folks start companies together, find folks to partner with and one company even made a software sale to Foundry to help us manage our finance department. We look forward to seeing how this group continues to grow. An interesting note is that many other places that have attempted to start similar groups have not found the support that we have found in Boulder.

Colorado Governor’s Innovation Council: Last fall, Brad helped create and now co-chairs the Colorado Governor’s Innovation Council.  This is a group of about 30 local computer, telecom, and software technology executives and entrepreneurs who are working with key members of Colorado’s state government to help promote computer technology based innovation, entrepreneurship, and broadband throughout the state of Colorado.

Entrepreneurs Foundation of Colorado: As part of an international initiative to promote philanthropy among entrepreneurial companies, Brad co-founded the Entrepreneurs Foundation of Colorado (EFCO) early 2007.  As of today, there are 20 member companies representing around 1,000 employees, including Foundry Group.  EFCO is a great way for companies, their employees, and their investors to give back to the Colorado community. If you are interested, please see our prior posting on EFCO for details.

Startup Weekend: Startup Weekend is an experiment that started in Boulder created by Andrew Hyde. The mission of Startup Weekend is to recruit a highly motivated group of developers, business managers, startup enthusiasts, marketing gurus, graphic artists and more to a weekend event in cities around the world that builds communities, companies and projects.  The concept is to create the building blocks for applications and companies in an extremely short period of time – specifically a weekend.  It started with the supportive, creative and talented community in Boulder, which is the only city to have hosted two weekends. All of us at Foundry have been supportive of the efforts.

The widely asked question of “what does it take to have a strong startup ecosystem?” generally is responded to in a variety of ways: good schools, plenty of engineering and management talent, services support and available investment capital. However the one trait that cannot be acquired is the culture of entrepreneurship. Boulder certainly has that culture and we are happy to be a part of it. Not to be outdone, of course, is our adopted University of Colorado’s role in all of this. In fact the University is a key anchor in all of this activity and in a future post we’ll dive into specific initiatives that we are involved with over there.