The University of Colorado and Entrepreneurship

by Foundry

As you may have read in a prior post on Boulder’s Culture of Entrepreneurship, we feel that one ingredient necessary to create and sustain this culture is engaged university activity. We are lucky to have the University of Colorado in our backyard and fortunate that it has consistently engaged in activities that foster and create entrepreneurship initiatives.

While none of us attended CU, we’ve all adopted it as our “other school” and have become very involved with several different groups.

Silicon Flatirons – One of the most active entrepreneurial groups was born out of the law school. Yes, the law school. It’s called the Silicon Flatirons and it is made up of business leaders, financiers, academics, entrepreneurs and other folks interested in building a nerve center of thought leadership in issues in technology. The program was created by Phil Weiser, one of the most forward-thinking legal scholars in the country. In addition to having nationally-known guest lecturers, roundtable and educational programs for the community at large, the center has begun an ambitious program that will focus on entrepreneurship activities in the Boulder area. Specifically, a separate board on entrepreneurship has been created and we are quite active with it, with Jason serving as chairperson. Recent achievements include the creation of an “entrepreneurs unplugged” program whereby successful and nationally known entrepreneurs are interviewed in an “inside the actors studio” type format. Anyone in the community is free to attend. This board is also focusing on developing a campus-wide business plan competition as well as building out entrepreneurial-based curriculum for engineering, business and law students.

Deming Center for Entrepreneurship– Though its graduate program is relatively small, the Leeds School of Business at the University of Colorado at Boulder has consistently been recognized for having one of the top entrepreneurial programs in the nation. The Deming Center for Entrepreneurship serves as the business school’s hub of entrepreneurial programs and activity. Led by executive director Paul Jerde, the center benefits from an active advisory board of successful entrepreneurs, executives and venture investors. The Deming Center’s program combines an integrated academic curriculum with a “connected learning environment” that engages the broader entrepreneurial community to provide students with hands-on learning and mentorship. Fitting for an organization based in Boulder, the Deming Center’s programs have been at the forefront of integrating environmental sustainability with entrepreneurship. Examples of the center’s leadership include its international Cleantech Venture Challenge, the Sustainable Opportunities Summit, and Sustainable Venturing Initiative, as well as more traditional activities such as hosting the Mountain regional finals of the international Venture Capital Investment Competition and a number of internal business plan competitions.

Bard Center – Established through a grant from Denver businessman Richard Bard and his wife Pamela, the Bard Center for Entrepreneurship at CU Denver offers graduate level courses in business and entrepreneurship to students enrolled in the CU Denver system. Since its founding in 1996, the Bard Center has seen almost 2,000 students enroll in classes through the program and has awarded just under 500 certificates of entrepreneurship. The center is supported by a strong board of advisors, including Seth. In addition to the academic programs it runs, the Bard Center also sponsors a large business plan competition and supports a small venture fund to invest in student-initiated businesses. Under the stewardship of Kathy Kuntz (blog, LinkedIn) look for the Bard Center to continue to expand its influence in the Denver entrepreneurial scene.

National Center for Women & Information Technology – Funded by NSF, Microsoft, Avaya, Pfizer, Bank of America, and a number of other members of its workforce alliance, the National Center for Women & Information Technology is the pre-eminent national organization working to engage women more actively in the field of information technology and computer science. NCWIT believes that inspiring more women to choose careers in IT isn’t about gender parity; it’s a compelling issue of innovation, competitiveness, and workforce sustainability. NCWIT is housed in CU’s new ATLAS Building and has quickly become an important national program at CU engaged in promoting innovation in the computer science field. Brad has been chairman of NCWIT for the past three years.

All of us believe that a strong local university that has a culture of entrepreneurship is a key component of any local entrepreneurial ecosystem. We are proud of our involvement in the CU entrepreneurial ecosystem and hope to continue to engage it and help improve it over the coming years.