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Yesterday, Kauffman Foundation released a study that provided empirical support for the Boulder Thesis that I came up with in my book Startup Communities: Building an Entrepreneurial Ecosystem in Your City. The study is excellent if you are interested in this topic and can be read at ad “Think Locally, Act Locally: Building a Robust Entrepreneurial Ecosystem.”
Kauffman did a study of 1 Million Cups, a program that was launched at Kauffman Foundation in Kansas City and is expanding rapidly around the US with it now in 33 communities in 21 states. Colorado has two – a 1 Million Cups in Denver and 1 Million Cups in Fort. Collins. 1 Million Cups Denver was also a recipient of one of the first Startup Colorado Community Fund grants.
The study found:
- Entrepreneurship is a local phenomenon.
- Entrepreneurs follow local entrepreneurs.
- Local networks thicken over time.
- Entrepreneurial demand is high for peer-based learning and networking.
- Different programs reach different entrepreneurs.
In the report, Kauffman lined this up clearly against the Boulder Thesis, which, if you don’t know it, is:
- Entrepreneurs must lead the startup community.
- The leaders must have a long-term commitment.
- The startup community must be inclusive of anyone who wants to participate in it.
- The startup community must have continual activities that engage the entire entrepreneurial stack.
Or, if you are a video person and want to go a little deeper, take a look at the great StartupVille video Kauffman did when I released the book as part of their Sketchbook series.
I gave a 30 minute interview on this and other topics at the Atlanta Tech Village yesterday – nice summary from David Cummings. And there was a good student survey at showing Chicago and the Midwest as an Evolving Hub for Entrepreneurship.
I’m excited to announce the launch of the Colorado Startup Community Fund. This is a $200,000 fund for providing financing to support activities, events, and organizations in the Colorado startup community. It’s part of the Startup Colorado initiative and is going to make the first round of grants at the end of Q3.
One of the four principles of my Boulder Thesis (discussed in my book Startup Communities) is that you need to have activities and events that engage the entire entrepreneurial stack on a continual basis. If you look at the activity in Boulder and Denver, there is at least a one activity every day at this point – sometimes as many as five. It’s amazing to observe and experience – this super-saturation of activities and events around the startup community is awesome.
Many of them are entrepreneur-driven events that are free to participants. Many are done in a bare bones, scrappy way – which is awesome. While many have contributed venues, there’s always some minor cost, especially as they scale up. Beer and pizza isn’t free.
As a result, many of these entrepreneurs run around rounding up small amounts of sponsorship from local service providers. $1,000 here, $2,500 there. Or they start charging a modest fee – say $10 / event.
Our goal with the Colorado Startup Community Fund is to eliminate the need for the entrepreneurs putting on these events to have to scramble to raise a small amount of money. Or charge the other entrepreneurs who are participating. Instead, we’ll be giving grants each quarter, ranging from $1,000 to $25,000, to underwrite the costs of these activities and events. We’ll be funding activities and events across Colorado, with a focus on Boulder, Denver, Colorado Springs, and Fort Collins.
I’ve personally contributed $25,000 to the Colorado Startup Community Fund. Other founding contributors include Jim Franklin, SendGrid; Ryan Martens, Rally Software; Nancy Phillips, Viawest; Steve Halstedt, Centennial Ventures; Libby Cook, Founder, Sunflower Markets; Jim Deters, Galvanize; Bob Ogdon, SwiftPage; and Dan Caruso, Zayo Group.
If you are interested in participating in the Colorado Startup Community Fund, either as a financial contributor, or as a grant recipient, feel free to email me.
I’m still buzzing from yesterday. The entire day was dedicated to TechStars Demo Day in Boulder. It started with a run on the Boulder Creek Path, followed by Demo Day, lunch with Paul Berberian, Mark Solon, and Pam Solon, a handful of TechStars meetings in the afternoon including one with the guys from J-Squared Media (members of the very first TechStars program), a hangout with Jerry Colonna at his new house in Boulder, dinner with Jerry, Mark, Pam, David and Jill Cohen, Nicole Galaros, and Jason Seats, and then the TechStars Demo Day afterparty.
When I got home at 11:30 I was done. Deeply happy, but wiped out. I woke up late this morning (7am) and wandered into my kitchen to see Mark Solon on his laptop preparing for a run (Mark and Pam stayed at my condo in Boulder this week). We talked for a few minutes and the deep pleasure we were both feeling about being alive and part of the Boulder startup community was apparent.
He then said something that I noticed last night but hadn’t thought much of. At about 10pm the Boulder Cruisers, on their weekly Thursday ride, went by Shine where we were having the afterparty. There was the usual cheering, hooting and hollering, and just generally good karma at 10pm on a warm summer night. This morning, Mark pointed it out as a magical moment. The mix of two totally different communities of people – a huge crowd of entrepreneurs, nerds, and techies in Shine crossed with an equally cruising bike crowd on the street. And the only feelings that were flowing were happy ones where everyone was glad to be there.
Mark then said “That’s the magic of Boulder and TechStars. Everyone is part of the community. Everyone feels like part of the community. Every single person at TechStars Demo Day was part of it – whether they were mentors, investors, lawyers, or the hundreds of people from the broader Boulder tech community who attended.”
The third of the four key principles of the Boulder Thesis at the core of my Startup Communities book is “The startup community must be inclusive of anyone who wants to participate in it.” We saw that on display in many different ways yesterday. Listening to Mark play it back to me reinforced once again how powerful it is.